Friday, August 30, 2013


Some of you may have noticed my obsession with Bollywood.  But it is all done from the comfort of Canada so I am not really intimately familiar with India.  I know about India from reading, meeting Indians casually on my home turf and of course movies.

Over the years I have formed the impression that although most Indians are relatively dark skinned, most Bollywood stars are relatively lighter.  I don't think this reflects talent or even that us white Westerners would find lighter skin more acceptable.  If true it must reflect something deep in India, perhaps going back to when caste was more dominant.  Conquerors such as Persians, Mughals and British were all lighter skinned and so maybe some people associate lighter skin with power.  Not to be self-righteous colour is very much noticed in North America and in general the lighter the skin the more acceptable.

There are skin cream campaigns by big international cosmetic companies who see opportunity to profit.  On one hand is Shah Rukh Khan, one of my favorites campaigning for Lovely and Handsome for men.  He is tapping into a concern of some Indians (and profiting).  In one year there were over 233 tons of whitening cream sold in India.   Many people think of Shah Rukh as a good looking actor with an outgoing personality and a good dancer.  I enjoyed a lot of his movies, with "Swades" being my top Bollywood movie.  I am disappointed he would be involved in a skin whitening campaign.

Nandita Das is an actress I also respect and admire.  She has decided to become involved with the Dark is Beautiful campaign.  I first saw her in "Kannathil Muthamittal" (Peck on the Cheek) when she played a rebel mother who abandoned her child and skin colour did become a point when her daughter was adopted by a lighter skinned mother.  Nandita appeared in two movies by Canadian Deepa Mehta, "Earth" and the controversial "Fire".  In "Provoked", a British movie she was an aggressive social worker fighting for justice.  Usually Nandita is associated with serious well done movies.  She directed  and wrote the script for a movie, "Firaaq" about riots in Gujarat. In one of her productions she had been assured that the producers would be able to lighten her up, but she didn't want that.  In the photo she is the one on the left.

Kajol is one of my favorites.  Married to Ajay Devgn who is also one of the darker stars.  Her personality comes through as very likable.  I remember one movie, "Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham" where Shah Rukh Khan's father played by Amitabh Bachchan seems to disapprove of her for reasons I would identify as class, but I also think her darkness identified her with the lower class.  But she was such a bubbly person the hero was nonethless attracted to her enough to defy his father.  The two are one of the most popular jodies in Bollywood.

Women stars are almost all relatively white.  Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor, Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra and many more.

Beauty and self worth are very personal.  What do men and women feel attracted to?  What traits are less attractive?  Radiant skin is sought after by all and could be a reflection of health.  As a relatively short person I am aware that in general taller men do better in business, politics and socially.

I enjoy a wide range of Indian actors, but as an outsider wonder if I am seeing the real India.   For that matter is realism what we crave from Hollywood or Bollywood?  In reality Hollywood usually projects a glamorous world which is what we prefer most of the time, but I like to see realism once in a while.

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