Indians have always had a strange obsession with fair skin as is clearly depicted in Bollywood movies, a trend that still doesn’t seem to fade. Bollywood still interprets having a fair complexion as a beauty standard rather than a skin tone. It’s time we stop considering white skin to be synonymous with beauty. With the majority of the actors being light-skinned there’s almost no representation for dark-skinned people; this unrealistic euro-centric standard set by Bollywood prove to be harmful, especially to dark-skinned girls across the country.
Here are some ways Bollywood blatantly promotes colourism.
The main requisite while casting an actress is that she has to be fair, her talent be damned. Renowned actresses like Smita Patil and Nandita Das have faced colourism in the industry.
This discrimination not only affects women but men, too. Actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Dhanush have had to face many challenges because they were not considered to fit the “conventional hero” look.
The movie “Fashion”, showed Priyanka Chopra’s character hitting rock bottom when she realises she has had a one-night stand with a black guy. Nevermind all the morally questionable things she did before (which include sabotaging careers and substance abuse). Sleeping with a black guy is the lowest point in her life!
Songs, too, have contributed to this discrimination; we have been hearing songs celebrating the “gora rang” (white complexion) of the heroine for ages. With songs like “Chitiyaan Kalaiyaan” still being made, Bollywood doesn’t seem to be learning. PS: The lyrics translate to: “I have got fair-complexioned wrists… they’re yours now!”
We all heard of the incident where actress Tannishtha Chatterjee had to leave a popular comedy show midway because the host cracked jokes on her skin colour, prompting her to call out the colourism prevalent in the industry.
On several occasions light-skinned actors are cast for dark-skinned roles and their skin darkened, Alia Bhatt’s character in “Udta Punjab”, being the most recent example. Why not cast a dark-complexioned actor instead?
Another factor that promotes colourism are fairness creams that perpetuate the normalisation of white skin. What’s more harmful is that they cast dusky actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone, whitewash them and endorse their product, which can be psychologically detrimental and promote internalised colourism.
This is why we need more initiatives like ‘Dark Is Divine’ and #UnfairAndLovely to challenge the norm. Dark skin is just as normal and beautiful and it’s high time we as a society shun this regressive mindset and begin to appreciate and embrace it.
Saumya Anand is an intern with Youth Ki Awaaz for the batch of February-March 2017.