Discussion Post: Skin Tone in India! Discuss and Educate Us!

I put up a post yesterday related to Sridevi’s death about how there is a recent association in Indian popular culture between “skinny” and “healthy” and also “beautiful”.  And then the comments section just went wild with people talking.  Mostly people from the west, where the weight issue has been the dominant issue in appearance for years.  But I started to feel odd talking about this on an Indian film blog without acknowledging the fact that in India it is in fact skin tone that is the dominant issue.

I am not Indian, or even part of another skin variant ethnicity, so I truly have no right to talk about this issue.  The only time I remember ever having a conversation with my mother, or any other woman, about skin tone was related to whether or not we would burn and needed to put on more sunscreen (I always burn.  This is the curse of light skin).  It’s an issue that is literally invisible to me, unless someone points it out I would be unaware of a public figure having lighter or darker skin.  Not that I am a naturally superior person, just that it was not beaten into me as an important thing to notice, because in our family/community most everyone was simply “white” with no shadings.

But from the few classes I took on body image and minimal research, I know that skin tone is a big big issue for essentially every culture in which skin variance is common, African American to Indian to Hispanic to Nigerian to everywhere.

 

In India, as I understand it, there are a few unique features:

  1. North versus South: The farther north you go, the more generally pale the people are.  The preference for lighter skin over darker skin could also be a form of Northern aggression.

 

(This is also why Pushtan/Afgani heritage actors with the last name “Khan” dominate the Hindi industry.  Because they are so pale.  And also why it is a bit unpleasant that Shahrukh is the face for “fair and handsome” because his fairness is genetic)

 

2. The British:  Yes yes, they were there too, and they were mostly white.

Image result for Katrina Kaif

(There is a sexualization of the British “memsaab” image that plays into this somewhere)

 

3. Class: the working class are I think assumed to be darker than the more educated wealthier class.

Image result for rajinikanth

(Rajinikanth is proudly dark, and often plays working class heroes)

 

4. Caste: This is a big one.  The lower castes are recognized (supposedly) partly by their dark skin.

Image result for harshali malhotra

(In Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Salman’s family does not want to risk caste contamination by bringing an unknown little girl into their home, but Salman argues that she must be Brahmin because of her pale skin)

 

5. Adivasi: The indigenous people of South Asia.  Before the Dravidians in the south and the Aryans in the north.  They have reserved land in the forest areas set aside for them in various places through out the subcontinent where they live through hunting and gathering.  They tend to have “kinky” hair and darker skin.

Image result for premam actress

(Big deal for this actress to be considered the epitome of beauty in Premam with her wild hair and darker skin)

6. African immigrants: there is a regular ancient trade route between the east coast of Africa and the west coast of India.  In recent years (I think) there has begun to be more discussion of these immigrants “taking” our jobs.  And they are beginning to be more and more visible in popular culture, while still not being that visible.

(For instance, the African dancers and musicians in the background through out this film)

 

7. Racism imported from overseas: The least important element, and most recent.  There will often be sexy/not sexy maids of African heritage somewhere in the background of a film if it is set overseas.  Not sure why that is, but it is disturbing.  However, it’s also the element with the least effect on Indian culture back home.

 

 

Okay, that’s all I’ve got.  And I know there is SO MUCH more to this topic and things I (and others like me who read this blog) should know.  Go wild!  Discuss and educate!

Advertisements

86 thoughts on “Discussion Post: Skin Tone in India! Discuss and Educate Us!

  1. I don’t think SRK is considered fair by Indian standards which makes his selection for Fair and Handsome even stranger. Even as a huge fan, I fail to see why he continues to do these ads when everyone in his family is dark skinned excluding Abram. I recall an interview in which he stated Suhana gets rude comments on her social media telling her how dark she is but she is not bothered about it.

    The skin tone issues don’t have the same connotations in India that they have in the Western world where it’s associated with the effects of slavery and discrimination. It’s India it’s more just a beauty standard in the same way that maybe tall height or long shiny hair would be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I am remembering correctly, Suhana and AbRam were fair skinned as well, or at least considerably lighter skinned, when they were AbRam’s age. Which makes sense to me, sun damage and other factors slightly darkening skin as you age.

      Like

      • Another strange phenomenon is that you lose color as you age. My mom and mausi used to be just slightly paler in complexion as 90s Shilpa when they were in college and now they’re close to pale. And this when neither has spent the last 30 years getting any specific skin lightening treatments done and both go out of the house often enough!

        Even I feel I’ve lost that natural bronze glimmer my skin used to have. Even my pale friends don’t have their pink glimmers anymore. I think it’s the waxing. The skin on my legs and torso feels a little more translucent than before and that makes me look like 4 shades paler than what I can see for myself in pictures from 10 years ago!

        Like

        • Interesting! My best friend in college was Punjabi, and she was pale enough that she was routinely mistaken for Hispanic instead of desi. But her mother was really really pale, like almost paler than I am with no gradation in the skin.

          Meanwhile I feel like small children get slightly darker? Like, baby to 12. That’s really just based on obsessively looking at photos of famous people’s children, but it seems like everyone of them gets slightly darker as part of losing their baby looks.

          On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:30 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

          • yes they do. Early teens is usually the uniformly darkest for both boys and girls and then girls get progressively paler as they age. Men, well, at least middle class men who drink, get paler around their 50s unless their health is all messed up.

            Like

          • This is all fascinating! and also means all those slide shows I see of actresses with headlines like “proof! Whitening treatment!” because of the color changes aren’t really proof of anything. Especially if it is comparing super young photos, most recenlty I saw this story about Suhana which is gross in all kinds of ways but also because they are comparing a current photo with a photo from when she was 12-13 which from what you are saying would be naturlaly a slightly different color.

            (also, I am staying up way too late because I can’t pull myself away from funeral coverage. Akshaye! He is so sad!)

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:43 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • Well in some cases the whitening treatment is quite obvious in that you’ll see them being the same exact color head to toe when they were quite shaded in their youth (some people just have the most uniform color) The multi-color to uniform color transformation is possible whitening trreatment and the multi-shaded lightening to multi-shaded paler skin only is the natural one.

            Kajor has definitely gotten lightening done. You can tell from her knuckles.

            Also, funeral begins at 3:30 IST. It’s still five hours away.

            Like

          • Viewing then. the thing at the celebration club. I am addicted to the hindustan times live feed, every time I am about to go to bed, I refresh it and there is an update.

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:52 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • “Wake” or “viewing” would be the equivalent. You have a kind of open house for people to come and give you condolences usually with the body there for viewing, and then the formal funeral ceremony later, and then finally the internment.

            This is reminding me of the really big viewings that I’ve heard of for public figures here, like when Harold Washington died while he was Mayor of Chicago, it was a big deal, he was laid out in city hall and thousands of people (including my parents I think) came to see him.

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 11:00 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Liked by 1 person

          • The viewing is a public event at every level. We clearly have boundary issues in this country.

            Also, participating in the janaza or uthala (where the body is carried to the graveyard or funeral ground) gets you good karma points.

            i think that was the central premise of the otherwise completely unbearable Yogi.

            Like

    • The ones I struggle with are the ones in “Disco Fighter” from Delhi Belly. Because in that case it is actual black face. But, it is also a tribute to blaxploitation films of the 1970s, not just trying to look cool. And the black face is so glaringly obvious as to be a conscious statement on itself.

      Also, if you are feeling generous, you can hope over to the Sridevi-“healthy” weight post and help us figure out what happened in fashion history so that western styles only look good on super thin models. I’m landing on “the removal of structured undergarments made it harder for clothes to fit in a standardized way”.

      On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 4:10 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      • The blackface in Delhi Belly was more of a tribute than blaxploitation. I’m guessing it was one of the first western subculture elements that made it back to India via immigrants making trips back and forth and bringing culture with them (the earlier lot didn’t return and previously imported cultural elements like the bouffant and suit styles were still associated with the angrez). Also, the Indian disco films already established the link and so Delhi belly song was like a tribute to the original cultural element to which a tribute had already been made in an indianized way.

        Like

        • Okay, that’s what I was thinking, it was a conscious homage to the “Blaxploitation” film genre, not just an ill thought out element.

          Love your point that it was an attempt to nod towards the origin of the Indian disco culture it was imitating!

          On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 7:39 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Liked by 1 person

          • Side note: can we talk about Amrish Puri’s magnificent Afro in Qurbani?

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 9:15 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • So far everyone I’ve shown Qurbani to has immediately said “Afro!” I think it is just a hair (ha!) too big to be a perm. Elliot Gould though, that’s a perm:

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 9:54 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • Of course everyone you could possibly show the film to would think of that as an Afro. How do you tell an Indian an Afro is an Afro when they know shiny brown soft tight curls can be gotten only through a perm!!

            Like

          • And I refer you back to the picture of the gorgeous woman from Premam! So it is possible for there to be a natural “Afro” in India.

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:06 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • Yes. but we don’t call it an Afro. We call it a chidiya ka ghosla (bird’s next) Haha!! My BFF from middle school and a close from high school have bushy hair and we called them bushy hair. Calling it an afro would be racist since hair like that occurs naturally in india! 😛

            Like

  2. From my personal experience as a Punjabi teenager, I inherited my mom’s slightly darker skin while my sister inherited my dad’s paler skin. Honestly, I am so happy with my skin, I like the way it looks, I like that I never get burnt while my sister has to deal with aloe vera, I like that people can tell that I’m desi right away whereas it’s kind of a guessing game for my sister. But my mom, despite having darker skin, still talks about me being darker than my sister ALL. THE. TIME. Super frustrating, but I’ve learned not to let it phase me. She’s even talked about how when she was a teenager in India, guys would always talk to her sister (my aunt) because she was paler and no one wanted to talk to my mom. I fully accept my skin tone, but I genuinely feel sad for my mom and others who grew up like her, with the idea of fair = lovely so deeply instilled in their heads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny how these beauty standards run down the female side of families. Your mother, your aunt, your sister, yourself, all in a line. Not agreeing, but those are the people in the conversation, if you see what I mean? It’s all women and only women who discuss these things among themselves.

      On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 6:20 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Well, there’s this whole other side to the skin tone discussion where often pale wives/daughters-in-law are prized, but the pale women are perfectly OK with marrying dark or very dark men. Yes, usually the man is “successful” at some level (doesn’t have to be ultra rich or a movie star), but this trade off for “beauty” for “success” is very casually accepted. And the “success” doesn’t even have to be monetary. The guy can be someone very educated and with a decent social status, that’s all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • that’s really interesting! Is it just a general idea that appearance is more important for women than men, or is it something specific about skin color that paler is more “feminine” and darker is more “masculine”?

          On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 7:21 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

          • I think it’s the stereotyped gender roles of the past, where a woman’s only real asset/bargaining point was her beauty, while a man was judged more for his earning capacity/potential.

            Like

          • Follow up question, would there be any assumption that a pale bride would be more valuable partly because her pale skin might be passed on to her children? Or is it only for her own beauty?

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 7:37 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • I don’t think there’s anything that pale is feminine and dark is masculine. Recall that both “black” men and women in Hinduism are held up as standards of beauty (Rama and Krishna, but also Parvati and Draupadi, were all described as very dark).

            Another factor you have left out in the shaping of this mythology is the influence of the Muslim invasions. Not only were Muslim women supposed to be very beautiful (i.e., more so than the Indian women), but they were also paler. Personally I think it’s because they were sequestered indoors that they were paler, if indeed they were. 🙂 But it all adds to the mythic narrative.

            BTW, if you’re asking to be “educated”, you should know there’s no such divide as “Aryans” and “Dravidians”, especially not being linked to the North and South of India respectively. This was a theory invented by 19th century British racists and actively promulgated by their Indian stooge “historians” till fairly recently, when they had to shut up in the face of overwhelming archaeological evidence. So called “Dravidians” were populating about 90% of India in ancient times, and “Arya” was a Sanskrit word meaning “of noble character.”

            Liked by 2 people

          • that’s interesting! So the stereotype from northern films of the dark skinned southerner is in fact completely made up. Skin tone would have no geographic connection.

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 7:45 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Liked by 1 person

          • I so specifically read up on this aryan v dravidian thing and turns out that haplogroup studies, when they use the patrilinieal data only point to a distinction and diversity of races with the southern end of India being “purer” and more uniformly preserved. When they studied matrilinieal data however, they discovered that there was extremely limited diversity there meaning that very few non-native women ever made it to the subcontinent. Even in the ethnically diverse regions like kashmir and the northeast. All native indian female DNA everywhere!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Or, alternatively, there is something special about Indian women which makes them and their genes better able to survive in the subcontinent. I’m thinking of something like the prevalence of sickle cell anemia among people of African descent because it makes you more malaria resistant. I can more easily picture a bunch of men and women arriving together and something causing the dying off of women/female genes and only those with something particular in their genetics from the female side able to thrive, than millennia of migrations and only men arriving over and over again.

            Plus, that means as a native Indian woman you must have some kind of hidden super power! And that’s cool.

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 9:21 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • HAH!! that would be interesting!! Although I think it really is as simple as the most frequent trade routes being too gruesome and perilous to bring women along and invaders leaving behind rape babies who grew up to marry local women only and settling armies simply marrying the local women.

            Like

          • Re follow up question: Oh, for sure, yes. 🙂 It’s the same way that women used to be blamed for not bearing sons, before people knew that it’s the father’s gene that determines the sex of the baby.

            Like

          • Now, if I were an old-fashioned man with darker skin and a pale skinned wife and I had a pale skinned baby, my first thought would be “wait, how can I be sure it is my baby if it has light skin?” But I guess that is only if you have a more suspicious personality.

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 7:46 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • Just to add to your original question, the paler skin is supposed to be more beautiful, whether for men or women. So a dark, successful man can get a pale bride, but a pale, successful man will get even more pale brides. 🙂

            Like

          • So I’m getting the idea that the ideal couple would be a wife a few shades lighter than a husband? That is, assuming you are doing an arranged marriage or in some way putting a couple together through a formula rather than just who you call in love with.

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 7:51 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • Oh, no, not at all. There are so many other factors that go into an “ideal” arranged marriage; skin tone is just one of them. If a girl comes from a very rich family, for instance, then her skin tone won’t be as important, just as is the case for a man. That is only one example. If we get away from the 1% crowd to regular people, the emphasis (for both bride and groom) is on the kind of family that each comes from, what kind of reputation they have, what kind of values, etc.

            Like

  3. I don’t have much idea about this topic. But in India most of marriages are arranged marriage and In bio data skin color is a major point.

    It is seen by parents/relatives as a compatibility check. How I still don’t understand.
    Can anyone else make me understand why?

    Secondly fair & lovely and others are responsible for the misconceptions fair=lovely confidence success. Which shape the society

    Like

    • If both bride and groom are “fair”, there are greater chances that their children will be “fair”, too. That’s the compatibility.

      Like

    • Also casting actresses from foreign countries just because they have a lighter complexion with no acting abilities, when there are so many beautiful talented Indian women who actually deserve it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t mind Katrina quite as much since she seems to work hard and make an effort, but Amy Jackson kind of bothers me. She is almost universally dubbed, and doesn’t seem to be that good of a dancer or a facial actress, so it is really just her appearance which got her cast.

        Like

        • But Kat still can’t act, yea she works hard doing item songs so what many Indian actresses can dance plus are amazing at acting but doesn’t get cast because their simply not “fair” or isn’t dating a superstar

          Liked by 1 person

          • and the fact that Amy is being casted in 2.0 with Rajnikanth at this point he can play her grandad (sorry rajni fans)

            Like

        • What’s truly interesting is that the super pale, blue eyed, blonde is still rejected. They appear too foreign. Even Sanjana Kapoor looked too foreign.

          BUT both Karisma and Kareena are adored. Not for their skin color per se but because they look desi enough.

          Like

          • Well shoot, there goes my dream of Hindi film stardom!

            I get what you are saying. Pale skin is fine, but you still need a variation of dark hair to go with it. I’m thinking of song lyrics even, black black eyes, pale pale skin, dark dark hair.

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:59 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • i thought you would be happy just settling down as SRK’s something something. Didn’t we write that fanfic already??

            Yeah, that’s the ideal. you forgot the Deer-like prance in the lyrics!! HAHA

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Girls what’s your take on cosmetic giants like fair and lovely constantly feeding into public that lighter skin tone =beauty, success, confidence etc.

    I feel they play a big role in shaping Indian psyche especially mom’s.
    I know my aunt who is constantly nagging my cousin as she is dark skinned and forcing her to use fair and lovely etc. For getting better grooms.

    Like

    • You should tell your cousin to buy a whole makeup kit and take a pricey makeup and hair course. And tell her to buy a matt red lip stain. the first day she walks out in full makeup will be the day your aunt will see that she doesn’t need lighter skin.

      As for Fair and Lovely– that shit is crap. It even killed Yami’s career!!! But she got stigmatised as the annoying Fair and Lovely girl!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well I’m considerably darker than my mom who is what we call wheatish. My family is really weird. So the story was that my paternal granddad and his family were super pale (that would be the Nepali side of us) and my paternal grandma and her family were super dark. So their kids ended up with all the girls inheriting the paler complexion barring my oldest aunt who is slightly dark but two of her four kids-a girl and a boy- are really dark. This didi used to be my favorite because even though everyone said that her skin color was an issue but I always thought she was extremely pretty. She’s an ayurveda doctor who wasn’t allowed to pursue mainstream medicine because there was a match found for her and had she been allowed to continue her studies they would have not been able to find her a suitable husband who could accept her with her color. Imagine the crap. Her father was a high ranking medical official earning big bucks and her uncles, my dad etc, were all high ranking officials so finding a match wouldn’t have been a problem but her own dad saw her color as an issue. Her brother, on the other hand, after his elder brother passed away at a young age, became the sole heir of their millions and HIS dark complexion was overlooked when it was time for him to wed. In fact, my aunt used to have photographs of girls laid out on her coffee table and she used to tell him to just pick one. And he did. And when they went to finalize the match, my darker than his sister cousin, pointed at my future bhabhi’s half sister, who was a model, and said I’ve changed my mind and I want this girl now. My future bhabhi threatened them with a court case only after which the idiocy was resolved.

    Point being- if you’re a girl with dark skin, it’s a handicap. If you’re a boy with dark skin but you have money, you’re allowed to be an ass.

    Ok so my own experiences with it now. I don’t think I realized I was dark skinned or that it was a problem till I was quite grown up. Like class 2nd. Even though my brother was quite pale I was just never made to feel different by my family with their mixed skin tones or my friends who were all kinds of colors. The first incident that I remember was the school annual function, I was at Our Lady of the Snows, Kullu in himachal where everyone was pale and paler only. So my teachers were dressing us kids up for a dance performance and one of my them decided to splash my face with talcum powder. When the other one asked why she did that, this teacher replied oh she’s so dark, no? And I was like huh? Not that anyone treated me any differently but I remember becoming a little self conscious about my color.

    The next incident came when I was in the 5th standard and my and my brother were living with my nani because dad got posted in the interiors. So my aunts who loved me more than my own mother took me to a homeopathic doctor where they asked specifically for something to lighten my skin. And it was a horrible thing that tasted like alcohol. In the year that followed, I remember spending a lot of time putting mud packs on hoping that’d lighten my skin and I won’t have to drink that nasty thing. I guess my aunts picked up on that because they stopped getting me the “medicine” after that.

    Then we moved back to himachal where again all around me there were mostly people in different shades of pale but nobody ever made me feel any different, not even random strangers on the street, that I was a different color. Till I had a crush on a boy, a senior at school, a sulky, angry goonish boy, who was in love with a girl from another school who didn’t know he existed. Long story short, my friends egged me on to tell him how I felt, I wrote him a letter, my friends delivered it and he threw it on the ground without reading it. I was super embarrassed and gutted and I resolved to never even look at him again. Not that we’d ever spoken before that. But a few weeks after that he started following me and my friend to the bus stop where he’d just throw catcalls at me. How’d I know they were for me? Because he’d yell “kaaddi” which means “dark girl” in pahadi. And I was the only dark girl in view on that busy market Street slash bus stop. A year of this and he went from calling me kaadi to calling out my name which was even more embarrassing. I could never forgive him for that.

    Fast forward to seven years later and I’m in a relationship with this tall, broad gorgeous sardar who never for a single day made me feel like my color was an issue for him. Even his mum seemed ok with us being a thing and she just wanted us to start thinking of marriage. I was 22 and he was 26 then. Enter his half sister, who half met me when a bunch of us were hanging out at his place and his little niece told the family she wanted to go play with the didi that chachu brought meaning me. So she half meets me and I learnt later that she brought a dozen or so pictures of “suitable girls” for him within that week. So he gets forced into an engagement, the rest of the story is quite filmy and bizzare but we stay friends or whatever, he runs away from his wedding two days before the ceremony, his sister calls me for help, he says he won’t marry anyone else, I make him come back and get married because stupid indian sanskaar, we remain friends or whatever, his wife pops out a kid he demanded a paternity test for, they’re on the verge of divorce for five years, I keep getting cited as the reason for it, his sister keeps in touch with me just in case, his BFF who is paler than you Margaret asks me to marry him and that’s another mess, I move to lucknow and decide I can’t keep getting blamed for his compatibility issues with the “suitable girl” so I sever contact with him. A year and a month later he dies. I call his family to offer condolences and the sister blames me for leaving him and breaking his heart. A few years later a mutual friend tells me the sister only “rejected” me because I was dark PLUS confident and that’s not what people want in a bahu!

    You’d think that’d be the end of the skin color idiocy! But nooooooooo…. So the next boyfriend, current beau, was apparently “advised” within a month of us having started dating by his then mentor and his wife against “the match”. They even went up to his family and his mother made him swear he would end things with me. Because again, dark skin plus confidence! How do I know this? Because when I was meeting his mother for the very first time, he told me to act a little less brash and try and get rid of the extra tan from the summer because his mum would mind. I hated it but I did spend time and money on getting the tan off. I told beau if he had a problem with my color he could fuck off. It’s six years later and we’re planning to get married.

    As for my own take on my color, I wish it were uniform. I once counted 17 different shades all over me. Buying makeup is a bitch. I have to keep a bunch of shades because I’m not sure what tone I’d be after a day in the sun and I do go makeup free a lot too.

    Color and complexion were never my top beauty or self esteem issues apart from these incidents.

    Also, with the daily makeup trend, westernwear trend and the red lipstick trend taking off, I do see the complexion and color prejudice taking a backseat. I guess it’s all about the overall appearance and not just color. Because dark skinned girls with lovely kajal lined eyes and smooth black hair are complimented with the question “are you bengali?” and being asked that is always a compliment!!

    Of course if you speak in English softly, dress very plainly and it looks like you didn’t make much of an effort that day on your looks AND you’re dark, you get asked if you’re from the south.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is so fascinating! Thank you! And, of course, I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. But also, thank you! Like I said, for myself this is all a completely foreign idea, so hearing someone’s personal journey is really eye-opening.

      One thing I am curious about, if a woman is darker and sort of humble, might that be seen as an advantage? As in “she won’t/shouldn’t expect much, because she is darker, so she will be easier to handle”?

      It also never occurred to me that variations in skin color would be an issue, like you said, changing day by day. Which is just my own stupidity and distance from what the majority of people go through.

      On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 9:08 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Yup. Apparently, being dark is supposed to be like a handicap and a bahu is always expected to be submissive and since a woman’s existence in this country is to aspire to be a bahu (unless you’re a beti and even then you’re a good beti only when you turn out to be a good bahu), a dark girl is supposed to be like a handicapped bahu living forever at the mercy of and in service of her in laws.

        Or so people wish!!

        Did you know Indian men are the third most “beaten/abused by wife” male population in the world?? So you really have to wonder if the “poor submissive, battered bahu” stereotype really does exist IRL as widely as we think it does or not!

        Like

        • Relatedly, have I told you that I want to name my eventual dog Bahubali and call her “Bahu” for short? Which I was very happy about until I realized I would be walking down the street yelling “BAHU! HUSH! HEEL! SIT!” Which isn’t the greatest thing to yell in a super desi neighborhood.

          And come to think of it I would also be saying “Bahu used to misbehave, but then I started locking her up when I left the house and now she does everything I tell her”.

          On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:01 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

          • hahahahahha….

            although Bahubali or Bahu is pronounced Baaahub’uli or Baaahu and daughter in law is b’hoo… So Bahu with a ba like bark and bahu with a ba like butter, sound entirely different.

            Like

          • Thank goodness! I really didn’t want to come up with a new name. And BAAAAAAHUUUU would just be so satisfying to yell as needed, you know? Plus, from the other side, I can say “I’m going to go home and let my Bahubali love all over me.” And that’s a great sentence!

            On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:14 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

  6. in the middle of our discussion I remembered that I know of at least two films that deal with the “dark is bad” theme very explicitly- One was Naseeb Apna Apna, the one with Rishi Kapoor where the dark skinned wife was shown as being totally ugly and downright stupid and clownish, and another was this old black and white one with, I wanna say Meena Kumari but I’m not sure, where she played this woman who is told repeatedly by her husband that he rejects her because she is kaali. I think the film was called Kaali too.

    Like

    • No luck finding that movie, but I did find another unrelated one with Rekha, which reminded me about the whole Rekha thing. Am I right that she suddenly became much lighter? And that when she was darker was also when she was more “sensual” and “natural” sort of sexy? What is the deal with the “dusky” skin being seen as sexy in a very specific way that I can’t quite articulate?

      On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:22 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Mom’s favorite Rekha anecdote whenever me and my cousins fuss over our skins being all kinds of colors at the same time is that during her hindi debut Naveen Nischol told her her dark skin disgusted him and that prompted her into a makeover and then he was wowed and she was all whateva loser! Mom doesnt use these very words but that’s what they translate into.

        I think the word or phenomenon that you’re trying to put into words and figure out is actually the glimmer. Like seriously. I got told by both my boyfriends that THAT was a thing. Like what a natural blush looks like on pale people.

        Like

      • The dark skin probably gives a more natural, earthy kinda feel that this woman is real & not an angelic, unattainable creature-so out of your league. Also traditionally while white signifies all things pure & saintly, dark hue symbolises wild,bad, kinky? I’m reminded of Nandita Das smeared in mud -in Kannathil Muthamittal. Kangana in mud in Rangoon doesn’t give quite the same feel. Does it?

        Like

        • I just watched Sadma, and there’s also Silk versus Sridevi in that. Silk’s dark skin, full figure, natural brows, it all feels like part of the same thing, earthy and natural and easy. While Sridevi with her paler skin and generally put together look is something different.

          Like

  7. I think the points you listed pretty much covers the prevalent color issues in India. It was particularly insightful of you to mention about the Adivasis & lower caste bearing the brunt for dark skin. As recently as last week, an Adivasi man was killed by a mob for stealing some food to eat. His dark skin& shabby appearance seems to have tagged him as ‘one who doesn’t deserve humanly treatment’.
    Color is easily the first tool with which strangers will judge you in India. And also polite enquiry from acquaintances-if all’s well because you seem to have lost weight & color. As a teenager I used to scoff at the foreigners coming all the way here to just lie in the sun & get tanned. Here I was grinding & applying a paste of turmeric, sandalwood, guava leaves in the morning , besan(ground chickpeas)with honey in the evening & fair & lovely in the night-just so that this tanned skin looks tad brighter.I was so jealous of my Punjabi classmate with pale skin who was something of an exotic creature among the boys & teachers.

    Fair skin obsession may have centered around women in the earlier days. But with the number of fairness creams for men, men’s beauty salons mushrooming, it’s now similar to the ‘health’ fad that has taken over the men & women equally-in cities & towns. Like someone said in one of the comments-fair/wheatish skin is a catch line in the matrimonial ads. Sreenivasan has made a wonderful film-Vadakkunokki Yantram -on the insecurities of a short, dark ,otherwise successful man who marries a fair woman.Kattapanayile Hritik Roshan(Hritik Roshan of Kattapana)is another film where the hero-short & dark-is obsessed about his dark skin & makes it his goal to marry a fair girl.

    Rekha, Kajol etc were hailed as the torch bearers of dark beauty until all those skin lightening treatment made them paler. I am especially disappointed about Kajol-who defied all beauty standards in her hey days-becoming a turn coat.

    Bhanupriya-you will remember as the widow with a child that Rajni marries -was the quintessential south Indian women in the 80s. Sridevi, Jayaprada, Rekha etc were all South Indians working in south films who crossed over to Hindi. Now you will hardly find any Tamil/Telugu native heroines in either of the industry. The Telugu & Tamil films seems obsessed about fair skin heroines. It’s either imports from north or Malayali/Kannadiga girls. The dark skinned every day hero taming the fair, uptight heroine seems to be the recurring theme in many films. The actress whose pic you posted above has since then straightened her hair & is now the standard-issue heroine.which is why someone like Sai Pallavi defying the conventions on clear skin tone, hair,makeup etc excites me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your last point I find especially interesting. We were talking about weight before, where there is this clear division north and south with the south having a huge variety of female body shapes still present. But it sounds like that is not the case with color, the color prejudice has spread through out the country, or at least strengthened through out the country.

      Like

  8. Interracial marriages is another issue, sometimes it is acceptable if the person marries someone who is Caucasian but its not if they are of African American decent, this is such a low mentality. As long as the person is a good human being, It should not matter what their race, gender, or religion is.

    Like

    • Now that I think about it, even in the most westernized and multiplex type of films may have white people in the background of scenes, or as friends of the hero, or even as spouses of one of the supporting characters, but I can think of very few films that included Black characters in the same way.

      Strangely, English/Vinglish was one of them, embracing the African immigrant character as part of the group and as a viable romantic partner for the white teacher.

      Like

      • Exactly, I also didn’t witness any heroines that are black or other races, when there are many white heroines in lead roles of the film industry.

        Like

      • You should check out the Telugu film “Vinayakudu” (I think it’s on youtube w/ subtitles). Among the heroine’s group of friends is a Telugu speaking African or African American looking woman, whose presence is never explained, except for some jokes about how she speaks better Telugu than the “native speakers.” But she is there throughout the film as part of the heroine’s gang.

        Like

    • Omg I love Monica! I have been following her YouTube channel for quite a while now, she is so humble and well-spoken, and the fact that she raises awareness about these issues is so uplifting.

      Like

  9. Somewhere in the contents is a discussion of Africans depiction in Indian film. I wanted to add that by far the worst I’ve seen is the very famous Ah Jaane Jaan song from the movie Intequam. An Indian man in “black body ” (I.e. His whole body is painted black, not just his face), shiny black curly hair, is locked in a cage, pacing around on all fours, baring his teeth and growling menacingly like a tiger, at the dancer Helen.

    In a lot of these cases, I don’t find Indian depictions of Africans inherently racist because it’s just one culture of equal stature depicting another, because it doesn’t come from history of power hierarchy and subjugation. But depicting Africans as literally dangerous wild animals to be caged and tamed is off the charts shocking.

    Like

    • Along the lines of your “not inherently racist” thought, there’s Hawa Hawai. Which has dancers in blackface at the end, after having those same dancers go through a whole series of extreme make-up. And who do not act undignified or inhuman or anything else, it is purely blackface. Which in America would be enough to make to completely unacceptable, but in the Indian context has a different meaning, or even no particular conscious meaning at all.

      On Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 6:34 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  10. This came across my Twitter feed today. There’s a lot I couldn’t catch–obvs since it’s in Hindi. I googled this guy–Neelesh Misra–and he’s a journalist/media persona–styles himself a storyteller. What do people think? And what specific actions is he asking Shah Rukh to do, if any? (It’s a long video so not sure if anyone will want to watch it–but well produced, and I like the guy’s voice too.)

    Like

  11. This post is awesome it touches good topics. I freaking hate when I watch Bollywood it even tollywood movies and the dancers are basically white. I remember I dated a Punjabi guy, and his mom told me and him straight up how how I was pretty but too dark for him. I am so glad I didn’t marry him.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.