Opinion: Dark & Poor Colourism In Hrithik Roshan's 'Super 30'

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"I happened to see the trailer of Super 30 and I couldn’t believe what I saw, Hrithik Roshan’s face painted brown..."

Written By Saira Shah Halim | Mumbai | Updated On:

Author and activist Saira Shah Halim writes on Hrithik Roshan's recent trailer of 'Super 30' that shows the actor's complexion darker than he is.

I happened to see the trailer of Super 30 and I couldn’t believe what I saw, Hrithik Roshan’s face painted brown.

Twitter was having a field day trolling and also saluting him on how unconvincing or convincing he looked as a Bihari, for the uninitiated, Hrithik essays the role of mathematician Anand Kumar who hails from Bihar in the film.

Regardless of what we think about the cast, isn’t it time we cast lesser known actors who fit the role better? Past few years have shown how script is the king, the casting of Hrithik Roshan as Mathematician Anand Kumar goes to prove that big stars and banners indeed rule Bollywood despite the fact that in recent years an entire gamut of Hindi films with a low budget, no big name in the star cast turned out to be the year’s biggest hits.

The movie ‘Stree’ entered the Rs 100 crore club just 18 days after its release. The film was made on a budget of only Rs 20 crores because of its spine chilling story line based on true events.

READ | Controversy: 'What's with the black paint on Hrithik Roshan's face?,' ask Netizens calling racism over 'Super 30' star's in-film complexion

Another example is of ‘Badhai Ho’ which got a collection of Rs 132.65 crores against a budget of Rs 30 crores. Another inspiring story is of Raazi made on a budget of Rs 40 crores won a collection of Rs 158.77 crores. Tumhari Sulu was another small budget film that managed to rake in Rs 30 crores against a budget of Rs 30 crores.

These stellar examples go to prove that one needn’t rope in a big star where one needs to change his persona to make him look five shades darker than his original complexion.

One narrative that is not helping us fight stereotypes is the way Indians especially from the poorer strata are depicted - dark,scruffy and uncouth.

Historically beauty norms have varied globally, even though migration has led to a homogenized international beauty standard. Fair and pale skin in American films represented a social class of nobility or the bourgeoisie, as fair skin became a symbol of class monopoly.

Darker skin since victorian times was associated with slavery, menial work and stark poverty  — these stereotypes became so well entrenched in our psyche that till date we still feel that a dalit should not drive a Mercedes, or a dark aspiring hairhostess needs to apply ‘fair and lovely’ to bag that coveted job.

The bias of stringent beauty standards is so well entrenched where a strong biopic of boxing champ ‘Mary Kom’ decided to cast a global superstar like Priyanka Chopra to essay Mary Kom’s role.

I often wonder what if the promising role had gone to a talented actor from the north east? Wouldn’t that be a great step in mainstreaming people from the north east into our national narrative?

The biggest of stars in the biggest of banners have failed miserably and at the same time small budget films with lesser known actors have successfully managed to strike a chord with the audience.

One thing we need to drive home is that fair is not necessarily beautiful, a poor person needn’t be dark.

A recent study has pointed out that women and people of colour are still vastly underrepresented in Hollywood ,the #OscarsSoWhite movement has been an eye opener of sorts.

Our own Priyanka Chopra is doing a phenomenal job of breaking barriers as far as women of colour is concerned. She not only married a white successful singing artist, he also happens to be more than a decade younger than her.

The history of skin whitening in East Asia dates back to ancient times which meant that if one has been able to retain one’s paleness in climates where the sun is really harsh was a sign of nobility,while it was considered that the ones who couldn’t afford to stay indoors were out working as laborers in the harsh sun.

A recent news broke the story that female musician Rihanna happens to be the richest musician in the world with an estimated fortune larger than that of Madonna, Celine Dion and
Beyonce. Incidentally Rihanna’s ventures have been applauded for their inclusivity and her cosmetic line caters to atleast 40 different skin tones.

The point we need to reiterate with Rihanna’s example is that its not necessary to be dark to be poor. Such projections on celluloid further feed stereotypes. Therefore, we just need to feel comfortable in our skin — white,brown or black, it's time we challenge colourism in India.

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