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A Darker Side of Fair

Abstract: With a focus on the emotional and

psychological impact, this film addresses the
historical and contemporary factors that
contribute to the pressures thrust upon Indian
women by a society obsessed with fair skin.
[Shedding new light upon issues of global
diversity, this documentary focuses on the
extent to which a "fairness fetish" has
permeated various levels of Indian society.
Fairness is a serious business in India, one with
intensely psychological ramifications. With a
focus on the emotional and psychological
impact, this film addresses the historical and
contemporary factors that contribute to the
pressures thrust upon Indian women by a
society obsessed with fair skin.]
Author/Ethnographer: Leslie, Deepak
Copyright Message: Documentary
Educational Resources
Cultural Group: Indian
Cultural Place: India
Director: Leslie, Deepak
Duration: 25 minutes
Ethnographer: Leslie, Deepak
General Ethnographer: Deepak Leslie
General Subject: Marriage; Cultural
identity; Racial identity; Cultural
norms; Marketing and advertising &Personal
Keyword: Race; Women's studies;
Documentary; Economics; Asian studies;
Cultural standards; Metatheater; Media;
Psychology; Beauty standards; Skin; Ethnicity;
Pakistan & Beauty
Language of Edition: English

Place: India
Place Discussed: India
Producer: Leslie, Deepak
Publication Place: Watertown, MA
Publication Type: Monograph
Publisher: Documentary Educational
Resources (DER)
Recording Location: India
Release Date: 2004
Responsibility Statement: by Deepak Leslie
Video Narrator: Prabhu, Mira
Video Type: Documentary

Documentary Educational Resources
Dravidian Productions presents
A Darker Side of Fair
Mira Prabhu Imagine a land where picturesque rustic landscapes coexists with cluttered cityslums, where ancient practices sooth this home and
magnificent cultural traditions capture the imagination. And the traffic makes you bullheaded, in more ways than one, where working women are neither
independent nor free. This isn't what you have heard.
Mira Prabhu This isn't what you have seen, this isn't what you thought you knew. This is theIndia of today.
Mira Prabhu A nation that is in love with the impossible, in love with the idea of being fair. Fair, what is fair in India ? This is fair. This is medium, fair
or wheatish. This is dusky. This is dark.Here in modern day India a woman's worth is all too often determined by the color of her skin. InIndia it seems that
beauty lies not in the eye of the beholder but in societal pressure to be fair. This presents itself in various ways and marriage is no different. Here
in India marriages occur either through love matches or arranged marriages. Today, thousands of marriage bureaus across India are hard at
work, devoting themselves entirely to arranging suitable matches for marriage. One such agency which facilitates arranged marriages in India was
founded by Mr. Shivraj , an engineer by profession, who gave up his lucrative career to start CAMB, the Computer Aided Matrimonial Bureau. This bureau
caters to a wide variety of the different cross sections of Indian society. People come into his office and fill out an application which includes
personal, professional and family details as well as the details of the kind of person they most wish to marry.
Shivraj Even though there are chances of finding a bride or bridegroom making love, that means they can get married making love but that is not so
much acceptable
Mira Prabhu Many times parents who are eager to get their child married fill out these forms with their own expectations in mind irrespective of their
child's preference for a suitable partner.
Shivraj There are some girls who are very much fond of going to America States , USA .
Mira Prabhu Do parent and child agree? Not so much. But what are the requirements of an eligible bachelor?
Shivraj If there is a girl with engineering qualifications and her desire is to find only engineer, that too settled in America
Mira Prabhu Regarding looks what do most people prefer?
Shivraj Girl wants very white complexion boy, boy wants very white complexion girl what to do?
Mira Prabhu Almost everyone seems to want a fair bride. But what does the son have to say?
People do prefer a fair girl
Mira Prabhu What kind of bride does he want?
She should be fair
Mira Prabhu And has there been a change as of late?
Previously, inter-caste marriages were taboo in our society people used to put those people aside if somebody has done an inter-caste marriage then
they won't mingle with them but now it is not like that.
Mira Prabhu Through this agency and others brides can meet their grooms, seek the approval of both families and get married, all in just a couple of
months. Here is one such wedding that has been finalized.
Mira Prabhu Looks like the parents have taken the initiative here.
Mira Prabhu The groom doesn't look too happy to be getting married. What about the bride? Doesn't seem so happy either.
Mira Prabhu Thanks to globalization. The average modern Indian now wants to look well-groomed and if you thought that women are the only ones who
are bleaching their skin, well you are wrong. Getting pampered in a saloon isn't just girly fun anymore. These days even the manliest of men want to
look good and in India this means fair. Facial bleaches are the norm.
Neeru Nerru's Beauty parlor, Bangalore Fairer skin has always dominated the darker skin
Dr. Bryan Nobbay, MD Dermatologist In India as in most countries were people of pigmented skin is an obsession of getting you know lighter, fairer as it
is in the, in the west where they want to get tanned.
Mira Prabhu The fashion industry is for the glamorous and the beautiful to revel in. But there is acatch. You've got to be fair. Though slightly darker dusky
women are used for the ramp, every television and print campaign features fair models. While fashion designers and coordinators are quick to defend
their profession, there is still not a single dark model, who would actually represent a large section of the Indian population. At a high profile fashion show,
the female models where described as a dusky and traditional looking, perfect for modeling sarees.
Mira Prabhu But the boys were all fair and European looking. India's fashion world seems to be caught up in finding models with an international
look. So, many advertisements in Indiaregularly feature white models and sometimes the odd black model from Africa but never ever the average dark
skinned Indian . Prasad Bidapa , the fashion guru in India who has launched many successful models and has given Indian fashion a unique touch
validates the notion of this fairness fetish.
Prasad Bidapa Fashion Consultant Indians are very hung up on face and it is really a legacy of the British .
Mira Prabhu The Indian movie industry is not far from this fairness trail. Though there are a couple of south Indian heroes who are dark and have a large
fan following, when it comes to the heroines it goes the other way. They have to be fair. This fairness fetish has permeated theIndian psyche to such an
extent that though the average dark couple should obviously expect a dark child, some still pray that their child will be born fair.
Dr. Alooma Lobo Adoption Consutant Everybody prefers a light color baby even when a baby isborn before they even try to figure out whether the baby
looks like the father or the mother they try to figure what the color of the baby is.
Manoviraj Khosla Fashion Designer I mean you can hear your great grandmother talking about and they will say fair, you know if the baby is born its fair
they are happy otherwise if its dark. I mean it is just something which is just a perception.
Neeru The parents might be really dark but they give the mother milk and saffron saying that the child is going to be born fair.
Mira Prabhu So where does this fetish to be fair come from?
Ashish Nair Model Predominantly people in our country, in my country think and I hate to use these words that people who are dark skinned is
essentially associated with somebody whowas in a working class.
Dr. Chandra Shekar Balachandran Director, Indian Institute of Geographical Studies I recently read a re-telling of the Mahabharata, which is
perhaps about 3000 to 5000 years old depending on whom you talk to and that the plains people from the Indo-Gangetic plain, the main characters
protagonists if you were had some contact with the people in the Himalayan regionthe people dwelling in the highlands are very fair in color compared to
the plains people and that they were therefore seen as somehow being superior.
Ashish Nair I think in India a fair skin person would be treated much better even in a business environment, you know and its and that's perceive that he
comes from better family, which is,which is a sad truth.
Mira Prabhu How much have foreign invasions impacted the Indian mindset?
Dr. Alooma Lobo That is historical truth that the invaders were all light colored and to be part of them you had to be light to be more accepted.
Dr. Chandra Shekar Balachandran Probably what's visibly a colonial phenomenon and that white was seen as superior, and I have examples in
mind which come to me very easily, I heard my own parents talk talking this way. "Look at that boy how good looking he is, just like- anEuropean ."
T G Shenoy We as Indians , and I am an Indian myself although I don't have this thing, we are, to say, a little color conscious, and I think it's some kind
of weird colonial hangover
Manoviraj Khosla Unfortunately, Indians do have there is still slight obsession with fair skin.
Mira Prabhu Are there any other factors involved?
Ammu Joseph Feminist Writer Rising political and economic power of the southern states ofIndia will probably, they are traditionally associated with
darker skins as you know and I think this rising power will probably bring about a change in attitudes towards darker skin.
Ashish Nair Embedded in all our souls and with the generation that's being created its in their blood so we perceive dark skin people to be of a
lower class and nobody wants to be associated with that.
Mira Prabhu That great epics of India the Ramayana and the Mahabharata also describe beauty with reference to being fair. Even comic books for
children clearly portray the heroes as beingfair and the villains as being dark. In certain portrayals of the Hindu trinity both Shiva and Vishnu are depicted
as being blue and euphemism for being dark. With the heavy past weighing on the mind where does Indian society stand in today's globalized economy
replete with consumerism, marketing strategies and a variety of advertisements claiming that their product is the best. Playing upon this mindset our
advertisements that sell fairness products to the average dark skinned Indian telling them to be better you have to be fair. At the top of the market
products likeFair & Lovely and Fairever, both manufactured by multinationals, Hindustan Lever Limited and Ponds respectively. Now even western
brands like Clinique, Avon and Christian Dior aremarketing upscale fairness products making use of the existing marketing and advertising strategies
in India .
Dr. Bryan Nobbay, MD The problem is as far it's only been restricted to local companies, Indian companies manufacturing these beauty products that
are supposed to lighten the skin. Problem now is that international firms, foreign companies are coming in and with big names like L'Oreal, Neutrogena
and NeoStrata and claiming that we she, they are claiming that they can lighten the skin which is perpetuating a myth and further worsening the scenario.
Mira Prabhu While some are quick to blame the west most realize that these companies are simply jumping on to a million dollar opportunity and an ever
increasing demand for fairness products. Thanks to Indian beauty queens, models and actresses. The writing on the wall is clear, to be lovely you have to
be fair.
Dr. Alooma Lobo When I see models they are either white or they are light colored and where have all the dark ones gone perhaps they just use them
for the ramp but they are definitely not used in advertising campaigns and I don't see them where principle may everybody says we prefer, you shouldn't
have to prefer one color over an another it's just depends whether a woman is able to, to model or not.
Mira Prabhu The lack of consistent advertising ethics in India has allowed the airing of highly offensive advertisements for fairness products. The
psychological effects of such derogatory campaigns cannot be ignored. In an ad for Fair & Lovely a more modern progressive working woman is shown.
No longer confined to the role of housewife this ad tells today's young womenthat they can get any job they want even in the male dominated arena of
cricket announcing. But of course you can't get a job unless you are fair and if you are not well just use our product.These ads and others tell the viewer
that nothing is impossible. Get your sexist father's approval, find a man, get a great job, become famous. Tangible and immediate results arepromised,
your dreams will come true and all you have to do is simply use our products.
Prasad Bidapa The Hindustan Lever's make something called Fair & Lovely you know, really should be ashamed of themselves anyway.
T G Shenoy Advertising Copywriter . You take any woman sitting at home watching a Fair and Lovely ad, day in and day out she's told, "Oh, you're dark-
no guy will choose you you're dark- and so on and so forth. The only way she can get a great husband, for which she has to use Fair and Lovely.
Melanie Ming Model So basically in India we are big suckers for white skin basically that's the whole thing. Lot of models especially for press ads which
we have over here like the ads on TV there are lot of people they only want fair skin people because that's where people can relate to, they look up to the
fair people over here, to the west basically they like to ape the west.
T G Shenoy If you're dark, if not fair that is, sorry- you're unlucky- its there in your stars Conversely speaking, the guys who are watching those ads what
does it tell them? If you're seen with a dark girl- you're a loser man!
Prasad Bidapa About girls who can't get married because they are darken, such crap you know really!
Dr. Bryan Nobbay, MD We use fairness products too but for a different purpose. We use it formedical conditions where you have melasma or
pigmentation, pigmentation irregularities on the skin, but provided you are using a product with care, with caution, it's fine. But as far as fairness creams
and things are concerned the dermatology community certainly frowns on them, because several reasons in fact not the least of which is people are
exposing them to multiple, themselves to multiple chemicals, a lot of these can cause sensitization, allergic and irritant reactions on the skin. Some of
them in fact cause depigmentation, whitening of the skin or irregular motley pigmentation or chronosis. Some of them can cause absolute death of cells
which means a permanent bleaching or leukoderma that's the risk that people run when trying to going for fairness cream.
Mira Prabhu According to the advertising fraternity few are held accountable for the messages embedded in advertising fairness products.
Vidur Vohra Former Creative Director, Ogilvy and Mather This whole fairness thing is very deeply built into the Indian psyche, fair is good. The question
is would I do an ad for something like this I don't know, I don't think so.
Milind Vohra Former Creative Director, J. Walter Thompson - Delhi As long as there are people out there who believe that they are going to get better
jobs and better guys and so on because of being fairer and these products will sell.
Mira Prabhu With this fairness craze are also stories which provides some hope. When Mrs. Paniker got married to a man much lighter than her
in complexion a lot of eyebrows were raised.
Mrs. Paniker I wanted to become fair and for that even I tried with taking oil bath with sandalwood and turmeric
Mira Prabhu Her daughter Oormila grew up in an environment where she was always conscious of her complexion.
Oormila But I generally have my umbrella up when I go out in the sun like most Indians I guess. And everyone made a big issue out of it saying that you
are so lucky you take after your father and could have been dark like your mother would have you know genes had been against you know and all that.
Mira Prabhu Are things actually changing?
Mrs. Paniker not dark or fair she should be humble at heart
Dr. Bryan Nobbay, MD Now with media coverage many more people are getting into it. Before it used to be in pockets in may be in, in cities and you
know, in the upper echelons of society, but now its percolated down to the common man everyone is so concerned about lightening their skin. I have so
many people coming into the clinic and asking for their daughters, just today I have had a person who's come. She is working in an IT company doing
very well, she has come in with her mother and she wants a fairness cream.
Mira Prabhu What about the younger set?
Dr. Alooma Lobo And this is were I admire the young people today I think they are much more broadminded, they are much more enlightened and they
are much, much more objective about accepting people.
Mira Prabhu Can this passionate educated elite establish an unprecedented reverence for a natural Indian lotion of beauty? Are these voices loud
enough to permeate the masses, to affect the nations psyche, to reach the common man? Or will these cries for self-respect be renderedmute by the
pressures thrust upon Indian women by an increasingly globalized society? Does this love for fair run too deep? If these voices grown loud enough to
seep into the core of the nation. Then the concept of beauty in India will no longer be skin deep and this nation so rich in cultural identity will fall in love all
over again, this time with themselves.
a film by Deepak Leslie
Mira Prabhu Or will there always be a darker side of fair?
Dravidian Productions Would like to thank Mrs. Rosalind Winter and Mr. Gene Gitelson Without whose support this film wouldn't have been possible We
would also like to thank: Mrs. Susan Buckley Mr. Bob Mellman Mr. Prasad Bidapa and his staff Mr. Shivraj and his staff at CAMB Ms. Melanie Ming Ms.
Ammu Joseph Dr. Chandra Shekar Balachandran Dr. Alooma Lobo Ms. Neeruand her staff Mrs. Oormila Mrs. Paniker Ms. Milind Vohra Mr. Vidhur
Vohra Mr. Ramesh Dami Mr. Prem Koshy Mr. Saleem The Max Mueller Bhavan Mr. Ashish Nair Mr. Sridhar Shastri Producer, Concept, and Script Jana
Winter Production Manager Irfan Mugdi Production Coordinator Satya Reddy Narration Mira Prabhu Operative Cameraman Giridhar Divan C.J.
Girish Deepak LeslieCamera Assistant Shankar Technical Assistant Shivraj Production Assistants Hannah PantinAlexander Poonam Chhabria Shruti
Mallya Camera Suppliers Madhusudan , Bangalore Singh Photographics A.V. Tech, Bangalore Transport Guru Travels Citi Cabs
Drivers Jairaj ShrikanthSenthil Ravi Audio Services Audio Trax - Bangalore Sound Harsha - Ram Prashant Editor Surya Shriram Post Production
Videopost - Bangalore MAGNO - NEW YORK MIDNIGHT MEDIA GROUP - NEW JERSEY a film by Deepak Leslie 2004 JANA WINTER