Dear Bollywood, if you’re supporting #BlackLivesMatter, and genuinely want to end racism, then perhaps, you could start by cleaning up your act and taking a long, hard look at your own approach to portrayal of dark-skinned characters.
The on-going nation-wide protests in the USA, in response to the death of African-American George Floyd due to racial profiling, have translated to social media trends and posts.
And Bollywood, which is infamous for maintaining radio silence when India burns and inadvertently contributing to racism through advertisements, was quick to talk about #BlackLivesMatter.
For years, Bollywood has directly and indirectly promoted ‘white supremacy’.
Our leading ladies promote fairness creams, and our leading directors would rather paint an actor’s face brown, than search/cast a dark-skinned actor in the film.
if only there were any actors in this country with darker skin… if only.#BrownFace #Bala pic.twitter.com/baks9OaeFw— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) October 10, 2019
Our industry’s perception of ‘dark-skin’ also reeks of classism. There are multiple instances of an actor’s skin color being altered to show a character from a low-income background.
Bollywood really need to stop doing this where they cast fair skinned actors and make them dark skinned to represent working class. pic.twitter.com/2m4EDUwdbx— Err (@Errendous) June 4, 2019
Of course, miscasting and Bollywood is an age-old love story.
In fact Shraddha Kapoor is such a wrong choice to play Haseena Parkers role.Stupid casting. https://t.co/xnIwLOTABR— LEENA (@kunfaaya) September 22, 2017
But when it comes to favoring white skin color, our obsession with fair skin seeps into song lyrics as well.
People have also not been particularly shy about voicing their opinions on what makes a leading actor – and yes, you guessed it right, it’s ‘looks over talent’. That too, a particular type of looks.
Yes, when a transwoman Northeastern actor can play a transgender Northeastern character, then we can hope that Bollywood will not discriminate on the basis of skin color when it comes to casting. Yes, there have been changes in the industry when it comes to writing vulnerable, realistic protagonists and casting actors and not heroes.
But, there is still a long way to go before Bollywood accepts that painting someone’s face brown is enabling racism.
And till that time, Bollywood’s posts on #BlackLivesMatter, no matter how well-intentioned, will appear as nothing more than ‘performance activism’.