Rampant retouching in Bollywood

Photoshopped images of celebrities set unrealistic beauty standards for society

With lakhs of followers and a pan-India appeal, movie stars in the country wield considerable clout when it comes to influencing mindsets and societal standards. Some of their actions place them at the receiving end of both bouquets and brickbats, and a prime example of this is photoshopping their images.

Recently, Bollywood diva Kareena Kapoor Khan ticked off the netizens when pictures of her recent photoshoot with a prominent fashion magazine popped up on newsfeeds.
The image of the 39-year-old actress, in a powder blue romper, has been edited to such an extent that her knees are missing, giving them the appearance of shiny plastic. Also, the shadow behind her has not been edited and it clearly reveals the actual shape of her legs.

The practice is not new in the entertainment industry. In India, pictures of actresses such as Anushka Sharma, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Rani Mukerji, Aishwarya Rai, Katrina
Kaif and Kajol have been edited to make them look slimmer and much fairer. 

Netizens have been highlighting the pitfalls of airbrushed celebrity images for quite some time now, saying that it ‘perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards, leads to body shaming, causes people to starve themselves to be a certain size, leads to eating disorders and so on’.

In the past few years, many celebrities themselves have spoken out against the practice; prominent among them being Jameela Jamil, Priyanka Chopra, Zendaya, Chrissy Teigen, Lili
Reinhart, Meghan Trainor, Ashley Benson, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian-West, Lupita Nyong’o and many more. Jameela, whose photos have been edited to make her skin look lighter, has talked about the effect it had on her mental health and how it made her ‘dislike what she saw in the mirror’.

While many advertisers, influencers and brands are now moving away from this regressive practice and are talking about embracing one’s body and beauty, some tone-deaf photoshoots/commercials continue to throw a spanner in the works. 

Not always the publication 

Sometimes it’s not the magazine to blame, as displayed with the case of Disha Patani’s Deepavali pictures from 2018. The actor is known and often trolled for her association with Calvin Klein underwear posted a cleavage-baring image of her in a sports bra by the brand paired with a lehenga. Due to heavy trolling, she quietly deleted the racy post and replaced it with an edited image that was relatively modest. In between all this the popular entertainment magazine, Filmfare posted the first image on their Instagram. The whole thing took place so quickly that most netizens were quick to blame the magazine for posting an image that they thought was enhanced to show more of the actor’s cleavage. 

Kareena Kapoor Khan 

While the image put out by Grazia brought into question the actor’s knees and calves, an earlier faux pas had brought her elbows into question. The August cover for The Peacock Magazine, the monthly magazine put out by fashion brand Falguni Shane Peacock had an oddly edited image of Kareena on the cover.

Kangana Ranaut

The actor’s campaign for popular apparel brand ‘Global Desi’ was seen as a disaster by many. With the star barely recognisable in the posters. Many people commented that the resulting image looked more like Sonakshi Sinha.

Priyanka Chopra and Parineeti Chopra

The sister duo came under criticism for a promo video they put out for ‘Frozen 2’. First called out by Instagram fashion watchdog @dietsabya, the waists of the sisters appear heavily reduced. Viewers called them out for the irony of slimming down the actors who were promoting a feel-good empowering film aimed at young girls.

Diana Penty

Skin tone is also a favourite target among retouchers. Diana Penty and a few other Indian models were invited to promote Estee Lauder’s foundation. While the point of inviting the models seemed to be inclusivity of a wider range of shades, the official image put out on their Instagram was so heavily airbrushed that everyone seemed to be of the same shade.

Kartik Aaryan

It’s not just women; Kartik Aaryan was called out for the heavy photoshop on his commercial for ‘Veet’. The ad showed him shirtless with a set of digitally-enhanced abs. The ad was promoting hair removal cream for men.


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