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Interview Hindi

Paatal Lok has brought me happiness after a long personal struggle, says Mairembam Ronaldo Singh

The transgender artiste speaks of how she became part of the show, her preparation, and the experience of shooting for scenes in which she is assaulted by the police.

Keyur Seta

Director duo Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy’s web-series Paatal Lok has a long line-up of characters, each with his or her back story. While the main cast included the likes of Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi and Abhishek Banerjee, the writers also explored the transgender character Cheeni played by Mairembam Ronaldo Singh.

What came as a pleasant surprise was the makers casting a transgender actor to play a transgender character. It was a difficult journey for casting director Nikita Grover [who plays a woman constable in the web-series] to find Mairembam Ronaldo Singh, a theatre artiste from Manipur, and persuade her parents to send her to Mumbai to act.

Eventually, everything worked out well and the results are there for all to see. Mairembam Singh has been receiving a lot of acclaim for playing the difficult character of one of the four people arrested in connection with an attempt to murder famous television journalist Sanjeev Mehra (Kabi).

Paatal Lok review: Welcome to the dark side of urban and rural India

After some effort, Cinestaan.com was able to contact Mairembam Ronaldo Singh for an interview and she was happy to oblige. The artiste spoke of how she became part of the web-series, the preparation she had to undertake to play the role, and her experience of shooting scenes in which she is assaulted by the police. Excerpts:

How do you feel with the response Paatal Lok and your performance are getting?

I feel great with the response Paatal Lok is getting from viewers. It’s a moment of pride and joy for the entire team. I am very fortunate to be a part of this series.

Jaideep Ahlawat (in chequered shirt) in a scene from Paatal Lok

Did you expect such a response while shooting for the web-series?

I had never expected during the shooting of Paatal Lok that it would get such wonderful acclaim and appreciation from viewers and critics alike. It’s the result of sheer hard work and effort from each and every member of the team. I consider myself very fortunate for having been part of this web-series. It will be a memory of a lifetime.

How was the experience of shooting for Paatal Lok?

Overall the experience of shooting for Paatal Lok was awesome. Though it was hard sometimes, but with the love and support I received from the team while shooting for the tough scenes, it really encouraged me to bring out my best possible effort. Earlier, I used to think that people would discriminate against me on the basis of my sexuality and the background I come from, but I did not experience such things from the team of Paatal Lok.

I read somewhere that the casting directors had to use a lot of persuasion for your family to let you act in this web-series. How did they get convinced?

My parents are always supportive of every good decision I have taken in my life. They are the people who inspire me the most. Initially, they were reluctant to send me to Mumbai for the training class [workshop]. They are simple people with zero knowledge of the procedures of filmmaking. My make-up teacher Eliza talked with my parents and made them realize how important it is for me to accept this opportunity for the betterment of my future and career. I also played my part in convincing them of the opportunities that I would be getting in the future if they allowed me to go to Mumbai.

What was your reaction when you came to know that you have to play the trans character Cheeni?

I was very excited when I came to know that I have to play the role of a transgender in the series. The very thought of playing a transgender for the first on screen really struck me the most. The role is really special to me since I can easily identify with the struggle and hardship faced by the character in the series.

How did you prepare for your role?

I underwent a rigorous acting class for 25 days under the guidance of some of the best acting tutors of the country. It was really tough for me as far as language adaptability was concerned. It was really difficult for me to express my feelings and desires to the directors of the series since I cannot speak Hindi properly. But I am really proud of the effort and hard work I put throughout the making of this series. In spite of all the difficulties I faced, I never lost hope.

Nikita Grover and Mairembam Ronaldo Singh in Paatal Lok

You had difficult scenes where your character is assaulted by the police numerous times. How challenging was that?

The assault scenes were very challenging for me, especially the scene where I had to be half naked. Nudity in front of the camera is something I am not always comfortable with. I believe it was the perception of the director to make the scene more real and brutal. The scene was shot nicely and the final result turned out quite satisfactory for me. Some of the derogatory remarks used towards the character by a lady guard were also hard to digest.

You are part of a theatre group in Manipur. When did you develop an interest in acting?

Acting has always been a passion for me since childhood. I remember those beautiful childhood days when I used to sing and dance to the tunes of famous 'Bollywood' and Manipuri songs. Acting in front of a mirror after watching any of Priyanka Chopra's movies has been one of my regular habits. This passion of acting has always been in my mind and soul. But the only problem was that I never took it seriously and looked upon it as a means of my livelihood.

You were at a quarantine centre recently. How are you doing now?

By god’s grace and blessing, I am doing absolutely great. I have been discharged from the quarantine centre with a negative test result. Now, I am trying to enjoy every moment of my time while spending it with my family after a long time. The success of my first web-series really brought me a lot of happiness after a long personal struggle and hardships.

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