India's problem with dark-skinned celebrities

India's problem with dark-skinned celebrities

Hateful comments follow Hardik Pandya and Serbian actor Nataša Stanković’s engagement announcement, raising questions about India’s skin-colour obsession

While the world was ringing in the new year, cricketer Hardik Pandya and his girlfriend, Serbian actor Nataša Stankovi decided to take their relationship forward and get engaged. The couple took to social media to announce the happy occasion. While they received congratulatory messages from all over, the duo had to deal with being heavily trolled on social media. Comments that made fun of the couple’s skin tone, to ones that suggested that the two are only together because Natasa is a golddigger; netizens have been on their case since the announcement was made.

Fans, and many others, however, came to Pandya’s aid and called out the trolls for being racist. 

“I’m no #HardikPandya fan, but the tweets on his engagement are disgusting to the core!
It is 2020, when do Indians plan to put an end to their BS obsession with skin colour?” asked Twitter user @Mittermaniac. Another Twitter user wrote, “So many Indians reeking of racism. A talented, self-made & A grade Indian cricketer is being trolled because he is engaged to fair skin. I mean *** is wrong with you guys. What has the girl from Siberia achieved that makes him lesser than her other than the fact that she is fair?”

However, Pandya is not the first celebrity to become the butt of the joke over being dark-skinned. “India has a fascination with fair skin. This is a fact. This can be seen in the number of fairness creams in the market, for both men and women,” says Kala Balasubramanian, counselling psychologist. 

Actor and filmmaker Tannishtha Chatterjee, who is known for her performances in ‘Parched’ and ‘Brick Lane’, was at the receiving end of jokes about her dark skin when she appeared on the TV show ‘Çomedy Nights Bachao’. in 2016.

Offended, she walked out of the show and took to Facebook to vent to her feelings. In her post, she wrote that while she was aware that the programme would follow the format of a ‘roast’, she was unprepared for the ‘bullying’ about her skin tone. Colors TV issued an apology on the issue and called the incident “unfortunate”.

Although a popular actor in South India, casting Dhanush as a lead in a Bollywood movie was questioned by many because of his dark skin. The director of ‘Raanjhanaa’ said that he was questioned about the decision as north Indian audiences preferred someone fair-skinned. 

Often, even star kids find themselves dealing with racist remarks. “People troll with no responsibility or guilt. They have no empathy. They believe they can get away with it especially because they have an audience. Whatsapp groups also encourage these kinds of jokes. People just laugh and take no action,” she adds. 

Kajol and Ajay Devgn’s 15-year-old daughter Nysa is often trolled online with bizarre comments asking Kajol to remarry so she could have “beautiful” children like Taimur Ali Khan. They have also suggested that Kajol start a treatment for Nysa to lighten her skin. 

“Change has to begin at a grassroots level. One has to introspect and realise that we contribute to the problem by laughing at such jokes. People must start voicing out their opinions, even if it is within their families,” she concludes.  

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