2011, English Class, I was 13. Our English teacher asked us, “if we were making a movie on your life, who would play you?” My mind went blank. I began scanning the limited movie knowledge I knew, trying to find the perfect actress. The white girls had various answers, with long explanations, actually identifying similarities. Even the black girls, there was a diversity in their answers as they explained which black actress (or singer, someone did say Beyonce) would play them. However, I was stuck, because I knew no brown Indian actresses.
My English teacher eventually came over to our table to ask how we were doing. I expressed to him that I was stuck for people, as were the other brown girls on my table – one, who was Indian Sikh, another who was Muslim. We expressed that we didn’t know any brown actresses, to which my teacher replied, “they don’t need to be brown, they just need to play you.” The other girls accepted it, at least they did on the outside, but that sentence really hit me hard. To me, it wasn’t right, it was lying and it wouldn’t be me. “I guess there’s that girl from Bend It Like Beckham,” I perched up, finally identifying the first Indian actress I could think of. My English teacher was impressed, my brown friends also seemed ecstatic, “oh gosh, that means we can’t be her” and instead, when it came to presentation time, they presented a white girl each to play themselves.
When it was my time to present, I told my class the name of my actress – Parminder Nagra. A few chuckled, one even let out an “ew” (that was the girl who chose Beyonce) and I was embarrassed. Why? Because I only had one choice, one option, one representation and I didn’t want it to be white.
As I got older, the term ‘representation’ entered my vocabulary and immediately hit home, as all my childhood life I never felt represented. As an adult, I can understand and accept it, due to society, due to Hollywood, but no one understands that the years of childhood are so influential, that a lack of representation can destroy a kid’s confidence and be harmful to them beginning the journey of loving themselves. It took me a long time to accept who I was and it pains me inside, that there are kids out there, still insecure, feeling sad as they can’t seem to relate to a single character on the tv or on the film screen.
This memory came back to me, as I’ve been writing and beginning pre-production for my end of university graduation film. A film I made, so that we had no choice but to cast people of colour. Not because I hate white people, not because I’m not being inclusive, but because it’s about fucking time I saw someone familiar up on the screen.
Closed Doors is a project that I am super proud of and can’t wait to see it be made. I have such a strong team working with me to bring this image to life, but we would love if we could get your support too, I would super appreciate if you could click this link to find out more:
Thank you for reading, until next time. Let’s allow some unheard voices to tell their stories for once.