IS WHITE ALWAYS RIGHT?
Actor Abhay Deol’s online war on fairness products reopens debate
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?”