|Portrayed by||Paige Sandhu|
|First appearance||Episode 8845 |
24 September 2020
|Introduced by||Kate Brooks and Laura Shaw|
Meena Jutla is a fictional character from the British ITV soap opera Emmerdale , played by Paige Sandhu. Details surrounding her casting and Meena's characterisation were announced in September 2020 alongside that of two other new characters as part of what Emmerdale described as a "big autumn shake-up".She was introduced as the estranged sister of established character Manpreet Sharma (Rebecca Sarker) and arrives in the fictional village with the intention of reconciling her relationship with Manpreet.
Upon her casting, actress Sandhu described her character as irresponsible, apathetic, unreliable, wild and intelligent. She liked the traits from an acting perspective since it was enjoyable to portray. Sandhu has also revealed that Meena's backstory involves her often being ignored by her parents in favour of Manpreet. She then had sex with Manpreet's husband which led their marriage to break down, as well as her relationship with her sister. Shortly after her introduction, Meena forms a relationship with David Metcalfe (Matthew Wolfenden).
The beginning of Meena's tenure sees her scheming to improve her relationships with David and Manpreet. Her actions included taking Rishi Sharma's (Bhasker Patel) medication so that she could rescue him, pretending to be Ethan Anderson's (Emile John) estranged mother and locking a dog in a hot car. It was then hinted by producers that her forthcoming plot would see Meena become the "forefront of really brilliant and gripping drama".It was then confirmed that she would become an Emmerdale villain in a serial killer plot, with her murders including best friend Nadine and village local Leanna Cavanagh (Mimi Slinger).
Meena has caused division in viewers' opinions since her introduction. Claire Crick of What to Watch wrote that viewers either supported Meena during her first feud or were irritated by her. The RSPCA received complaints about the character when she locked a dog in a hot car, with an Emmerdale spokesperson stating that the scenes were meant to be seen as cruel. After Meena becomes a serial killer, critics and viewers have praised the character and Sandhu's acting skills, with many believing Meena will become a "top soap serial killer".
Paige Sandhu's casting as Meena was announced by Emmerdale on 7 September 2020; she was announced as part of a "big autumn shake-up" alongside the castings of Lawrence Robb as Mackenzie Boyd and Simon Lennon as Ben Tucker.It was confirmed that Meena would be introduced as the estranged half-sister of established character Manpreet Sharma (Rebecca Sarker) and that the pair had fallen out in the past. Upon her casting, Sandhu described her character as fun and complex to play and she voiced her excitement at seeing how the viewers would react to her. She also stated that she had been enjoying filming with Sarker and Bhasker Patel, who plays Sarker's onscreen husband Rishi Sharma. On 24 September 2020, the day of Meena's first appearance, Sandhu revealed more details concerning her character. She stated that Meena is the opposite of her sister Manpreet, and that she is irresponsible, apathetic and unreliable, which she found enjoyable to portray. Sandhu also found Meena to be wild and intelligent, noting her talent for manipulating people. She explained: "She knows how to work people and she's a chameleon, depending on who she's talking to. She wonders: 'What can I get out of this person?'"
Explaining Meena's backstory, Sandhu stated that being the younger sister in her family led her to feel she is lower in the hierarchy of life. She views Manpreet as "the epitome of all that's good and great" and feels that she does not compare to her.Due to Meena growing up with an overachieving sister, Sandhu said that Meena had formed deeply rooted insecurities about herself due to not feeling good enough, which she covers up. The actress said that this backstory would be subtly explored in her scenes, as well as nods to her character having lived through recent depressing years.
Meena arrives in the Emmerdale village stating that she has the intention of reconciling with Manpreet, with who she had fallen out with years prior to her arrival. Sandhu hinted that despite Meena saying this, there is a selfish reason behind her actions. She explained: "I would say with Meena, there's always a selfish desire underneath what can seem a shiny veneer. There's always something else going on."Sandhu found this interesting from an acting perspective. She was asked how the reunion between the two characters goes, to which she replied that there would be tension and drama. She noted that the drama is especially awkward for Meena since she is the person responsible for the rivalry between them. Manpreet reveals that Meena had sex with her ex-husband while the pair were still together, which led to the eventual breakdown of their marriage. Rishi takes a liking to Meena and recommends her for a job at the local doctor's surgery, where Manpreet also works. Manpreet sits in on her interview with Liam Cavanagh (Jonny McPherson), where she makes distasteful remarks about Meena's personality. Both Liam and Rishi voice their disapproval of Manpreet's treatment of Meena, leading Manpreet to forgive Meena and allow her to stay at her house.
As well as being introduced as Manpreet's sister, it was also confirmed that she would be a potential love interest for newly single Billy Fletcher (Jay Kontzle). Meena flirts with him in front of his ex-girlfriend Dawn Taylor (Olivia Bromley), which leads to a confrontation between the pair. Dawn gives Meena a head injury, which results in Meena reporting Dawn to the police.After the interactions between Meena and Dawn, Sandhu revealed that Meena will make several other enemies in the village. She noted that any strong women will be threatened by Meena since she enjoys annoying them. Alongside her rivalries, Sandhu also confirmed that Meena would make friends shortly after her introduction, mentioning her friendships with Rishi and colleague Liam. In spite of her scheming ways, Sandhu confirmed that Meena genuinely likes Rishi, explaining: "She really likes Rishi in a friendly way as he is so sweet and kind. There's no pretence, he is what he is."
In November 2020, Meena begins pursuing David Metcalfe (Matthew Wolfenden). Thinking that "David could be the man for her", she asks him on a date to which he accepts; however, he stands her up and texts her saying that he cannot come.Annoyed by David's rejection, she heads to his shop to confront him. Stephen Patterson of the Metro wrote that since Meena is furious with David, she could potentially seek revenge on him. Patterson stated that since Meena will "do whatever it takes to get what she wants", she could do anything to David. Meena later learns that Manpreet was responsible for David standing her up, since her sister had advised David against dating her. Meena reacts by making a "shocking move" in order to win both Manpreet and David over. Meena purposely changes the direction of Rishi's Sat Nav, as well as taking his medication from the car and hiding Manpreet's phone. When Manpreet worries about his whereabouts, Meena pretends to come across Rishi in the direction she sent him, and pretends to have saved him. When Manpreet does not know how to thank Meena for saving Rishi's life, she suggests that Manpreet should talk to David about her again, in order to persuade him to give their relationship another chance. Speaking on Meena's actions, actress Sandhu guessed that the audience will not like Meena anymore since her character is "trying to steer the situation so that it comes out with her in the best possible position". Sandhu added that in Meena's position, her plan has succeeded since she has become a saviour in Manpreet's perspective. After Meena has won David back, Sandhu confirmed that viewers would continue to see Meena's dark side. She also warned that her character has no limits as to how far she will go to get what she wants and confessed that she loves playing the new baddie of Emmerdale. Digital Spy then wrote in December 2020 that the soap were setting up a "dark direction" for Meena.
In April 2021, Sandhu teased to Inside Soap that her dream storyline would be airing soon. She could not give specific details on the storyline due to her contract but stated that it would be a storyline that viewers would look forward to watching. However, she did confirm that David is not majorly related to the storyline but clarified that Meena does have true feelings for him. Sandhu furthered this by explaining that "the way that [Meena] loves people isn't the way that normal people love". 's next villain. She was tipped by Kilkelly (Digital Spy) as "one to watch" and guessed that she is "only just getting started".The storyline begins with Meena impersonating Ethan Anderson's (Emile John) estranged mother, manipulating his emotions by texting him from a burner phone. Digital Spy wrote that she "hatched this masterplan" with intentions of pushing Manpreet to comfort Ethan so that Manpreet would reunite with ex-lover Charles Anderson (Kevin Mathurin), Ethan's father. In June 2021, series producer Kate Brooks told the Daily Mirror that Meena's plot will elevate and "captivate" viewers as she joins the "forefront of really brilliant and gripping drama". Brooks also hinted that her scheming had formed the start of a "gripping and enthralling story" she hoped would get the nation talking and have viewers shouting at their televisions. Days later, Meena locks Andrea Tate's (Anna Nightingale) dog in a car to stop her from going on a camping trip with Charles. The scenes were part of her plan to reunite Manpreet with Charles, and following their airing, Meena was revealed to be Emmerdale
Meena confides in Diane Sugden (Elizabeth Estensen) about her dead friend Nadine, telling her that she regrets not spotting suicidal tendencies in Nadine before she killed herself. However, Meena is later seen reading an old newspaper clipping that is titled: "Woman found dead in suspicious circumstances."The article also stated that Nadine was found dead in her car after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes, with the police having appealed for witnesses following the death. Kilkelly wrote that Meena is linked to Nadine's death. Following the scenes, Digital Spy compiled a list of potential victims that Meena could murder, with the list including Manpreet, Andrea, Rishi, Diane, David's son Jacob (Joe-Warren Plant) and Jacob's girlfriend Leanna Cavanagh (Mimi Slinger), amongst others. Days later, Meena's plans to move in with David are put on hold when David learns that Jacob is in debt and upset over his breakup with Leanna. She begins to view Jacob as an obstacle in her relationship with David.
On 28 June 2021, it was confirmed by Emmerdale that Meena would murder a character in forthcoming scenes. That same day, a trailer including Meena, David, Jacob, Leanna, Gabby Thomas (Rosie Bentham) and Victoria Sugden (Isabel Hodgins) premiered on ITV, with media outlets confirming that the latter five would be the potential victims of her murder.Sandhu knew of the arc from when she was signed to Emmerdale and admitted that knowing where Meena's storyline would end up made it more fun for her to play her. Sandhu kept the storyline arc from other cast members when they asked her what would happen to Meena and noted that they were shocked to learn Meena would be a murderer. Sandhu cited Killing Eve as an aid to learning about how serial killers operate and noted that Meena has similar qualities to Villanelle. To further prepare herself for the storyline, she watched films including Taxi Driver , American Psycho , Nightcrawler and Killer Women with Piers Morgan , as well as reading The Psychopath Test . Speaking on the scenes, Sandhu stated that she loves playing a character who is completely different from everybody else on the soap, specifically noting Meena's "lack of empathy and her playfulness" as exciting points to portray. Brooks also spoke about the scenes, stating that up to that point, viewers and other characters on the soap had viewed Meena's behaviour as petulance, but hinted that the scenes of her murdering another character would reveal the "true extent of her narcissistic and amoral character". Brooks branded the character 'Malevolent Meena'.
When asked why Meena would kill someone, Sandhu explained that she would not kill for a thrill, but to get someone out of her way. Meena feels it is "perfectly reasonable" to murder someone in her way so that she can achieve her goals.Fans immediately suspected that Meena would kill Leanna, accrediting Meena's motive to Leanna receiving a rucksack filled with suspicious items belonging to Meena. Slinger, who portrays Leanna, addressed the possibility of it being her character by stating that Leanna does not realise she is in danger with Meena. She explained that the two have built up a friendship and that she is "completely oblivious to Meena's dark side". In an episode broadcast on 8 July 2021, Leanna discovers that Meena stole money from the gay pride collection in the village and tried to frame Jacob, as well as discovering Meena murdered Nadine. Leanna tries to escape but is confronted by her on a bridge, which Meena throws her from. Slinger enjoyed filming her scenes with Sandhu, noting that her ability to play a psychopath was scarily good. The pair required a stunt coordinator since Leanna falls 40 feet from a bridge. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on television, cast and crew members on Emmerdale were not allowed within 6 feet of each other at the time of filming. However, since Leanna and Meena had to be closer than 6 feet, the two actresses formed a bubble. This included isolating in a hotel for a number of days and taking regular COVID tests. Slinger was happy to have made the effort to bubble with Sandhu since it made the scenes "feel as real and raw as possible".
Prior to her scenes airing, Sandhu felt that Meena would cause division between viewers of the soap. She admitted that if she was a viewer, she would dislike Meena, adding that many viewers were likely to be annoyed by her.Sandhu was correct in her presumptions, with What to Watch's Claire Crick writing that viewers were indeed divided on the character following her first appearance. Crick noted that Meena arrived "with a bang", and that viewers were either supporting Meena or Dawn in their rivalry. Some were "irritated" by Meena, while others were enjoying her presence on the soap. After scenes of Meena locking Princess in a hot car aired, it prompted viewer complaints to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Viewers were angry over Meena's treatment of Princess, as well as Emmerdale for showing the scenes. When asked to comment, a spokesperson for the soap stated that Meena's actions were "extremely cruel" and hoped they would act as a reminder to not lock dogs in cars, especially in warm weather.
When Meena confronts Leanna, Calli Kitson of the Metro wrote that Meena is "evil and manipulative". 's David Brown echoed Leung's comments, opining that she could become a "top soap serial killer" and "could go down in the soap history books". Brown joked that there is no character "meaner than Meena" and voiced his excitement to see her villainous behaviour. Metro's Duncan Lindsay listed Meena amongst various Emmerdale women that he felt were responsible for the soap being "the top of its game". Lindsay opined that Meena was setting herself up "one of soap's all time memorable serial killers" due to her "chilling cold heartedness combined with that fantastic element of silliness". Sandhu received praise from the viewers for her part in Leanna's "chilling" murder, with them noting her "incredible acting skills as the deranged killer". Moments after killing Leanna, a scene of Meena dancing to "Toxic" by Britney Spears aired; the scene went viral on Twitter and Meena was branded a dame.After Meena's murder of Leanna, Yasmine Leung of HITC noted that she has "left quite the impression on viewers". Leung noticed that fans of the soap had praised Sandhu for her portrayal of Meena and that they had become invested in the storyline due to her acting skills. Despite some viewers wanting Meena gone from the soap due to disagreeing with her actions, Leung herself admitted that she loves Meena and enjoys seeing her "psycho, unpredictable nature" as it incites drama on the soap. Metro
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