Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder - This may sound poetic, but in reality, beauty is considered 'beautiful' and ‘acceptable’ only if it exists in a stereotyped fashion. I really wonder who gave this idea of beauty to Indians - that fair is beautiful. We Indians were never born fair. Majority of the Indians are brown to dark skinned. Even two of the biggest heroes of our itihasas (meaning it had happened so) were dark skinned. Before anyone comes up with the argument saying that heroines are not so, take the example of Draupadi, whose birth name was Krishna and she was history’s most famous black beauty.
The Divine Beauties
We have admired our mythological figures like Lord Rama (who was termed Pumsaam Mohana Rupaaya - even men cannot take their eyes off him), Lord Krishna, Arjuna, Draupadi, Rukmini (she’s not too fair in skin color unlike many think), who were all considered the epitome of beauty and had enchanted us as if they had cast a magical spell. But are we not hypocritical when we hesitate to accept fellow beings of the darker skin tone as themselves?
You may or may not be fair, but there is always a prejudice when evaluating the people of a darker skin shade. The assessment goes to a new low where even a character sketch is made based on their skin color. In our films too, even though it’s used for comedic purposes, we took it so to be fair the scenes involving the two daughters of Selvi’s (Shriya character in Rajinikanth’s Sivaji) neighbour who were passively ridiculed based on skin color. If we go by the idea that all fair skinned people are saints and good samaritans, then the majority of the Indians would fall in the 'evil' category, Rama and Krishna included.
Well, we know where this idea of fair being beautiful and efficient came from. The main culprits of this phenomenon are the beauty industry, closely followed by the entertainment and media industry. We should not forgive the MNCs who endorsed their beauty products showing half-baked ads about how their particular brand of fairness cream helps you win hands down and easily fetch you jobs as prospective CEOs (guess the recruiting panel have pea-sized brains) and how easily a girl can entice a Robert Pattinson or a Zayn Malik kind of boyfriend (don't forget that the girl is already looking like Gigi Hadid due to the usage of 'the prized fairness cream’), the beauty industry has defined that being fair fetches you glories what the dark-skinned cannot.
I am sure most of the 80s, 90s, 2K kids would have grown up seeing these kind of thoughtless commercials and many would have already dabbed hundreds of tubes of creams on their faces which they had squeezed the juice out of. Brainwashed to the core that fair is fair! And we bet, we have never run into CEOs and Selena Gomezs on the streets everyday! Most successful CEOs from India are not fair skinned in any way.
We Indians have swooned over Will Smith, Halle Berry, Beyonce, Rihanna from the entertainment industry and we have idolized sports personalities like the Williams sisters (Serena and Venus), Brian Lara, Viv Richards, Dwayne Bravo and considered them gorgeous and sexy. These dark-skinned personalities had a fan-following majorly due to their work and secondly, due credits to their stunning dark looks.
But, we would not accept our desi dark Kajol or a dusky Nandita Das or a bronzed Bipasha Basu because we were brainwashed passively by our ads, film industry and bigger culprits - our grannies that dark is evil and ugly - Bhoot. We might have observed kids being wary of dark toned people. Haven’t we seen some of our elders making fun of iconic West Indies fast bowler Curtly Ambrose? Michael Jackson was also another big offender. The late pop icon misled an entire generation of people into believing that the bleached face is the new cool. Why?
Now, comes the baap of all - the film media - which set unrealistic beauty standards about the so-called 'perfect' look that even Miss World Priyanka Chopra and Miss Universe Lara Dutta fell into the trap and opted for skin lightening treatment. Kajol was more beautiful in her dusky skin tone and thick unibrow in Baazigar than how she looked in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. And we really cannot ignore the fact that many of the 'gorgeous Indian women’ who spoke about body positivity, racism, body shaming, etc. had themselves undertaken a skin lightening treatment and had gone under the knife.
Realization dawned on us quite late - the fact that beauty is relative or that there is no standard measure for beauty are mere hollow words. Well, let us not judge our ‘dark to fair-turned women’ for their personal choices as to what to do with their bodies, but their hypocrisy is making us grind our teeth and introspect on the choices they made. Why give sermons about beauty and body positivity if they cannot accept their own body the way it is!
And wait, these beauty standards are thrusted upon only the ‘fairer sex’ of the industry. There are a dozen average looking, dark skin-toned men who have become superstars. Perhaps, the men are trying to impress movie buffs with better things like their biceps, six packs, punch lines and last but not least, their ability to send a dozen baddies flying in the air with just a kick that they overlooked their facial looks? But unfortunately, the women of the industry are so engulfed in their looks that they forgot about the purpose of their existence in the industry - choosing good roles and doing their part well.
The Real Beauty
Let us arrive at this point now. Girls of the current generation should not be carried away or influenced by what these filmi women do. They may be forced to do it as their profession has set certain standards for looks (or at least they feel the pressure to look in a particular way). The country wants women who have nerves of steel to face any challenge thrown to them, a determined mind to pursue their passion and a supporting system that gives wings to their dreams. Celebrate the beautiful YOU!
Written By Divya Nair