It is no secret that our Indian society has, since forever, suffered from the ‘gora rang syndrome’. And so followed in its footsteps Bollywood. From most of the leading actors in the industry having Eurocentric beauty standards, to songs promoting white colour as the requirement of beauty (think lyrics which say “goriya” and “gori-gori”), it has always dissed any colour which is not the conventional ‘white’.
Many celebs have spoken up about this blatant colourism, of not just Bollywood, but this country (of brown population) and its obsession with the fair skin tone. Here are 10 women who’ve shared their thoughts about this discrimination.
1. Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Chopra, one of the biggest names of the entertainment industry in the world, had shared that she was called “kali, kali, kali” by her Punjabi family, as all of her cousins were fair. She said that she wanted to use fairness creams at the age of 13. Later, she endorsed fairness creams but revealed that she felt guilty about propagating the notion of fair skin tone. In 2017, Priyanka said that she lost a role due to her brown skin colour.
All my cousins are gora-chitta (fair), while I was the one who turned out dusky because my dad is dusky. Just for fun, my Punjabi family would call me ‘kaali, kaali, kaali’. At 13, I wanted to put fairness creams and wanted my complexion changed.
2. Shilpa Shetty Kundra
In an interview, Shilpa revealed that she felt insecure of her sister Shamita as she is fairer. She would pinch her sister in the crib to make her cry. Shetty even said that when she went to Shamita’s first audition, she feared that after her sister enters the industry she wouldn’t get roles due to her complexion.
Shamita was fairer, while I had a darker complexion. I was going through an insecurity phase in my life. I used to ask my mom, ‘Why did you make her fair while you made me dark?
3. Bipasha Basu Singh Grover
The actress shared that she has been called “dusky” all her life. Her skin tone would be compared to her elder sister Bidisha, who is fairer. Bipasha said that when she won a supermodel contest when she was young, the newspaper headlines said, “Dusky Girl From Kolkata Wins”. Basu has never done a skin colour commerical as she would never go against her principles, she said.
Soon at 15-16, I started modelling and went on to win a supermodel contest. All newspapers read: ‘Dusky girl from Kolkata is the winner’. I wondered again why ‘dusky’ is my first adjective?
4. Radhika Apte
Apte is one of the few people who speak about sexism and colourism in the industry. she revealed how bollywood has conveniently slotted her due to her complexion. She said that there are no dark-skinned actresses in the mainstream. Radhika even said that dusky actresses are more than often cast as a village girl, while the fair ones play the role of urban women.
If you are dusky, you will be cast as a village girl. I faced this a lot myself. The fair actresses are cast as urban girls. Why can’t I play an urban girl?
5. Sayani Gupta
Sayani Gupta acknowledges the problem of racism and colourism rampant in our country. She said that as she is dusky, her character of Gaura in the film Article 15 didn’t need makeup to make her darker as she wanted her natural skin colour to appear on-screen, while many other fair actors use makeup to make them darker, the task which could’ve been performed by an actor of a darker skin tone.
[In movies] You can’t paint someone black or brown because that’s horrid.
6. Tannishtha Chatterjee
The actress had a horrible experience while shooting for Comedy Nights Bachao Taaza, where she had gone to promote her film Parched with co-actor Radhika Apte. She was ridiculed on the show for her skin colour and hence she stormed off the set. She talked about how sad the state of the country is regarding skin tone and we need to change it.
We’ve celebrated actresses like Smita Patil and Nandita Das. We should celebrate these things and get rid of ideas that only fair is beautiful.
7. Esha Gupta
The actress revealed that during her initial days, some actors would meet her and say, “apna makeup kaala nahi gora kiya kar.” Makeup artists would mask her complexion using tons of makeup to make her look fairer, and would paint her body similarly to make it look even. She said she would feel like a clown.
I’ve done two multi-starrers, and they told me, ‘You’re the sexy one’, because black, the skin tone that I have, which is considered black in our country, can only be sexy or negative, while the fair skin has to be the girl next door and shareef.
8. Malaika Arora
Malaika is also one of the celebrities who had spoken up about the colourism prevalent in the industry. Previously a supermodel, Arora said that models are discriminated for their skin colour, and they are stigmatised for their complexion. She also believes that the society has ingrained these conventional body standards in the minds of women. However, each woman should accept their skin colour and flaunt it.
The idea that white is superior is ingrained in people’s psyche, and the battle against that mentality is a long-drawn one. Growing up in this society has made women believe that fair is beautiful.
9. Nandita Das
Das, one of the prominent figures who campaign against colourism in India, has spoken about how headlines describe her as “dark/dusky Nandita Das”. She revealed that she was often told that if she had to play an urban/middle class woman, she should ‘lighten’ her skin tone. Nandita is an ardent supporter of the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign, and even worked with a video titled ‘India’s Got Colour’, that had Tillotama Shome, Sayani Gupta, Swara Bhasker, Radhika Apte and Nandita Das herself, among others.
Even in our Hindi film songs, you hear ‘gore gore gaal’ or ‘gori kalaiyaan,’ wherein being fair is almost synonymous with being beautiful.
Here’s the video:
10. Chitrangada Singh
Singh had shared on social media photos of herself with the caption “brown and happy” after Suhana Khan, daughter of Shahrukh Khan, had took to social media to call out colourism. Chitrangada has never endorsed fairness creams as she believes it leads to discrimination based on colour. She also revealed how she lost on a modelling assignment due to her skin colour.
I know the feeling of living life as a girl with dusky complexion. This is not something that people will say directly to your face. You can only sense it. I have been through the biases, especially while growing up in the north.
It’s high time we step back from these conventions that make no sense at all.