IS WHITE AL­WAYS RIGHT?

Ac­tor Ab­hay Deol’s on­line war on fair­ness prod­ucts re­opens de­bate

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Front Page - Etti Bali etti.bali@htlive.com

Ac­tor Ab­hay Deol has stirred a hor­net’s nest — he has ruth­lessly called out the big guns of Bol­ly­wood, in­clud­ing none other than Shah Rukh Khan, for en­dors­ing prod­ucts for fairer skin. His stance got huge praise on so­cial me­dia.

While the sup­port for Ab­hay makes this coun­try look lib­eral, the fact that ads promis­ing fairer skin are still be­ing made with celebrity en­dorse­ment points to a cer­tain mind­set. How­ever, strong neg­a­tive re­ac­tions these days some­times force the brands to back­track — ear­lier this month, a ma­jor skin care brand had to apol­o­gise for its “White is Pu­rity” de­odor­ant ad, af­ter fac­ing crit­i­cism.

Ab­hay, on his Face­book page, posted a se­ries of screen­shots, with hard-hit­ting mes­sages against celebrities who en­dorse fair­ness prod­ucts. In re­sponse, ac­tor Sonam Kapoor, who has her­self en­dorsed such a prod­uct, had a brief on­line spat with Ab­hay.

Re­act­ing to the con­tin­ued mar­ket­ing of fair­ness prod­ucts, vet­eran ad film­maker Prahlad Kakkar tells us, “I’ve never done any such ads. We’re a highly racist and hyp­o­crit­i­cal coun­try. It comes from years of con­di­tion­ing, start­ing from the Aryans, then to Mughals and the Bri­tish. The rul­ing class has been fair... The need for these prod­ucts was based on this con­di­tion­ing. We have to say that we’re brown, we’re lucky to be brown and proud of it.”

Ac­tor Sonal Se­h­gal, who did a com­mer­cial for a fair­ness soap about 12-13 years ago, says that she took the job as she was then a strug­gling ac­tor. Later, Sonal de­cided to make a film on the fair­ness ob­ses­sion af­ter be­ing asked by her do­mes­tic help which skin-light­en­ing cream was best. “I think celebrities can come out and tell peo­ple how wrong this is,” says Sonal.

Tan­nishtha Chat­ter­jee, the ac­tor ‘roasted’ on a com­edy show for her dark skin, says, “We’re still colonised in our minds. Fair­ness is associated with be­ing elite. The poli­cies on such ads must change; what they claim is legally wrong.”

Ad film­maker Pi­naki Bose has a dif­fer­ent take: “A fair­ness cream is just another per­sonal care prod­uct. Then why can’t it be shown as another prod­uct for groom­ing. Why do we need to see it un­der the light of com­par­i­son of fair over dark?”

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