Indian Cinema: Dark is Ugly? | Rajinikanth to 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

Why doesn’t this information reach the public? Only cinema enthusiasts and aspiring filmmakers seem aware. Why lacks celebration like Gully Boy’s Oscar nomination or Deepika Padukone’s IIFA trends? South Indian films should globally represent Indian cinema. Why hasn’t India chosen a South Indian film for the Oscars? Unanswered questions persist. Our protests fall on deaf ears, ignored by eyes blinded by caste, religion, and looks.

Have you seen a Hindi movie portraying a love story with a dark or ‘ugly’ hero or heroine? The aversion toward ‘Madrasi’ is deeply ingrained. Bollywood associates ‘dark skin and ugly face’ with evil.

Fairness cream ads depict dark-skinned girls saved from ridicule by becoming fair. The accepted concept of a beautiful woman requires fair skin, a thin body, long hair, and a beautiful face. Cinema reflects human life, but if it only portrays the cream of society—thin, fair women—what about the rest of us? Dark-skinned men can’t be heroes, and fat women can’t be love interests.


“Uyare” portrays an acid attack survivor with fighter spirit, yet implies beauty-based assumptions. After the attack, half her face appears perfectly burnt. The film seemingly reinforces beauty standards, contrasting a beautiful half with an ‘ugly, burnt face.’ As someone ridiculed for my body and face, I feel it contradicts its own message—that beauty is about the survival of the soul.

Literary discrimination echoes in publishing; major publishers favor good-looking writers. Mathrubhumi Books publishes attractive and affluent writers, neglecting revolutionary ones like Pavithran Theekkuni, deemed ‘ugly’ with a livelihood as a fisherman. The issue lies with his looks and profession, not his craft.


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 they 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. Especially 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 today, he is 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. Now, 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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