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A Mainland ­Filter On Your Movie Lens

Artistes from the Northeast are yet to get their due in tinsel town

A Mainland ­Filter On Your Movie Lens
Only Flavour |
A still from Rock On 2, which is largely set in Meghalaya
A Mainland ­Filter On Your Movie Lens
outlookindia.com
2016-11-25T18:22:56+05:30

How the Northeast is represented in Indian mainstream cinema becomes a point of discussion yet again with the release of Rock On 2, the sequel to the 2008 hit Rock On. The film was set largely in the northeastern state of Meghalaya—something to look forward to, one would hope, for all those in touch with any aspect of the Indian rock music scene (Shillong being labelled by many as the ‘rock capital’ of India because of its vibrant live music culture). But, formulaic as this sequel was, it seemed to thoughtlessly bypass all the rock n’ roll stories that the hill-state would have to offer for four mainstream, mainland ­actor-musicians—Farhan Akhtar, ­Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli and Shraddha ­Kapoor, with only a few minor stock roles given to people from the region. It left a woman from Meghalaya feeling “utterly disappointed” after she watched it at a Kolkata multiplex.  “When I heard that it was shot in parts in my hometown of Shillong, I rushed to watch the movie,” says Lucy Lydem. “But then I found that the only roles that were ­assigned to the people who were supposed to be from Meghalaya were the negative characters—the corrupt politician, the local goon, and the helpless poor people who had to wait for a do-gooder from Mumbai to come and rescue them.”

Rock On 2 is only the latest addition to an array of mainstream films over the decades that have used the beautiful region as a mere backdrop for stories of people from the mainland to unfold, with local actors only as extensions of this beautiful ‘backdropped’ topography. Consider the following repertoire: The 1986 Ek Pal was shot in parts of Jorhat, Assam and Shillong, Meghalaya, where the lead actors were all Mumbai’s best known—Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Farooque Sheikh. The 1991 Kurban, starring Salman Khan and Ayesha Julkha, too was shot in Meghalaya, as was Har Pal, a love story centered on characters played by Preity Zinta and Shiney Ahuja, which got shelved. Then there was the 1997 Koyla starring Madhuri Dixit and Shah Rukh Khan, who pranced around the breathtakingly beautiful Tawang lake in Arunachal Pradesh. The 2001 film Daman, starring Raveena Tandon, was shot in Kamakhya, Assam, and the 2003 film Saaya, starring John Abraham, was shot in Nagaland. The 2007 psychological thriller Strangers, starring Kay Kay Menon and Sonali Kulkarni, was shot in Mizoram. Interestingly, both Zinta and Tandon, neither from the Northeast, played local characters. Zinta played a Meghalayan girl of the Khasi tribe in Har Pal and Tondon played an Assamese woman in Daman. It appears as if it never occurred to the directors to cast actors from those regions.

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