Actor Abhay Deol’s searing takedown of his Bollywood peers endorsing fairness products is perhaps one of the wake-up calls the latter needed, coming as it does against the backdrop of the attack on African students in Delhi and Rajya Sabha member Tarun Vijay’s gauche attempt to explain away the racist streak in Indians by saying we are not racist as we co-exist peacefully with South Indians (an oblique reference to the stereotype of South Indians being dark complexioned). Deol posted ads featuring Shahrukh Khan, Sonam Kapoor, John Abraham and Deepika Padukone, amongst others, on his Facebook page with scathing comments. Translating the caption in the one featuring Khan, he said, SRK was “clearly trying to make you a man, becoming whiter in the process is just a side effect”.
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Whatever the response from his target eventually turns out to be, Deol’s schooling of Bollywood on its casual endorsement of skin-colour bias needs to percolate down to the aam aadmi. The signs are all there—the nation has an unhealthy obsession with fair skin. If the “seeking fair complexioned partner” bit repeated ad nauseam in matrimonial ads doesn’t offer a convincing measure of this, the fact that fairness products make for more than half of the $1.58 billion skincare industry in the country should. The sales of fairness products, in terms of revenue, outstrip the sales of Coke, as per a report in The Guardian. Underlined by such overwhelming preference for fair skin is a rejection of dark skin. Public icons endorsing fairness products only reinforces this bias. Deol’s not alone in calling out Bollywood on the issue, actor Nandita Das, too, had launched a campaign a few years back. Tinsel town must pay heed to sane voices like theirs.