• AM Plus Issue 5

Bollywood Songs and Representation of Colourism

Ritika Bhat 28th September 2020

India is a land of cultures. Among the many unique ways that India celebrates culture, the Bollywood Film Industry is a prominent one. From hip-hop songs and eye-catching outfits to memorable melodies and witty dialogues — it is an industry like no other. Behind the glamour of it all, many of us continuously overlook the obnoxious reality of colourism that is present.

Illustration of dark skin does not equate to being unsuitable

(Source: Instagram @labyrinthave)

Certain things in this world are beyond logic and reason. One such thing is ‘concept of beauty’. However, colour-sickness seems to be a worldwide occurrence. In India, ‘fairness’ is an obsession that unfortunately, has been tied down to an uncanny fetish of colonial rulers and wanting to be like them.

Flipping through history, Indian society was introduced to politics of colours very early on. In children’s comic books, The Devas depicted pink tones while demons were painted brown. The predominant idea is that one cannot be too ‘fair’ or ‘dark’ skinned. The society expects everybody to hover precisely according to the beauty standards.

The issues of skin colour biases have not only affected modern people, but it has also affected those in lower strata of society. Subtle colourism in art, theatre and other forms of creative expression is hardly new. To capitalize on the community’s obsession with ‘fairer skin tones’, there are hoards of advertisements for skin care products and the latest Bollywood ideology — being fair is a sign of success, intelligence and aptitude.

The film industry harps on the mindset of being fair and further creates a fake perception of striving to be fair, saying ‘darkness’ is not beautiful. In old movies, actresses had to apply pancake-thick-layers of white powder to appear suitable in films.

Apart from movies, Bollywood also associates beauty as fair-skinned while writing its music. In recent years, songs have contributed to this discrimination, and the society popularized them with complete ignorance to the meaning these songs convey. The only legitimate way to praise any woman was to refer to them as ‘gori’. These songs have created white supremacy in Indian culture which has increased criticism towards dark-skinned people.

Bollywood has an enormous impact on Indians and the trends that get popularized. As a whole, Bollywood needs to start creating a safe space for all. Movies like ‘Bala’, played by popular actors, starting to uplift dark skin is vital in this day and age. It is shocking to see the industry take a step back — after releasing uplifting movies such as Bala in 2019, and then coming out with a song titled ‘Beyoncé sharma jaayegi’ in 2020.

The Bollywood audience is on the fence about colourism in Bollywood. Few believe that the

‘issues faced by the dark-skinned’ was depicted really well, making them more interested in the plot of ‘Bala’ — especially to see the team break the stigma around dark skin.

Talking about the latest controversy ‘Beyoncé sharma jayegi’, few youngsters took to the internet to share their opinion. An anonymous student studying media said that it was a ‘desperate attempt’ to gain popularity while disrespecting several important issues. Manan Chheda, a BBA student from Hyderabad opined that the lyrics were ‘stupid and baseless’.

One can only hope that the Bollywood Industry starts to produce more movies like ‘Bala’, while including dark-skinned actresses instead of putting them down.

(Sources: Financial express, The Print, Idiva) Edited by Meghna Venkatesh

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