Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fair and unfair

Disclaimers (I will keep repeating these):
- I am not a Shah Rukh Khan fan. I never was. I had tried to be one, but he has almost always managed to let me down.
- I do not, I repeat, do not think that it's unfair to mark the fair as the only fair option to find fair justice in this unfair world.
- I had a very, very microscopic crush on Nandita Das when I saw her earlier movies. She can act, she can direct, and she has got those amazing canines. Then Chitrangada Singh happened.
- My father does not own Emami.
- Fardeen Khan has quit acting and has moved to Dubai.

***

This is about a petition called Dark is Beautiful. In case you're too lazy to read it, the petition reads:

Sign our petition urging Emami to take down their discriminatory advertisement for the product called FAIR AND HANDSOME where brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan tosses a tube of fairness cream to a young fan, whose skin grows whiter, smile brightens and hopes rise. The message: Fair skin is a prerequisite for success.

Before I proceed, this is (in all probability) the commercial in question (though there are similar ones - just do a YouTube search with Fair and Handsome):
It basically says what most commercials say: use my product, and you will gain immediate success. Since it's a cosmetic product aimed towards men, the consumer is bound to be successful with women.

This, I guess, is the basis of advertising. What, then, is the hullabaloo all about? Haven't we all seen similar commercials from Axe? If you have a good memory you will probably remember the 1990s Camay commercial involving Mahima Chaudhary, the woman with the loudest voice in the history of Bollywood.

"Khaas hai aaj ka din; naram mulayam mujhe bana do, Camay."

It sounded extremely cheesy, but more importantly (well, almost), it emphasised on a specific point: Camay provides one with soft, smooth skin. The same holds for the 73,124,983,217 Lux commercials (one of which even involved Shah Rukh Khan and his skin).

You will also remember a boy meeting his neighbour and addressing her as 'auntie'; the poor woman then keeps on hearing echoes of the word 'auntie' inside her brain, and eventually dyes her hair (possibly with Godrej, possibly not). She wins the battle, and is being called 'didi' henceforth (though her husband is now addressed as 'uncle').

I haven't made my point yet.

Which I will now.

In the next paragraph.

What we are doing is - we are calling commercials that promote good looks 'distasteful' and 'discriminatory', while we have been absolutely fine with commercials promoting a fragrant body and a soft skin. Worse, we do not say a word when it's a commercial promoting cosmetics like peel-off masks (you know the kind; women use a kind of coating that makes them look like Jaadu from Krrish, only to emerge as a beauty queen afterwards), but it is this one specific concept that we're basically shouting against.

Is that justified? (I almost asked 'is this fair?')


***

Disclaimers (I will keep repeating these):
- I am not a Shah Rukh Khan fan. I never was. I had tried to be one, but he has almost always managed to let me down.
- I do not, I repeat, do not think that it's unfair to mark the fair as the only fair option to find fair justice in this unfair world.
- I had a very, very microscopic crush on Nandita Das when I saw her earlier movies. She can act, she can direct, and she has got those amazing canines. Then Chitrangada Singh happened.
- My father does not own Emami.
- Sanjay Khan is still trying is luck in Bollywood for some mysterious reason.

***

See what I mean? Commercials promoting beauty products are not a recent thing. They are probably as old a concept as AK Hangal. Check for yourself.
Courtesy: Arka Paul. Here is proof that it's not Photoshopped.
The petition also involves the phrase "... where brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan tosses a tube of fairness cream to a young fan, whose skin grows whiter, smile brightens and hopes rise."

I really cannot see what is wrong with that, given that girls pouncing on you (uttering bnaao-chiki-wnaao-wnaao or something equivalent) if you spray Axe is perfectly acceptable. A more cheesier version are the collection of Set Wet commercials, where a girl whispers "very very sexy" in the corniest of tones after being seduced by the fragrance.

I find this terribly weird. Does this mean that in body odour is a perfectly acceptable parameter to judge people while complexion isn't? To put things more simply, is "I don't like you because you're dark" different from "I don't like you because you smell like a camel who has been chewing raw garlic for the past three days?"

Both are subjective. Both are parameters that appeal or repel exactly one sense organ, and do not have any impact on the others. Why this discrimination, then?

The problem lies elsewhere: as many people have rightly pointed out, way before the petition came into place, we Indians have a problem with fair complexion. That is definitely a real problem. I have no objection to that.

***

Disclaimers (I will keep repeating these):
- I am not a Shah Rukh Khan fan. I never was. I had tried to be one, but he has almost always managed to let me down.
- I do not, I repeat, do not think that it's unfair to mark the fair as the only fair option to find fair justice in this unfair world.
- I had a very, very microscopic crush on Nandita Das when I saw her earlier movies. She can act, she can direct, and she has got those amazing canines. Then Chitrangada Singh happened.
- My father does not own Emami.
- Feroz Khan is dead.

***

The problem is, we are equally intolerant against body odour. I can think of three points that are likely to come up here:
1. Body odour is more difficult to tolerate: This is an entirely subjective topic. I do not believe body odour is seen as an intolerable aspect among people who need to sweat it out to earn money.
2. Fair complexion is not an obsession worldwide: it is an Indian concept: Really? Ever heard of the Ku Klux Klan? More importantly, ever heard of South Africa? Or when a Trinidad-born Caucasian went out of his way to stop Ranjitsinhji to stop playing for England? Remember I cannot remember a person being murdered or being deprived of rights in India because of skin complexion.
3. Dark women find it more difficult to acquire a groom: Why bother marrying a person who tries to marry your complexion in the first place? I guess not everyone - especially in the parts of India we never visit but share Facebook posts about - has the privilege of choice. I agree this is where the discrimination against complexion becomes a serious issue, what with soaring dowry rates and all.

BUT.

This petition is not against the commercial with the most irritating tagline in the history of the Universe, which goes by "Fair and Lovely istemaal to main kar rahi hoon. Asar? Inpe ho raha hai." You'll seldom come across a strangle-worthier tone or line.

Or this commercial - one that no one remembers. It promotes the same issue. However, since it involves yummy Yami yummy Yami yummy Yami Gautam it was conveniently ignored, and men drooled in front of their television sets instead of raising a protest. Some of them may have signed the petition as well.


THE COMMERCIAL IN QUESTION IS FOR A FAIRNESS CREAM FOR MEN. While men are rumoured to be obsessed about fair-complexioned females, the converse is seldom heard. Of course, I'm sure there are exceptions: I'm sure that some marriage proposal has been turned down somewhere in the course of Indian history because the groom did not have fair complexion.

But that would probably have been an exception. The surprising bit about the Dark is Beautiful campaign is the fact that they have targetted a fairness cream commercial for men - to the extent that they want to take it down.

To quote them: Dark is Beautiful is an awareness campaign that seeks to draw attention to the unjust effects of skin colour bias and also celebrates the beauty and diversity of all skin tones.

This is a statement that I vehemently oppose. The ideal campaign should probably read something on the lines of Beauty is Overrated is an awareness campaign that seeks to draw attention to the unjust effects of beauty.

Till that happens, I am not signing the petition.

I do think that the bias is wrong. However, I do not see anything wrong with Emami's intents. They have seen a demand, they have tried to bank on it, they have roped in Shah Rukh Khan, and given a chance they will convert us into a country full of Tom Alters and Bob Christos.

Other than the last part I don't see anything wrong with that.

It's not about the complexion. It's about the entire concept about looking better - an aspect that is really as useful in this world as a nice perfume: you have a temporary soothing or sensuous (even overwhelming at times) feeling, but it passes.

Unless we're discussing Madhuri Dixit, of course (yes, I can be a hypocrite at times).

It's not about skin tone. It's about the entire concept of beauty. It's not about fair women getting an unfair unjustified advantage in life. It's about pretty women getting it.

Let us not bash poor Emami and Shah Rukh Khan. Let us go after the concept instead - which, let us accept, is a worldwide thing.

Unfortunately, that is something that will never change. I hope it did, though.

***

Disclaimers (I will keep repeating these):
- I am not a Shah Rukh Khan fan. I never was. I had tried to be one, but he has almost always managed to let me down.
- I do not, I repeat, do not think that it's unfair to mark the fair as the only fair option to find fair justice in this unfair world.
- I had a very, very microscopic crush on Nandita Das when I saw her earlier movies. She can act, she can direct, and she has got those amazing canines. Then Chitrangada Singh happened.
- My father does not own Emami.
- I am completely clueless about Sanjay Khan's current activities.

***

Which brings me to the point of Nandita Das. To begin with she had impressed me in Fire, and she had taken my breath away with Earth. Though she acted sporadically ever since, her screen presence was unmissable, and her aura that combined sensuousness and intelligence left one hanging.

She did not vanish altogether: I actually kept a track, and remember her cameos in Rockford, Aks, or Kannathil Muthamittal quite vividly. She was instrumental in making the poorly Bawander (albeit made with a good intent) happen, and pitted against Shabana yet again, she pulled off a commendable performance  in a small role in Hari-Bhari, a must-watch Shyam Benegal masterpiece.

To crown it all, she pulled off a superbly controlled, exactly-what-the-doctor-ordered performance in Shubho Mahurat, where she decided to hold herself back, always allowing her elder colleagues to take centrestage and never letting her ego dominate the movie.

Thereafter she generally faded out; whatever movies she acted in never reached the Kolkata theatres, or even if they did, they managed to acquire only poorly marketed 2 PM shows. By then Chitrangada Singh and Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi had happened to me, so I had moved on.

Then she directed Firaaq, once again a supreme example of restrained emotions: it was a brilliant movie; seldom has any director managed not to go over the brink in a movie built around a riot. Manirathnam certainly didn't manage that in Bombay, and even Rahul Dholakia could not achieve it in his masterpiece, Parzania.

Why is she so relevant now?

I was intrigued when I got to know that she actually supported the Dark is Beautiful campaign. The first two things that crossed my mind were
1. What's the big deal? She's dark and she's breathtakingly beautiful (check the picture on her Wikipedia page for proof), so she will support Dark is Beautiful.
2. Why is her support so huge a thing? Is she that special? She

I looked up her website (and got to know crucial facts that she is a BA in Geography and an MA in Social Sciences); and browsed on. There was a terribly outdated (and useless) CV available for download as well. Then, after some serious search, I found the relevant bit:

She has been on the jury of Cannes Film Festival twice (2005 and 2013), among others. The French Government conferred her with the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), their prestigious civilian award. In 2011 Nandita Das was the first Indian to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Women’s Forum.

That's profound. And I didn't even know all this. I felt a bit embarrassed (and turned to check whether anyone was noticing my embarrassment). But there was nothing on Dark is Beautiful. Which wasn't very surprising given that she has not updated her CV in five or so years.

So I searched, and came across this interview. The Guardian, no less. She has made some rather strong comments, and The Guardian has provided with data to back her up. I kept on wondering how Bipasha Basu existed in the industry, though, and that too so successfully. Two sentences, however, caught my attention.

Last year, Indians reportedly consumed 233 tonnes of skin-whitening products, spending more money on them than on Coca-Cola.

I had absolutely no idea whether this was good news or bad news. First, I do not consider myself an authority on how much skin-whitening products a country should produce. Secondly, I'm still not sure how Coca-Cola is a better value-for-money commodity than a fairness cream.

Important note: An adult elephant weighs six to eight tonnes.

Anyway, that was a piece of information, and I'm sure there are knowledgeable people to whom they mean something. It wasn't an opinion.

The intriguing part was Ms Das' quote:
Shah Rukh Khan is saying that to be successful you have to be fair. Don't these people have any kind of conscience? You can't be naive; you know what kind of impact you have and yet you send out the message that says: "Forget about working hard, it's about skin colour".

First things first: I did a Google on "Forget about working hard, it's about skin colour". Did he actually say that? He may have done Jab Tak Hai Jaan, but he's certainly not a moron!

Nope. No result till the fifth page. Everything leads to Nandita's interview.

"Forget about working hard, it's about skin colour" -Nandita now (you know what that does, don't you?).

Nope. Only references to her interview.

Maybe we can still give her the benefit of doubt. Shah Rukh may have said something similar, possibly in one of those ridiculous commercials.

COME ON, MS DAS (I almost wrote MS DOS, by the way)!

DO YOU REALLY THINK A LINE SAID IN A COMMERCIAL MEANS ANYTHING?

I know the Tendulkar fan in me will react here: Tendulkar knew he was a role-model for children, and had made a blanket announcement that he will never endorse a tobacco or alcohol product.

But for every Tendulkar, isn't there a Dhoni and a Gambhir (and a Shah Rukh and a Saif) wondering whether they have made it large?

They do not mean the words. Sunny Deol does not think Lux Cozi is great. Virender Sehwag does not care for cement. Akshay Kumar does not think that Ruf-N-Tuff Jeans (remember them?) are either rough or tough. Chetan Bhagat did not use shaadi.com. Virat Kohli does not want to woo Tamanna.

Most importantly, Yami Gautam does not, in all probability, think very highly of Fair and Lovely.

Why single out poor Shah Rukh, then? If anything, this is a more heinous commercial:


This is probably the worst commercial if you're looking for morality. It tells you how
1. Fair and Lovely can get you a job; and
2. Getting a job is the only aspect that can make a woman an equal to a man; and
3. To take your parents out to an expensive restaurant is a parameter for success.

***

Disclaimers (I will keep repeating these):
- I am not a Shah Rukh Khan fan. I never was. I had tried to be one, but he has almost always managed to let me down.
- I do not, I repeat, do not think that it's unfair to mark the fair as the only fair option to find fair justice in this unfair world.
- I had a very, very microscopic crush on Nandita Das when I saw her earlier movies. She can act, she can direct, and she has got those amazing canines. Then Chitrangada Singh happened.
- My father does not own Emami.
- Mumtaz has not objected to Fardeen Khan's shift to Dubai.

***

Despite commercials like these she has singled out Shah Rukh and Fair and Handsome. Worse, she is blaming Shah Rukh for it.

Why is Shah Rukh saying all this? Because he is being paid for it. For the same reason that he acted as an antagonist in Anjaam and murdered Madhuri's husband to win her over (an intention that had never crossed my mind).

It is a role, Ms Das. Shah Rukh Khan played a role in a small 30-second movie, that is all. Blaming him is the same as blaming Amjad Khan for cutting off Sanjeev Kumar's hands or Kulbhushan for feeding men to pet crocodiles.

As for Emami, as I have stated above, all they have really wanted to do is make money by selling a product that is as harmful to the nation as deodorants are.

We have seen worse from Dabur - something I have felt was actually unethical.


Remember this Revital commercial? It was there for a long time, and had gone viral on television after Yuvraj had become the Man of the Series in World Cup 2011. You could not have missed it.

Then, suddenly, Yuvraj was diagnosed with cancer. What did Dabur do? They made us unlearn the fact that a cancer patient had been portrayed as a Revital user. They replaced him with, well, ...


The incident went largely unnoticed, mostly because (a) it was terrible, and (b) it was a 20-second commercial. I did notice the new 'brand ambassador', and tried to enlighten a few people that it was unethical.

I was told that it was business.

If that was business, then why is Emami doing anything unethical? They're simply saying that if you apply Fair and Handsome will lead to flocks of girls chanting "hi handsome, hi handsome" and running after you.

That's not unethical. Ridiculous, yes; hilarious, yes; moronic, yes; so-bad-that-it's-good, yes; but not unethical. If it's unethical, then all products promising to make you physically attractive are. Especially Axe.

***

I am sorry, Dark is Beautiful. I really do not see a reason why that particular advertisement needs to be taken off, when a group of similar ones will continue to exist.

I am sorry, Ms Das. I really do not see how this commercial makes Shah Rukh naive (though I must say it makes him look terribly dumb).

***

PS: Make a comeback, madam. Please. It's been ages.

81 comments:

  1. In a long, glib post (enjoyable reading, as usual), you managed to negate the experience of thousands upon thousands of Indian women, and men, who are unjustifiably disadvantaged in life because of the color of their skin. Do check your privilege, dear. In your socioeconomic stratum, you may not have had to face the effects of complexion-based discrimination, but many have. The goal of the DIB campaign is not merely to excoriate SRK for *this* commercial alone, but to appeal to his sense of social responsibility (if it exists), which as a popular public figure he cannot shirk.

    Yes, it is a commercial (and one for which SRK has been paid), but are you seriously telling me that you don't understand the power of liminal and subliminal messaging through the visual and auditory media? It doesn't matter if the product is marketed towards men or women; the concept is reprehensible per se.

    And just FYI, many in the West consider the stupid Axe commercials to be irredeemably sexist and prefer not to use that product for that reason.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. " I guess not everyone - especially in the parts of India we never visit but share Facebook posts about - has the privilege of choice. I agree this is where the discrimination against complexion becomes a serious issue, what with soaring dowry rates and all."

      This is specifically what I had written.

      My point is -
      Discrimination on the basis of LOOKS is unfair, whether it's complexion or length of hair or shape of nose or anything. Anything.

      Complexion should not be singled out. Funnily, nobody cares about the Fair and Lovely commercials (that are a lot more shameless). There are a lot of them going on, as are the Axe commercials.

      As you have mentioned, in the west, people do not use Axe. THEY DO NOT TAKE THE COMMERCIALS DOWN. The commercials have a right to exist.

      Also, please read my disclaimers.

      Delete
  2. Abhishekda, brilliant post, and very well thought out. while I'm usually disgusted and often personally affronted by the FnL ads,i can't really support DIB's villification of SRK (not a fan either btw). FnL has been telling us women that using their products will help us get love and success with both hands like the goddess lakshmi. But actually, so have most clothing brands, deo brands, and soap/shampoo brands.Why the big deal now that FnL is telling men the same thing? They've seen an unexplored market and you can't blame them for wanting to make money out of it.
    FnL was not the party that introduced love of fair skin among indians, they only mercilessly exploited it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I agree that the entire concept is horrible. What I do oppose to is the fact that only one commercial is being singled out, and one poor guy is being targetted.

      And it isn't about FnL either. FnL commercials make you cringe. The FnH commercials make you laugh. And still they are after FnH for some weird reason.

      Delete
  3. Lookism prevails.We unconsciously judge people on the basis of their looks all the time.Even attraction is because of looks.Darkies have a hard time selecting clothes because nothing looks good on them and everything looks good on the fair ones.So we can never do away with these concepts.Maybe FnL ads make youcringe because they show men in a poor light,following fair women like puppies

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you think that is the reason for FnL making me cringe then I guess you have serious issues understanding what I have written.

      Delete
  4. =-})
    I love women.White, black or brown.Period.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This, I support - "ABOUT US - Dark is Beautiful is an awareness campaign that seeks to draw attention to the unjust effects of skin colour bias and also celebrates the beauty and diversity of all skin tones.
    Launched in 2009 by Women of Worth, the campaign challenges the belief that the value and beauty of people (in India and worldwide), is determined by the fairness of their skin. This belief, shaped by societal attitudes and reinforced by media messages, is corroding the self-worth of countless people, young and old."

    But yes, a petition against Emami, and Emami alone, is something I do not support.

    Fair skin = beauty/success/happiness... is a mentality. And it's the mentality that needs a change.

    Products/Companies will only play with the mindset of the mass.

    The campaign also claims to work on educating the people and change the belief. Hence, I support the campaign.

    Also, I would disagree to your comparison with deodorant ads here. Correction of body odour is, well, a hygiene factor and smelling nice will make you well turned-out. (You might want to try travelling the Bombay local train during office return hours some time.) (I agree the ads - Axe/Wild Stone - exaggerate.)

    Correction of skin colour to get married/be successful is sickening and derogatory.

    PS. I enjoyed reading the disclaimers, repeatedly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. - I have no objection to DiB - and in fact support them. I DO have an objection against their voice against Emami, and especially SRK's ad, as you have mentioned.
      - I think Nandita Das is wrong in calling SRK naive.
      - Deodorants are not necessarily hygienic. A lot of people complain about itchy armpits after using deodorants.
      - People got on without deodorants for millennia and did not suffer from any known disease that was cured by use of deodorant.
      - I completely agree on the fact that correction of skin colour to get married/be successful is sickening and derogatory. We need to target the concept, not the commercial.

      Delete
  6. >>We need to target the concept, not the commercial.

    Truer words have ne’er been spoken.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fair at times is unfair.Do these adv produce insecurities or play on them? People who entertain this concept are narrow-minded anyway and not worth one's time.
    Surprisingly,men have joined the bandwagon when it was always TDH-tall,dark and handsome-they're expected to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no idea why these advertisements even exist. My issue is - why target FnH when FnL is way, way more vulgar?

      Delete
  8. Kobiguru and toilet soap?
    Bwahaha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nobel loreate peddling lifeboy.
      What times we live in :'(

      Delete
    2. And they blame Shah Rukh. Think of it.

      Delete
  9. 1. On SRK – I actually have learnt to like him. He is classy, polished, doesn’t care what people think, and doesn’t do anything to impress people. I like his “I won’t tolerate nonsense about me” attitude. I like him in spite of his complete inability to act. He also puts his money where his mouth is. Like how he wants Indian movies to be more “advanced” and will do whatever it takes to get them there.

    2. I simply adore Nandita Das. Other than Sushmita Sen, I don’t believe there is another actress who is as aware and equally well spoken on issues that matter. I love those two, and I don’t care what other people say. These are probably the only two women from the filmi worlds who can render me starstruck. Oh wait, there’s Madhuri…. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do not like Shah Rukh because he keeps on disappointing me with no quality control and no willingness to evolve. It hurts more because he can act. It's just that he won't.

      And yes, Madhuri. Sigh.

      Delete
    2. What makes you think he can?

      Delete
    3. Chak De! India
      Swades
      Oh Darling Yeh Hai India
      Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani
      Yes Boss

      Delete
  10. 3. I understand your premise that any kind of discrimination based on looks is wrong. Agreed. But the discrimination faced by Indian women (and men) based on the colour of their skin is a much bigger problem than the usual “she’s not pretty enough”. For one, the issue of being pretty is subjective. Beauty really does lie in the eyes of the beholder. What one person may not find attractive can be the one thing that another find to be the best thing that they have ever seen. It’s like the long hair short hair issue. Secondly, a lot about being pretty/attractive in a woman is part and parcel of how she feels. And this might sound like psychological mumbo jumbo but it’s true. When a woman feels pretty, she is more attractive. It is an absolute truth. It may be wrong, to have one’s self-worth invested something so superficial – but before we go on to argue whether it is right or wrong, we must acknowledge its existence. I won’t drone on and on about how we can change this problem that plagues society so much, because much has been said about that. I’m just going to bring it down to one difference – the difference in the solution to a perceived “problem”

    There are very simple fixes if a woman does not feel attractive. She can slip on a pair of heels, wear a sexy dress and put on tasteful make up, grow out/cut her hair. She can buy a jar of expensive cream and get rid of her blemishes. Society does place a lot more importance on how a woman looks and if women didn’t learn to play the game there is no way we would get to where we are now. And women, like it. I may not care enough to go much farther than sweat pants and a t shirt on most days, but on days when I put in the effort, I like I way I look. I also have a lot more credibility when I “dress up”. I look much older with make up, than I do without it – this is a truth that I have to come to terms with since I have started teaching. This is actually true about men sometimes.

    However, if my students thought that the colour of my skin was too dark and automatically disrespect me because of it, there is nothing I can do to really change that. I know this is a ridiculous hypothetical situation, but that is how it is India. The dark skin tone is always a “but” at the end of a sentence. It undoes everything and anything that the person can ever do. Eg – she is pretty “but” a little on the darker side. “bhishon mishti mukhta kintu ektu kalo”. She is so intelligent, so good at studies, but her complexion is a little dirty. “Bhishon buddhi, porashonay khuuub bhalo, kintu gayer rong ta ektu moyla”. It is so ingrained that even mothers treat their children differently when one is darker than the other. Parents victimize their darker children constantly based on the colour of their skin. I was once told by my father that I don’t use the correct shade of make-up, because I really am not as dark as I show up in pictures. He didn’t say this like a make up artist would (as in you aren’t wearing the correct shade of make up) but rather like it was a travesty that I look even darker than I was. I had to tell off a friend’s wife because she constantly calls her daughter “kaker bachcha/kalo bachcha/babar meye (crow’s offspring/dark girl/daddy’s daughter because her father is dark) because she is dark.

    We can say that in the west, people also have an unhealthy obsession with the colour of their skin. Yes, people pay money to get tanned, spend hours in the sun to burn, or buy bottles of spray tan to cover their “pale” skin with. But, again you see here too there is a solution. You can make skin darker, but you can’t make it lighter – unless, you’re Michael Jackson of course.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now, THIS is what I call a comment. Phew!

      "When a woman feels pretty, she is more attractive. It is an absolute truth."

      Ah, those realms of female psychology that men can only dream of venturing, but never can.

      "It is so ingrained that even mothers treat their children differently when one is darker than the other."

      Er, seriously?

      The point is - the worst that happens in India is an inferiority complex - that too to dumb girls. The smart ones (you, to begin with) do not bother. It's nothing like USA or South Africa decades back.

      I agree that the problem is not so simple in rural India. If you read my post you'll see I've agreed to that: "I guess not everyone - especially in the parts of India we never visit but share Facebook posts about - has the privilege of choice. I agree this is where the discrimination against complexion becomes a serious issue, what with soaring dowry rates and all."

      What I do have a problem with is - WHY TARGET A MEN'S FAIRNESS CREAM? AND MORE SPECIFICALLY, SHAH RUKH KHAN?

      Delete
    2. Abhishek da I don't bother because I am able to not bother! Let's say I was stuck in India, under my father's thumb, sent to Basanti Devi College and married off to the first person who decided to answer his marriage ad in the newspaper. There is no way I could rebel the way I have if I was in Kolkata! I would have absolutely no way. Because in order to rebel I would have to depend on my parents to give me the tools to rebel with (which they did to an extent).

      Delete
    3. And finally target SRK because he can actually make change happen. If SRK stands up tomorrow and says "all this is nonsense, fairness doesn't mean anything" People will actually listen. Like people listen in the West when a super model talks about body image issues. That's why a good PR campaign speaks to what will allow them to get heard, not some random ad with a random no name actress in it.

      Its like Amir KHan in Satyamev Jayate, although I have finally come to the conclusion that if Amir actually believed in everything he said he woud have donated all the fees he charged for that show to the causes he said he was supporting, using him as a mouth piece totally did bring more attention to the issues he was talking about. That's why they are targeting SRK.

      Delete
    4. SRK is, well, past. He has made a laughing stock of himself. And they're fools if they think they can convince him into taking against someone who has already paid him.

      Delete
    5. Also, I strongly feel that they have no right to take the advertisement down. WE are the wrongdoers by encouraging the psychology in the society. Emami is simply banking on it.

      Delete
    6. Rini has said what had to be said. I'll just add this:

      Abhishek - I think you're missing the big picture here. The sense of "being dark" doesn't only appeal to one sense, the eye, as you were implying. It strikes a chord, among a lot of people, in their brain, where they are conditioned to equate dark skin to general inferiority. This concept, pervasive among Indians (yes, it exists in hallowed places like educated Kolkata), is the root of the problem. The Dark is Beautiful campaign, I believe, is trying to address this root. As Rini rightly pointed out, SRK's take on this, being the sooper dooper star that he is, has more clout than a Yami Gautam or Mahima Choudhury. This is not about either sexes, this is about the mindset.

      Now about taking the ad off the air. India never had free speech. Any group that ever felt offended by any little piece (literature/media/social media/art/anything!) can cause a public uproar to "bring *that* down". Public opprobrium is paramount; rule of the law is isn't. This shouldn't be the case. Have free speech, but also have means of protest, not bordering on hooliganism and fanatical. Fair and Lovely concepts and ads are repugnant. The concept should be protested against. Their product also sells. No one should force them to not sell their products.

      Delete
    7. As long as it addresses the root I'm fine. If it targers SRK it's pointless for two reasons:
      - SRK is outdated;
      - SRK won't listen.

      Delete
  11. Men have not been conditioned to like fair women.But at a very primal,instinctual level,they do not want a woman with muddy complexion.Fair complexion accentuates the beauty of the eyes and the redness of lips.
    We can't go against nature on this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Given my limited knowledge of anthropology I'm not really the best person to comment on the primal instincts of men.

      However, there are a lot of primal instincts that have died down (or subdued, at least) for the sake of civilisation. You can obviously have your choices (you can even vow that you will marry only a green woman) but I guess the point is about demeaning your less preferred complexion in public. That is not done, anon.

      PS: Why is the Fair and Handsome commercial being targetted? :)

      Delete
  12. Brilliantly written. Enjoyed thoroughly. However inspite of your repeated disclaimers,SRK should be criticised because there are millions out there who actually listen to every valuable droplet of wisdom that he utters. If the ad is reaching out to the masses,it should be stopped just as Amir had stopped endorsing Coke,because and simply because many do not interpret the ad as you have done,that "it is a role"
    Moreover,if grooms start looking fairer,they would demand fairest maidens and that would truly be a catch 22 situation. Hence-I support.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome to my blog!

      I see your point.

      I have three points, though:
      1. Telling SRK is useless. He won't listen.
      2. Nobody takes SRK seriosuly these days. He is on to a record spree of horrible movies.
      3. Criticising SRK is fine. Criticisly ONLY SRK is, however, not.

      Delete
  13. well written. so do you want to say this particular commercial should NOT be targetted or is it that ALL similar ones should ALSO be taken up?

    ReplyDelete
  14. 1. Men or women should not get unjustified advantages due to their looks. Agreed. The question is what is unjustified? For most jobs, beauty is irrelevant, so this should not apply. But if a job is that of a model, maybe not. If someone wants to marry an attractive person, it is his/her right, just as it is your right to think of someone who puts too much importance on attractiveness over other important good qualities to be shallow.

    2. However, the question of whether a dark person can be beautiful or not is a different question. And I think the answer is clearly yes, and I think you agree as you cite Ms Das as an example. I do not believe that changing one's skin color and no other features would make a person look better or worse.

    So, as far as what this stands for, I agree with them. The fact that they are talking about statement 2 and have not said anything about statement 1 does not make them wrong.

    Yes, If I was criticizing the advertisement, I would have actually made both points 1 and 2. 1, for the reasons you have put forth, and 2, because I think that problem exists separately. Not saying 1, is missing an opportunity, but something is better than nothing.


    3. Other advertisements are outright untruths, and fair and lovely ads have always been more cringeworthy because of the way they objectified women, which is obviously a problem that society has had. Attacking the SRK ad is an attempt at a publicity stunt for the cause. If they can pull this off, this would cause more discussion and awareness than going after all the FL ads in history, because they featured nobody. As you have pointed out, it will probably not work, but I don't see this as a bad strategy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. I agree 100%.
      2. Of course dark people can be extremely beautiful and attractive (what better proof of that than Nandita Das herself?).
      3. "Attacking the SRK ad is an attempt at a publicity stunt for the cause."
      That is the entire point. Had they not tried to be look all noble I would not have said a thing. They are targetting one single commercial.

      Delete
    2. "That is the entire point. Had they not tried to be look all noble I would not have said a thing. They are targetting one single commercial"

      I think the cause is good (It would be a stretch for me to call it "noble"). I don't think they are targeting the commercial, but the man SRK. If successful (and you are right in pointing out that SRK may not care a damn beyond the money he receives),
      it will be a much more effective thing than targetting all the terrible advertisements in history, which is not to say that they agree with the content of those advertisements.

      So, I agree with you technically, that a better statement could have been made. But rather than wait for a perfect initiative, it is better to support this. Sometimes, it is better to hold out for the best when you can do something about it, at other times let us defer to Voltaire.

      Delete
    3. I guess we're on the same boat now. I agree with the cause (though I feel it will be ineffective) as long as go about it universally and not target hilarious ineffective commercials.

      Delete
  15. Finally finished reading!! Sotyi kotha bolbo? I do not know why people take these ads so seriously!! In youtube there are 100s of offensive ads including one for tightening the private part of women, where the lady in a south Indian household dance Salsa and sings "feeling like 16 again" or something in that line.
    So, my message to Ms Das would be to focus on woman oppression and not on Silly TV ads where even someone of SRT's stature can say, "Main Kaun Hnu? Main Knaha Hnu?"
    Lastly, I am actually quite dark (Dudh e Alkatra e to be precise) and I like that. There are 100s of women around who actually dislike fair guys. Good looking guys, yes, but only fair guys are Big No from their side.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. To begin with it's a terrible commercial, and I have no idea what this fuss is about.

      I mean, it's so bad a commercial that it's funny in a not-so-funny sort of way.

      I think this is a publicity stunt, given that there are plenty of Fair and Lovely commercials that should be taken off air.

      Delete
  16. I support "Dark is beautiful" campaign. Having said that, they are making a huge mistake by targetting only one commercial. All the advertisements saying the same thing should rephrase them, not close the ads down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree 100%. Support the campaign, oppose the targetting. Period.

      Delete
  17. Thought-provoking indeed. Ads in general are meant to tell people to buy what they may not know they want or need. I was recently appraised of "various" fairness creams, all of which are appalling more than appealing. Then again, who knows how many others are appalling too. For instance, the use of ammonium hydroxide as "outed" by Jamie Oliver... All in all, pretty depressing.

    ReplyDelete
  18. ther advertisements are outright untruths, and fair and lovely ads have always been more cringeworthy because of the way they objectified women, which is obviously a problem that society has had. Attacking the SRK ad is an attempt at a publicity stunt for the cause. If they can pull this off, this would cause more discussion and awareness than going after all the FL ads in history, because they featured nobody. As you have pointed out, it will probably not work, but I don't see this as a bad strategy.

    ReplyDelete
  19. However, the question of whether a dark person can be beautiful or not is a different question. And I think the answer is clearly yes, and I think you agree as you cite Ms Das as an example. I do not believe that changing one's skin color and no other features would make a person look better or worse. So, as far as what this stands for, I agree with them. The fact that they are talking about statement 2 and have not said anything about statement 1 does not make them wrong. If I was criticizing the advertisement, I would have actually made both points 1 and 2. 1, for the reasons you have put forth, and 2, because I think that problem exists separately. Not saying 1, is missing an opportunity, but something is better than nothing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. I agree with the petition's motto.
      2. I disagree with them singling out Shah Rukh's Fair and Handsome commercial.

      Delete
  20. In short,I echo rgb's thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Nobody picks a dark baby.Even as infants,fair babies get more love and kisses.Even if a mother does not discriminate,she can't protect a dark child against biases.So dark complexion makes one tough.People will subconsciously value your opinion more if you are fair and even a little bit sensible.

    PS- i am free nowadays,so i reread your posts and end up thinking and commenting a lot more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess that is a serious exaggeration and allegation. Seriously.

      Delete
  22. To use a food analogy,brown bread is healthier than white bread.Same is the case with refined flour.Black gulab jamuns-provided you have them hot-are better than syrupy white rosogullas.Vadas are healthier than idlis.Brown rice....white chocolate..now don't get the wrong idea,people are not food,but stll...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What kind of analogy is that? :D :D

      I mean, seriously!

      Luchi > puri
      Pork fat > kaali daal
      Coconut kernel > coconut shell
      Etc.

      Delete
  23. You are not seeing the complete picture.
    He's the only actor who proudly proclaimed on record of being a "jooru ka gulam".He asks his son to respect women and claims openly that men are insensitive louts.He also endorsed voluptuous bar of lux in the past.Clearly,he respects women and is in touch with his feminine side. What a metrosexual man he is, secure in his masculinity

    ReplyDelete
  24. Wicked! XD
    By the way, why the dearth of mythological posts? I can understand that Fardeen has moved to the 'Gelf' but our deities and super-heroes are still very much here. Mythology was the reason i ran into your blog, and then discovered the glorious Fardeen bashing :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mythological posts will come. The main problem is - I hate being factually wrong, and I have to cross-validate every fact I state (otherwise I cannot sleep).

      But yes, watch out for one soon.

      Delete
  25. Approvals for comments!!! WTF!!! :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My apologies for the inconvenience, Malavika. It's just that I get too much spam.

      Delete
    2. I wish I was. It happens when you remove your captcha, that's all. :(

      Delete
  26. Don't blame the fairness companies; blame the detergent companies (Mainly, RIn: Blaha uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaise?) for the whiteness obsession.

    On a more serious note, my daughter thinks 'black is not good because we've unknowingly taught her to associate it with dirt/ filth (Your nails are black and full of dirt, and such). Half my family is brown/ dusky, but recently she has somehow gotten it into her head that dark is unclean (how I would love to blame it on bad company in school!). She tells me Dad is brown because he's dirty and doesn't take a bath properly. :/
    What have we gotten ourselves into?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that's easy to solve. Take black (or any dark) fabric and show her the dust accummulated on it. You can also cheat by using a mild amount of talcum powder or chalk dust.

      Then call it dirt. :)

      Delete
  27. Another case point... The fair-skinned get discriminated against in another very different way. My in-laws side of the family keep asking me for 'beauty-tips' or names of creams and soaps for blemishes. It is ridiculous, because it's simply hereditary. There are even remarks (with envious undertones) to my 4-year old: Oh! You're just like your mom, your dad won't have to blow a fortune on beauty parlour treatments when you grow up (P.S.- I am trying not to be discriminatory against a community here, But Gujjus do have a certain obsession with dressing up, make-up and fortnightly beauty treatments', most of which I actually feel end up ruining their naturally healthy skin). Even qualified doctors(MDs, no less!) want to know if I use any particular blemish control cream. They think i am keeping a secret.(Sounding smug here, but if you've met Diptee in person, you'll know what I mean about the blemish free gene we've inherited). Weird world we live in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some movie (possibly Manoj Kumar's) had this awesome line, which I'm translating to English:

      If there's a dark spot on your skin you call it a beauty spot; if there is a white spot on mine I call it leprosy.

      Beat that.

      Also, I really didn't check out Diptee's unblemished skin. If you really, really insist, I will.

      Delete
    2. You mean she met you clad in a Burkha?!
      And Khatarnaak line, that one! :P

      Delete
    3. Incidentally, Dipoo's older sister is the text book example of dark (wheatish) and drop-dead gorgeous, with sharp chiselled features and long curly tresses! The classic Indian beauty! I always looked up to her, as a kid :)

      Delete
    4. No, not really a burkha. It's just that given her Medussaesque look her skin takes a backseat.

      Which one was a khatarnaak line? :)

      Delete
  28. This khatarnaak line: If there's a dark spot on your skin you call it a beauty spot; if there is a white spot on mine I call it leprosy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Trust Manoj Kumar to come up with killer lines like those.

      Delete
  29. Pictures... chk out Dipoo's FB pics tagged with Janhavi Raut.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have some conscience, woman. I'm almost a stranger to you, and she's your cousin.

      Delete
    2. I am proud of my cousins, and don't mind shamelessly bragging abt. their looks and achievements, as if they were my own! :D

      Delete
    3. You really love your kaa-genes, it seems.

      Delete
  30. As if good looking and gorgeous was not enough, she's a B.Tech from IIT-B, an MS and Ph.D from the US, and holds a rather high position in Unilever's research department, and is down-to-earth and no-nonsense as hell!
    Let's face it God is unfair! :|

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Some others, like yours truly, well, sigh.

      Delete
  31. nice blog
    great information.
    Gorgeous Bridal Make UpA wedding is a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime event. Exactly why, we at VLCC have created 12 unique looks, crafted by a team of experts.

    ReplyDelete

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