North eastern names of an Indian identity: model, actor, activist and entrepreneur Chum Darang

Simplicity has been a generic middle name for proud northeasterners whose identity as Indians is assured in their proud belonginess to this corner of the country they have been fortunate enough to call home. Even when this simplicity is of a mass augmentation, weaved through numerous threads of intricate desires and hopes and aspirations, it is always this aspect of existence that paints for them a picture in uniqueness- one that speaks multiple languages in itself, of a pride harboured in their heritage, of tantalising trails of talented thrivings, of residing in the calm comfort of an identity that defines their collective individualness.

Hailing from this part of the eclectic expanse expressed eloquently as an emotion seeping through each of the Seven Sisters of Northeast India is Chum Darang, a now familiar name in the nation’s mainstream entertainment industry. Having started out with beauty pageants and modelling assignments, it perhaps would be a given that Chum should be aiming for the Bollywood ranks. But for someone who had practically no leaning towards the very idea of beauty for much of her early life, the Badhaai Do actor indeed managed to present herself as a whiff of fresh air in standing out with her unconventional role.

Unconventional perhaps might be only ‘expected’ an attribute for many like Darang whose place of belonginess in northeast India is specifically rested in the State of the Dawnlit Mountains. Hailing from the particularly enchanting premise of a town named Pasighat- where she even dabbles as an entrepreneur, having set up her own Cafe Chu, the 32 year old lady has been a woman of diverse- even shifting tastes. Her growing up years basically had her tomboying around, donning her brothers’ clothes and a sudden change in passion for the fashion sensibilities was itself a realisation in unexpectedness that Chum found herself in. And yet this divergence from the way of life that she had lived as the norm all through the years did little to intimidate this young dreamer whose new found fascination continued to only grow bigger and better over time.

actor model from arunachal pradesh in bollywood
Source: Facebook

For someone unconventional then in her own experience of dramatically embarking on a different lease of life altogether, Chum Darang sees her uniquities as normal. Even when her breakthrough choice of starring as a lesbian in Badhaai Do won her rave reviews- both in the kind of confidence she displayed and in the resulting portrayal of that character- Darang does not herself view it as anything extraordinary. Stemming from the values she has inculcated as part of her upbringing so ingrained in the northeastern way of existence, Darang has grown up to believe that the exotics of perception are as essentially integral and usual to those who identify with them. Conventional then she might not be in the greater world view but for Darang herself, her choices are only a reflection of the truth in which her simplistic mannerisms shine out bright.

A chance offer to be part of some beauty pageant when she was in the 11th standard scripted the course of life that Chum Darang would embody hence. But beyond this stroke of serendipity, it has all been her own strength and confidence and hard work that stands up for the now remarkable identity of the young and spirited woman. Ever since she started out in 2007 as a 16 year old, Chum has ensured that her horizons of pursuing continue to expand and evolve and embrace all challenges and hurdles life brings to her both in their personal and professional capacities. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration then to say that Chum’s career graph also marks therefore the parallel progression in her human identity essentially expressing through a prominent strand of the northeastern sentiment.

Source: Celebesse

2010 marked the first moment of recognition for Chum Darang when she won the Miss AAPSU title. Success has since been a regular for the Miss North East Diva 2014 finalist and the Miss Himalaya 2015 second runner up, whose institutional education continued alongside her hustle. A graduate in English and a postgraduate in tourism, Chum’s penchant with fashion however wasn’t born just out of a desire to earn name and fame of her own. Even when it might seem to emerge as a narrative consciously woven into defining the dynamics of her identity, the truth of the matter is that Darang’s decision to step into this world of representation was at least partly goaded by her deeper desire to do something for the society as well.

An enthusiastic social activist whose hands on approach to working on diverse issues even earned her recognition from the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, Chum Darang is non singular in her orientation also in this spectrum of the non show. Her NGO called Guardians of Blue Marble channels her love for the environment and works for environmental conservation. Yet another cause that she actively stands up for is that of child and women empowerment and Darang has long been engaged in various initiatives that work for upliftment of the unprivileged. It is no wonder that as an individual with a strong sense of social responsibility that she has never shied away from attending to despite her professional commitments and other ventures, the aim in life for a child Chum had been one of being a teacher. Not one to let any of her dreams pass though, even when living it for just awhile, Darang had even managed to achieve this identity of being a teacher for an year or so when she took up a position at a school back home. To think Chum Darang as just another of the model turned actresses who managed to make it big in Bollywood would be an unfair recognition of the person that she is.

badhaai do
Source: The Times of India

And yet, so decorated is the cap donned by Darang in its perfectly customised fit that commands for her all the attention of the world. Winner of the Miss Earth India Water title at the Miss Earth India 2016 event and the fifth place finisher at the Miss Asia World 2017 beauty pageant where she also won the Miss Internet subtitle, Chum Darang asserted her presence once again as the Miss Tiara India International 2017 winner claiming also the subtitles Miss Sports Gear and Miss Best National costume while representing India at the mega event.

What however strikes as stark despite the success that Chum Darang already had earned as a countrywide presence by then was her experience with racial discrimination as a northeasterner. She openly spoke about it back then in 2018 but her pride in this aspect of her essential identity did little to offset further recurrences of the same nature. In fact even on the day of her audition for Badhaai Do, Chum had a harrowing encounter in Mumbai when she was called out as Corona. Trust however this immensely self assured Arunachalee talent to not let others undermine her worth and Darang ended up delivering exactly the kind of performance that would silence even the most deafening of slurs hurled at her.

chum darrang
Source: IndiaTimes

Darang’s mastery over this craft even more new in its practise accruing to her repertoire itself is commendable. She managed to win over audiences through her supporting role, even bagging the Indian Film and Television Awards Best Female Star Debut for 2022 while amassing celebrity status back home in Pasighat- the oldest town of the state and yet one without a single theatre for Darang’s proud family and fans to witness her brilliance. A minor role in Paatal Lok a couple of years back and another 2022 stint in Gangubai Kathiawadi and Chum can be legit taking all credit for a movie theater finally finding root in her hometown. That itself is a more tangible change that Chum Darang has managed to usher in the very place that shaped her being but even in her less physical but equally momentous achievement of stirring young souls and inspiring hundreds of them through her personal portfolio, this is the kind of identity that Darang had spurred not just for herself but also in a collective context.

Dreaming and doing big being the definer of her presence, Chum Darang still wishes to settle in life for the simpler things that continues to script beautiful livings for people in the geographically gorgeous terrains of northeast India. Her yearning for the slow life back home, where farming takes over all fancy aspirations and curates the cottagecore aesthetic otherwise thought viable only in fantastical representations of life, truly speaks of a triumph that Darang continues to cherish even when it is a wholly non individual realisation. It is in figments like these of her imagination that she has actually lived and therefore knows the true charm of that one can find for Chum Darang an appreciation that delves as much in the magic of what she preaches through her creativity while also going beyond much beyond that. A true artist indeed if we would say!