Indian Cinema: Dark is Ugly? | Rajinikanth to Vijay Sethupathi & Vinayakan

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It is a matter of great inspiration that our artists and films are being recognised internationally, if not at the national level. Although neglected and sidelined based on the grounds of color and caste, in our country, the South Indian films are being recognised as the face of Indian art, internationally. Films from down south, like Geethu Mohandas’ Moothon, Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikkattu, Parthiban’s Otha Seruppu Size 7, and actors like Mr. Indrans, Joju George, Nivin Pauly have been brought to the forefront of world cinema, today. Films like the ones mentioned above have been premiered in international film festivals like TIFF and many other platforms. Actors like Mr. Indrans, Mr. Vijay Sethupathy and many more artists are also being felicitated on the platforms of world cinema.

Unanswered Questions

Have we ever thought as to why such information does not get enough public attention? Only those who are passionate cinema lovers, and those who are preparing to take up cinema as a career are the ones who have access to such news. Why is it not celebrated like Gully Boy’s Oscar nomination, or Deepika Padukone’s fashion trends at IIFA? Why can’t South Indian films represent Indian cinema on the world platform, even when we are already being recognised for our cinema, worldwide? Why haven’t India nominated any South Indian film as its Oscar entry? These are all unanswered questions. Our protests, and fights fall on deaf ears, and all the recognition and awards are ignored by eyes, blinded by caste, religion, colour, looks.

Have you ever seen a Hindi movie based on the love story of a hero or heroine who is dark, and ugly, by their standards of beauty? The aversion towards ‘Madrasi’ is genetic, and part of their collective consciousness. ‘Dark skin and ugly face’ represent evil, and it has been used so, in Bollywood.

Fairness cream ads portray dark skinned girls, insecure about their looks, and who are ‘saved’ from ridicule, by the cream which makes her fair. What is the generally acceptable concept of a beautiful woman? If you have to be cast as the main female lead, you have to be fair skinned, should have a thin body, definitely not fat, should have long hair, definitely not bald, and should have a beautiful face. When we say that Cinema is a reflection of human life and emotions, then the cinema that we see, will be the representation of emotions of only the cream of our community – only the thin, fair, lovely woman who is loved by the hero, for her looks. So the rest of us cannot have any emotion? A dark skinned man cannot be considered a hero. A fat woman cannot be the love interest.

Uyare

Uyare is a beautiful film about an acid attack survivor, a woman who has a fighter spirit. However, this film also has an undercurrent of such presumption based on beauty. After she survives the attack, exactly half of her face is burnt. The symmetry of how it has burnt is so perfect that it looks as though her boyfriend had poured acid on her while she was laying down straight, for him to pour it, on the exact half of her face. What are they showing here? They have placed the beautiful half with the ‘ugly, burnt face’ as the other half. From a perspective moulded by years of ridicule targeted at my plump, fat body and my ugly face, I feel that the film is against the exact ideology they are putting forward – that beauty is about survival of the soul.

Such discrimination is also prevalent in the field of literature. When I tried approaching many publishers, most of them were not even ready to discuss or even, go through the materials I had submitted. If you have noticed the writers who are published by major publishers like Mathrubhumi Books, all of them are good writers, who are also fair and good looking. While they publish writers like K R Meera, S Harish, Madhavikkutty, Ashitha and many others who are both good looking, and affluent, they are neglecting other revolutionary writers like Pavithran Theekkuni, who is ‘ugly’ and makes his living as a fisherman. So, their problem is with his livelihood and looks, and not at all concerned with his craft.

Kaala

Cinema has always used such dark skinned, ‘ugly’ actors as comedians. They were made the side kicks of the hero, and were never cast as the hero himself. Many of our actors who are internationally recognised today, came from such humble backgrounds. Vinayakan, Indrans, Joju George are all such artistes who faced humiliation based on their looks, but who were silent fighters using their talent and art as their weapon.

Legendary actors like Sathyan, Rajinikanth, Vijaykanth and Vijay were victims of such discrimination based on looks and colour, in the beginning of their career. They could overcome and come to the forefront, because of sheer talent and hard work. We are familiar with Yogi Babu who was side-lined in the onset of his career, but is, today, one of the highest paid actors in the industry. The story of Dhanush is also not different. Facing ridicule on an everyday basis, for being thin and dark skinned, and replaced by others, he has become one of the finest actors, breaking all language barriers and proving that nothing comes between art and talent.

Many of us continue to be targeted by conditioned notions of beauty, films and advertisements. Art is a medium which is capable of creating a revolution in our society. When art itself, joins hands with a society celebrating fair skin, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and other social evils, what is left for those of us, sidelined, based on looks, colour, caste, values, and ideologies?

Views and opinions expressed here are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of plumeria movies

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About the Author

Anjali Chakkoth
A traveller at heart, writing is my art. Love is my God and this world is my home. Music is the drug and Cinema is the flame.

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