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Artistes from North-East who made the cut in Bollywood

With the 'Mary Kom' biopic featuring artistes from the North-East, we take a look at the talent pool from the region

The upcoming Priyanka Chopra-starrer Mary Kom, based on the boxing champ, has put the spotlight on the North-East and its presence in Bollywood.

Patralekha, who starred in Citylights, hails from Shillong in Meghalaya. She wonders why people always want to know where she is from
Patralekha, who starred in Citylights, hails from Shillong in Meghalaya. She wonders why people always want to know where she is from

Several local actors have been roped in to play supporting roles in the film. There may not be too many Hindi films releasing in many states in the region, or as many actors, musicians, filmmakers from the region that have made — or are trying to make — an impact on the big screen.

Finding a foothold
Adil Hussain, who is from Goalpara in Assam, essayed the role of Sridevi’s husband in English Vinglish (2012).

Last year, Geetanjali Thapa, who hails from Sikkim, bagged the National Award for Best Actress for her performance in Liar’s Dice
Last year, Geetanjali Thapa, who hails from Sikkim, bagged the National Award for Best Actress for her performance in Liar’s Dice

Patralekha, who was seen in Hansal Mehta’s Citylights earlier this year with beau Rajkummar Rao as her co-star, is from Shillong in Meghalaya.

Geetanjali Thapa won the National Film Award for Best Actress (2013) for her performance in Liar’s Dice. She is from Sikkim and began her glamour innings after winning a beauty pageant in Guwahati, Assam. Veteran actor Danny Dengzongpa is also from Sikkim.

Model Monikangana Dutta hails from Guwahati; she starred in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish (2010) where she played Hrithik Roshan’s ex-flame
Model Monikangana Dutta hails from Guwahati; she starred in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish (2010) where she played Hrithik Roshan’s ex-flame

B-Town singers Zubeen Garg is from Jorhat, Assam, while Papon is from Guwahati in Assam.

Model Monikangana Dutta, who hails from Guwahati, starred in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Guzaarish (2010) playing the character of Hrithik Roshan’s ex-flame.

Meanwhile, Reema Debnath from Agartala in Tripura featured in the Salman Khan-starrer Bodyguard.

The outsiders
Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chak De India! (2007), for one, showcased Mary Ralte (Kimi Laldawla) from Mizoram and Molly Zimik (Masochon Zimik) from Manipur — in the film, both are treated as ‘foreigners’ in the Indian women’s hockey team.

Singer-composer Papon is from Guwahati
Singer-composer Papon is from Guwahati. Pic/Satyajit Desai

Being looked upon as outsiders is something that they are used to. When told that they are from the North-East, it is as if they belong to another territory.

For some artistes like Patralekha, it is a sense of déjà vu. Says the actress, “I am always asked such questions and I do not want to say anything more on that front. I am from Shillong in Meghalaya and my parents still live there.”

While Monikangana who disappeared from Bollywood after Guzaarish says, “People always ask me where my folks stay. I always tell them I am from Guwahati and my family is based there.” Incidentally, Monikangana has gone back to studies while there is a project in the pipeline.

Singer Zubeen Garg is from Jorhat, Assam
Singer Zubeen Garg is from Jorhat, Assam. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Playing the part
Adil Hussan began his career with theatre and stand-up comedy, and eventually landed in Bollywood with roles in films such as Ishqiya (2010) and Agent Vinod (2012). He was also seen in Life of Pi (2012) and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012).

Adil Hussain, who starred in English Vinglish, hails from Goalpara in Assam
Adil Hussain, who starred in English Vinglish, hails from Goalpara in Assam

The actor feels that these are roles that suit his salt-and-pepper look, as he “detests dyeing his hair.”

The Seven Sister states (read: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura), are often referred to as ‘Paradise Unexplored’.

If the talent in Bollywood is anything to go by, this holds true as B-town doesn’t seem to have tapped the North-East’s full potential.

Known filmmakers from the region include Jahnu Barua, whose 2006 film Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara had Anupam Kher and Urmila Matondkar; Utpal Borpujari; and singers like the late Bhupen Hazarika.

Filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi shot her Naseeruddin Shah-Shabana Azmi starrer Ek Pal (1986) in Shillong in Meghalaya and Jorhat in Assam. Her Raveena Tandon-starrer Daman was shot in Guwahati in Assam. She says, “Where a filmmaker wants to shoot is a personal choice. But to be honest, Bollywood rarely makes films with a realistic backdrop. If the reason is inadequate infrastructure, that is the case across the country. You realise this as soon as you move out of Mumbai. A lot of Assamese films are made and shot in the region.”

Filmmaker Rakesh Roshan shot the Madhuri Dixit-Shah Rukh Khan starrer, Koyla (1997), in Arunachal Pradesh. He filmed a song against the backdrop of Shungetser Lake in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang, that is known for its stunning visuals. Mani Ratnam’s 1998 film Dil Se had ULFA’s Assam liberation struggle form its backdrop. Now with the release of Mary Kom, the North-East will hopefully have a bigger presence in Bollywood.

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