The cost of Fair skin!

Beauty is one of the remarkable gifts endowed to humans by nature. Women are gifted with beautiful looks, while men are bestowed with handsome features. Even though the definition of beauty might change from people to people, or even region to region like in western countries, women might love to be like Marilyn Monroe or Julia Roberts, while in India, women would like to have looks like Aishwarya Rai or Katrina Kaif. Same goes for men. It would be difficult to find any man who would not like Brad Pitt or even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Because after all, they are considered epitomes of feminine and masculine beauty, isn’t it?

Yet there is something which plays a very very big role in defining the standards of beauty. And that is color. As we all are aware that humans come in all varieties of color. Be it white, brown or black, there are endless similarities and differences amongst us. Yet, for some unknown reason, our society has somehow elevated the fair white skin color as being the highest form of beauty. I do not know how this happened, but the world considered as being fair skinned is the most acceptable form of beauty standard. And due to which, there came generations after generations in movies industry, advertising, fashion, modeling, and even in marriages, where being fair became the most preferred parameter for achieving success and fame. Women and men having blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin became the poster symbol of pure beauty to such an extent that even Nazis tried to define their race based on these attributes. All this led to the rise of racism and as we had seen few months before, how the racism took an ugly route in one of the most advanced countries in the world. Books have been written, movies have been made and endless debates and discussions have been done on this topic, and yet our society continues with this myopic attitude of judging people and giving undue advantage by the color of the skin. I don’t want to write about racism and its atrocious effects on the society, as the world has seen enough of it for the last several centuries. But I want to write about this fascination for fair skin in India and even other parts of the world as I have observed so far.

India is land of diversity. Yet with all the diversity, there are many similarities as well which makes Indians recognizable easily when they travel in other parts of the world, or as observed by foreigners who visit India. Some of those include our culture, strong accent, quintessential sari or even kurta-pyjama/salwar-kameez worn by most Indians. But along with that, we are easily recognized by our skin color, which is brown skinned. Very very few Indians are fair skinned, and even they don’t match the light skin tone of Europeans. But having a fair skin has always been a top priority for Indians. Women cherish the dream of having light skin and hence rely heavily on makeup and beauty products. Infact, so much is this desire of fair skin inoculated in the minds of Indians, that the skin lightening cosmetic product ‘Fair and Lovely‘ is one of the most popular beauty product in India with a market cap of 80% of the lightening cream market in India. The company even started marketing ‘Fair and Handsome’ for males and it has also been a success. This shows how much craving we Indians have to possess a fair skin tone. (However, recently the company changed its name ‘Glow and Lovely’ in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter #BLM protests. I appreciate this company’s stand which have won many accolades).

But still, the majority Indians continue to remain bias towards fair skin. I am sure this happens in other parts of the world as well. But from an Indian perspective, I find this very depressing. Because in a relatively conservative society in India, the marriages are arranged by family. And the worst form of prejudice against women is done in this process. The expectation of grooms for a bride is to be fair, and slim and beautiful. While on the other side, groom are often dark skinned, but the bride’s family does not mind it. There are so many cases when the girl who is highly educated, and earning well, is simply rejected because of her dark complexion. All men, fair and dark skinned, educated and illiterates, earning and not earning, all want a fair skinned girl as their wife or girlfriend. This is one of the biggest problem in India. So no wonder, the products like ‘Fair and Lovely’ will always remain in demand as long as this unjust expectation remains in Indian society.

Even Bollywood is no exception to this. If we just ponder upon some of the famous songs in Bollywood, like

‘These black black eyes, these fair fair cheeks….’
Don’t be arrogant over your fair skin, it will go away in two days..’ ( assuming she had put on a skin lightening product)
Black Black goggles on fair skinned face.

and even this latest remake of a famous old song,

Image result for goriya churana mera jiya
Oh fair skinned beauty, take away my heart

And many other songs and movies often promote heroine with fair skin. And nowadays, Bollywood has even started importing dancers from western countries ( Eastern Europe and other parts of western world having blonde hair and light skin) who are often seen in songs dancing behind the comparatively brown skinned Indian hero and heroine as seen below.

Image result for foreign dancers in bollywood
Ref

This is even being copied in events like Cricket matches (Indian Premier League or just IPL) which used to be known as a Gentlemen’s Game not long ago. Now, just to satiate this fair-ish or rather feverish desire of Indians, IPL started bringing cheer leaders ( again fair skinned to attract attention and ofcourse money) from Indian audience.

Image result for foreign dancers in ipl
Source

And even worse is that this mentality of Indians doesnt stop in India, but continues to be carried abroad as well. When I was in the USA, I remember my friends back in India gossiping about me having a white girlfriend. Even Indians who go to the USA or Europe, will try to have a white girlfriend only. I didn’t find many Indians who were willing to accept any African-American or Latino American, even though however successful or nice they might be. Even worst experience is in Strip clubs, where my friends who used to frequently visit, always had a white stripper. I find this all to be utterly preposterous!

Hence, I find this over obsession with fair skin as extremely annoying. Because I wonder what does difference does skin color make? I mean really, if we think it from a practical perspective, it really doesn’t matter. The skin color doesn’t make any life better. It might give those people some unfair advantage in jobs or professions like modeling or fashion, but life remains same irrespective of skin color. We all have to eat, and sleep, and do all the chores. Skin color does not help there. A dark or brown skinned girl can be an expert in any profession just like a fair skinned girl. Our confidence, our nature , our habits, our likes, our dislikes, our attitude, our achievements are never dependent on the skin color.

Lets imagine if a brown skinned Indian guy likes a good natured, well educated, well earning but a decent looking dark skinned Indian girl ( she likes him as well), but he rejects her and rather marries a not so educated, not well earning and very arrogant but fair skinned good looking girl, due to buckling under family pressure as per arrange marriage norms. But then after few days, he realizes that his wife is very arrogant, very selfish and also very narcissist. And they had frequent fights and soon they had to file for a divorce. So, what was gained and lost in this process. Did anyone win? No right. Did anyone lose? Yes, all of them. Wouldn’t it be better if he had chosen his love, by ignoring the stupid skin color part, and rather would have focused on her good nature and true love for him, they both would have made a good and happy family, isn’t it?

I find the above story being repeated countless time in many families in India. When will we Indians realize this basic concept of acceptance to all forms of color. Actually, this is ironic because we, Indians had been ruled by fair skinned British colonizers for a long time. Our forefathers have suffered immensely the atrocities committed by British rulers. How can we forget the hatred from the colonizers with respect to our skin and even comparing us to animals. Has our memory been so volatile that we have forgotten all this? We threw out the British from our land but we are still having the narrow racist approach in our minds and actions just like the British rulers did back then.

So, we really need to erase this skin color biase from our mind. Because in today’s world, the paths to success are not dependent on color or race. It just depends on our attitude and hard work. Else, it wouldn’t have been impossible for Barack Obama to be the President, or Kamala Harris to be the vice president. I don’t have any examples here in India and this is the sad part of the story. We haven’t yet accepted this, and as long as we keep praising racist Bollywood songs which eulogizes the fair skin, as long as a fair skinned woman is chosen as bride, things are not going to improve. But the day when we become unbiased to skin color, and accept this diversity, from that day women won’t need to spend loads of money on beauty products to make their skin lighter. Women won’t need to use filter on Instagram or Facebook to post pictures with lighter skin. Men will be respecting and accepting women as they are, and there won’t be sexual harrassment as rampant in India today. I don’t have any much hopes from my generation ( having closely seen and being a part of it), but I hope the coming generations become more acceptable and kind. But as of now, this is the cost of obsession for fair skin, we have to pay.

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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The 90’s Bollywood affair (Part 1)

Image result for 90s bollywood romantic movies
Credits

I am a 90’s guy. Not only because I am born during 1990’s era, but also because that phase itself was so special, so different when it came to the movies, songs and culture in India. I am sure many readers who have lived that era would reminisce those times, when life was simple, predictable and beautiful. My parents generation were fortunate enough to have lived that era. This is because of some of the most incredible romantic movies being made during that time. It was as if the breeze of love flowed freely in the 90’s air…..

Usually, Bollywood movies have had predictable love stories, or even the girl or guy next door type love stories ( yes, even 90’s era had quite similar movies, but still they seemed different than all the previous ones) which had some famous actor and he will try to win the heart of his love by performing all sorts of stunts and daredevil acts. I am sure Hollywood have had its own time of such movies too. But before 90’s, people used to flock to see the movies just to see the hero, heroine or even the villain( like Gabbar Singh in Sholay). The 50’s movies had a trio of actors like Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar who dominated the bollywood industry with their exceptional acting skills. The late 60’s had the evergreen romantic movies which showcased that era with Rajesh Khanna as the first superstar. Soon, people got tired of those chocolate hero typed movies, and syncing with the world events, which included the swinging 60’s and 70’s filled with protests against the establishment, the bollywood also welcomed its first Angry-Young Man, the legendary Amitabh Bacchhan, who broke all the typical hero image of just chasing his love. He revolted against the system, fought against injustice, and resonated with then trend of acting to change the system. The bollywood became a serious place for movies, and soon it was followed by a trend of parallel cinema during late 70’s and 80’s which highlighted the reality of the world behind the 35 mm film.

The 80’s were tough times indeed. As I have always written about how the world got changed during the 1980’s decade, when suddenly the forces of capitalism, free market, democracy and liberalism found themselves on the winning side, when not long before, they had thrown down the baton in front of socialism and communism. And by the end of 80’s, it seemed that the world had suddenly become a new place. The old rules were broken down along with the Berlin Wall, nations collapsed and formed overnight, the markets which had been closed for decades opened suddenly, and new rules were laid out.

Just like the world, India saw its own set of vicissitudes. The 1980’s were some of the toughest times, and unfortunately for India, the 1990’s were even worser when it came to national politics, economics and unity of India. As I have written a article on this journey of India, I wont go deeper much. But the fact that India suffered from a series of weak governments during 90’s, and its economy which had been a terrible permit Raj system had suddenly been opened and it later turned out to be the best decision taken during that decade. But this good aspect was soon over-shadowed by 1992 Babri masjid massacre, subsequent riots and Bombay blasts in 1993, ethnic genocide of Kashmiri Pandits and heinous terrorist acts in Kashmir valley by Pakistan and its ISI. That decade ended with the Kargil war in 1999, which India won gloriously and thus began the emergence of a new India in the 21st century.

But amidst all this chaos, the bollywood affair became intense. That era saw a sudden influx of romantic theme based movies and melodious songs. And people not only praised them, but also accepted them as a part of their lives. This might be because after all, people were tired of dirty politics and communal hatred outside, and so they cherished the love and happy ending stories with the intention of having such a good life someday. They preferred to make love, and not war by flocking into the theatres and music concerts, instead of participating in any protests or revolution, which the earlier generation did.

Stay tuned for the Part 2…

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Copyright © 2021 AbhikNotes – Powered by WordPress.com

The Banal lives of Bollywood Wives

Recently, I watched the Netflix series ‘Fabulous lives of Bollywood Wives‘. After watching this show, I simply find no words to rate or assess this show. The show lacks complete originality and so I decided to name it as ‘banal’ instead of the so called given name ‘fabulous’.

To begin with the review, the show portrays the life of 4 bollywood families, which are the Kapoors ( there are many kapoors in bollywood, and the least famous is shown in this series), Khans, Pandey and Soni. The former two (Sanjay and Maheep Kapoor, Seema and Sohail Khan) are known to be a part of the bollywood elite, but I have no idea why Pandey ( Chunky and Bhavna) and Soni (Samir and Neelam) are a part of this show, even though they have acted in quite a few movies, but certainly they are not very famous.

The 8 episode series shows the life of four wives, Maheep, Seema, Bhavna and Neelam. I find all four of them obsessed with fake accents, speaking bad words including the F*** word, self obsession over looks, boasting of wealth, and desperate attempt to launch their kids in this industry. All four of them are seen to be demanding, money and fame driven, unrespectful of each other or even the common people. Their abroad trips to Paris or Doha, performing facelift for anti-aging, petty fights, drinking, clandestine attempt to seduce other men is not at all fabulous. All this does not make them fabulous or respected either. Hence, I was disappointed to see the pitiful life of bollywood wives shown in this series. I find this series to be a waste of time and utterly banal.

But, at the same time, after watching this series, we also understand what bollywood is in reality. Most Indians, and even abroad watch bollywood movies, and many of us are die hard fans of the actors and actresses. Starting from the golden age of bollywood in 1950’s and 60’s ( with Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar), to the angry young man era of Amitabh Bachchan in 1970’s and 80’s, from the romantic 90’s ( with Shahrukh, Salman and Amir Khan) to the modern age cinema of 2000’s and 2010’s, bollywood has always been the defacto entertainment for the Indian audience ( apart from Cricket). We all love and follow the way these superstars act, talk, walk, dance and sing. We even emulate their way of life and dream to become rich and famous like them.

But the reality shown in the movies, is not always the reality of life. Even though I have tremendous respect for bollywood stars like Amitabh, Shahrukh, Amir and many more ( especially the golden age era or even the parallel cinema of 1970’s and 80’s). But still bollywood life has always been mired with obsession for looks, wealth, fame, cut throat competition and jealousy. The actors and actresses are never happy in their life. The uncertainity of career and fear of being surpassed by talented new comers is always there. They often resort to drinking, smoking, recreational drugs, extra marital affairs to get rid of excess stress and fear of losing the fame. Ofcourse, not everyone does this, but bollywood is certainly not a very comforting or accomodating place.

Even worse than these vices, is the nepotism. Just like politics in India, bollywood is stained with nepotism. Everyone knows that nepotism runs in the blood of bollywood. If we look at the top families of bollywood, be it Kapoors, Khans, Bachchans, Bhatt’s, Deol’s, Chopra’s or Mukherjee-Samarth family, all have been in this industry for decades, generations after generations. Even though, nepotism does not demote their acting skills, as I agree as most Indians would, that these families inspite of their nepotism have been skilled and very professional in the show business. Along with their good photogenic looks, they carry the sophistication of being a brand and have glorified the Indian cinema for years at the global stage with their sheer hard work and dedication.

The famous Kapoor family and family tree
Bachchan family
Anil Kapoor family and tree
Salman Khan family and tree

But still the biggest disadvantage of neoptism is unleveling of the ground for new comers. The kids of famous bollywood families get the leverage and attention to rise up fairly easy, and this makes the life of newcomers difficult who inspite of their talent, may not always succeed in bollywood.

Even though there are exceptions like Shah Rukh Khan, Jackie Shroff, Ayushmann Khurana, Madhuri Dixit, Kanagana Ranaut, Sushant Singh Rajput etc. Many of the outsiders have succeeded, even though less than the number who fail or get thrown away due to nepotism. The case of Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide is the most famous example of the struggle and hardships an outsider has to endure to earn a name in this unforgiving industry. But finally, beyond nepotism, it is said that ‘work begets work’ and this has been even agreed upon by Sanjay Kapoor in this Netflix series, that finally work brings more work.

I think this is the only good part of this series, that finally, the bollywood is coming to an understanding that its not nepotism or connections but work brings more work, fame and recognition. That’s why Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), an outsider became the ‘King Khan of Bollywood’, while Abhishek Bachchan, who is the son of ‘Big B’ Amitabh Bachchan ( an outsider himself) could not earn that reputation like his father earned.

Finally, in the series, I find the most disgusting part is the shallow, fake and banal lives of the bollywood wives shown by the king of nepotism Karan Johar . Actually, they are not even part of bollywood who are successful. They are just missing that success and fame, which SRK, or Big B families have garnered. That’s why they are jealous of others, and desperate to launch their kids to earn that fame and wealth, which they could not earn. So, its worth noting that the life shown in this series is not always the typical bollywood wives life.

Infact, there are many actually talented, real bollywood wives like Kajol ( wife of Ajay Devgn, who stays away from bollywood limelight), Madhuri Dixit( married to a surgeon), Shabana Azmi ( wife of famed poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar), Hema Malini ( wife of Dharmendra), Jaya Bachchan ( wife of Amitabh Bachchan), Ratna Pathak Shah( wife of Naseeruddin Shah), Zeenat Aman, Gracy Singh and many more. They are the real gems and queens of bollywood. These wives/actresses do not behave or live a so called ‘fabulous’ life as shown in the Karan Johar ‘KJo’ produced netflix series. They often live a simple life, away from limelight after their acting career is over. Many of them are excellent housewives, and even some of them are in politics or social service. They are the real bollywood wives, and not the four wives shown in the series.

Thus, I end this review with the understanding that even though there are some fringe elements in bollywood as shown in this netflix series,& even though there is nepotism, family dynasties, cut throat competition, jealousy breeding grounds etc, but at the end, its always the work and talent which stays forever at the end.