Sachinker Sagolsem on Working in ‘Oneness’: Embracing Identity as Daniel Martin

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Sachinker Sagolsem as Daniel Martin
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When the trailer for Priyakanta Laishram-helmed Oneness came out, it broke the internet. Produced by Roushil Singla and Priyakanta Laishram while starring Maya Choudhury, Priyakanta Laishram, Suraj Ngashepam, and Sachinker Sagolsem in the lead roles, standing ovations should be given to the entire team for having the guts to make the first gay-themed Manipuri film in the state of Manipur, knowing the countless unfavorable reactions they would face from a society that is still largely ignorant of sexual identities.

Sachinker Sagolsem, who plays the antagonist in the film, discusses his experiences while filming Oneness in this interview:

1. You essayed on the role of “Daniel Martin” in Oneness. How did you manage to get the role? What did you feel when you first heard about the role? 

To land the part in Oneness, I did not have to do much. Nevertheless, in 2019, it was challenging to get a role in Priyakanta’s movies. I went to the audition when I heard about the call for his 2019 film Spaced Out – Panthung Di Kadaaida!, and fortunately I was chosen for the part of a drug addict. I entered Priyakanta Productions in this manner. At the Human Rights & Social Issues Film Festival 2019, Tokyo, I was eventually nominated for Best Supporting Role. So, for Oneness, I feel that getting the part of “Daniel Martin” was all Priyakanta’s love and belief in me. I was on cloud nine the day I learned I had been selected for this role, so ecstatic was I that I had completely forgotten my upcoming exam.

2. What preparations have you made for this role? How was the process?

I conducted a thorough character analysis and had to work on my accent to embody the role of “Daniel Martin”. I also neglected to cut my hair, beard, or mustache for about three months at that time. We conducted a look test a few weeks before the shoot, which I believe was one of the firsts in the history of Manipuri cinema to go through the entire procedure. Priyakanta gave us excellent insights on how to deliver dialogue more effectively. We had grooming sessions with Priyakanta on Zoom meetings about three to four times a week, during which I learned a lot more. I also experienced moments during rehearsing where I was on the verge of passing out as I delivered the harsh lines with expression. Since then, I realized this character would be exceedingly difficult.

3. The film has already made history by being the first ever Manipuri film based on same-sex relationships. How do you feel being a part of such a landmark movie?

For all of Manipur, it is undoubtedly a reason for great pride. Above all else, it is pretty unique to feel that we are contributing to the development of Manipuri cinema and also making history.

4. Do you think Oneness will lead to more awareness, discussions, and understanding regarding the LGBTQ Community in Manipuri society? Tell us your opinions. 

Yes, absolutely and we need innumerable audiences for that. I am concerned about whether or not a large audience would show up to the movie theaters to see the movie, though, as the culture of going to the movies is steadily dying in Manipur. Nevertheless, I firmly feel that the movie is excellent and that it might have a very great impact on the general public. I believe that this movie will carry the torch for how one should view people of different genders and sexual orientations, and I am extremely glad to have been a part of it.

5. Priyakanta Laishram is considered one of the best filmmakers. How does it feel like working with him?  Tell us more about your relationship with him.

One of the best filmmakers in Northeast India is Priyakanta Laishram. In everything, he conducts in-depth research. Priyakanta spends time and effort on his story and screenplay, in contrast to how others in the Manipuri film business operate, and he provides his actors with in-depth character exposition and insights. His top priority is always good table work. He possesses all the traits of an honest filmmaker.

He is not only a friend to me, but also a teacher. Since I was little, I’ve wanted to be an actor, and thanks to him, I was able to realize that ambition. He always offers me real guidance when I’m unsure how to act or perform my lines. Because of that, I am also able to grow my YouTube career.

6. What have you learned as a person and as an actor by being a part of Oneness? 

Oneness has taught me that we should never discriminate against others based on their gender or sexual orientation. In addition, I’ve picked up a lot of do’s and don’ts that I never had the chance to learn before. When it comes to acting, I also had several fresh experiences, such as the time I felt like really passing out while playing the part and learning how to adapt to the role. The most significant lesson I took away was how crucial honest effort and dedication are if one wants to succeed as an actor.

7. Tell us some of your best memories/instances from your journey of Oneness. 

I love the fact that every single actor was highly committed, and Priyakanta also gave us the best guidance. Since I reside in Charangpat, which is a very remote location from the Imphal region where the movie was filmed, I always returned home after the filming very late at night, which was also the time when the condition of the Imphal-Thoubal highway was at its worst. However, Priyakanta always took the time to phone me and inquire about my safety upon returning home. If not Priyakanta, then Tina Laishram, his assistant director, called. Despite having a very limited budget, our team was incredibly sweet. 

When I was portraying the character, I had to keep my hair uncut for three months while I awaited the look test, and then for another 2.5 months after that, I had to keep up the same appearance to maintain the film’s continuity. What a difficult task that was!

8. Do you have any expectations, in terms of how the audience would react to your role in Oneness?

I feel like even my mother would despise me after watching the movie. I mostly make humorous videos and vlogs on YouTube. That is not at all like what I have in this movie. Everyone will likely be astonished after seeing the film, in my opinion. Sincere to say, even I get frightened just by looking at the character. In the movie, I believe people will see me as Daniel Martin, not Sachinker.

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