Discrimination in Indian Film Industry

Colorism-based discrimination in Indian Cinema.

The term ‘colorism’ refers to the prejudiced, discriminatory attitude towards someone’s skin color. The Indian film industry is the most famous film industry after Hollywood. Indian cinema has gained international fame with millions of viewers across the globe. The Indian film industry has the most vibrant film industries broadcasted in the most diverse language in the world.

In fact, Hindi cinema, popularly known as Bollywood, is famous for its movies and songs. This major media house plays a prominent role in reflecting and transforming society. Unfortunately, Indian cinema has been subjected to colorism that reflects the stereotypes of skin color.

Dark skin as low lives

The Indian film industry has successfully painted black-skinned people as villains, gangsters, terrorists, criminals, and low caste and class. In many Bollywood movies, dark-skinned people are often made fun of with the tag ‘kali. In fact, skin tone bias is still reinforced deeply and recreated in Indian cinema.

The Indian film industry often depicts the main protagonist as having a light-skinned tone while all the villains, seducers, mobsters, and scoundrels are dark skin. Indian film industry still successfully perpetuates the light-skinned tone as flawless and ideal beauty while dark-skinned as bad.

Actress Nandita Das in an interview, said that when she plays a slum dweller or a Dalit caste woman, her skin tone is okay but to play affluent or educated upper-class roles, she needs to lighten her skin. In fact, a flawed character is often portrayed by a dark-skinned cast. The Indian films further stereotype lower caste groups as poor, uneducated, foolish, and dark-skinned, creating associations between caste, class, as well as one’s skin tone.

These issues in the Indian film Industry continue to thrive under the principles of racism and colorism. Industries’ obsession with tall, muscular, slim, and fair-skinned misrepresents the Indians. The stigma around dark skin is still rampant and messes up one’s emotional and psychological health. It creates low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, and self-hatred among individuals. Brown facing is another serious Bollywood racist practice. It reveals how Bollywood industries maintain the colorist position.

Colorism and Brown facing in the Indian film Industry

In movies like ‘Udta Punjab’ where the lead protagonist, Alia Bhatt, plays the farming girl, Bauria Ranveer Singh as Murad in Gully Boy, and Hrithik Roshan as Anand Kumar in Super 30, the lead cast protagonist is made to darken their skin color than their usual self; it stereotypes the dark skin being associated with poverty, low class, and low caste. Rather than casting dark-skinned actors and actresses for dark-skinned characters, Bollywood chooses light-skinned actors who are certainly not dark or poor. This is the most exemplary evidence showing how Bollywood favors light-skinned actors and how the Indian film industry deprives opportunities for dark-skinned actors and actresses who deserve their credit.

‘Brownface’ might be an exciting part of the industry, but such unnatural absurd looks let the regular Indians remind of darker skin being associated with disadvantageousness. It is a derogatory and offensive act that devalues other cultures.

Indian actor Nawazuddin Siddique also open up on the prevailing racist stereotypes within the industry. He talks about the challenges since the time he entered Bollywood and being rejected owing to his looks and skin color. It shows how Indian cinema promotes the stereotype of skin color rather than promoting the beauty of different shades of skin.

Casteism stereotypes in Indian cinema

In Indian cinema, stereotypes regarding casteism revolve around appearance and characteristics traits. For instance, in the blockbuster movie, Bahubali, all the Dalit characters, and villains (Kalakeyas) are dark-skinned and made to look shabby.

While Brahmins and Kshatriyas are presented as light-skinned, they are given lead hero roles. This depiction of low caste as dark and dirty shows how the movie makers still perpetuate the stereotype of dark-skinned as bad. In the movie, the Dalit people have been portrayed as parasites who depend on others, which paints the prevailing discriminatory attitudes towards the lower caste and class people.

Stereotypes of North East people in Indian Cinema

Many northeastern actors and actresses talk about how they have been subject to racism. It is still difficult for northeast actors to find a place in Bollywood. In the movie ‘Mary Kom,’ Bollywood’s finest actress Priyanka Chopra was cast as Mangte Mary Kom rather than someone from the same community.

This trend of color has reinforced the existing presumption that dark-skinned as bad, underprivileged, and socially and economically disadvantaged. It highlights how big industries like the Indian Film Industry reproduced the stereotypes and shows the discrimination faced by naturally dark-skinned actors in Indian society. North East people, when they come to the mainstream, have been facing racism with the names like ‘momo,’ ‘chingky,’ and others. Northeast people are also stereotyped as drug addicts and alcoholics.

Women in the Indian film industry

The Indian film industry, for many decades, has revealed stereotypical representations of women. Indian films successfully portray women as the ideal one when she is obedient and loyal to the family. It depicts how the male family members take authority over the other family members, particularly women and children, and overpower them through the idea of obedience to the family and the husband.

The Indian film portrays women as reckless, argumentized, and carefree when she does not ready to fit into the system. Fortunately, modern movies have started to judge and question the system, and now movies are made with the female actor in the lead role, representing modern women as bold, strong, and self-independent. However, still a long way to go.

Bollywood’s stereotypical representation of women

Bollywood has been famous for its masala items. Every Indian film has an item song, also known as an item number. From ‘Fevicol,’ ‘Chikni Chameeli,’ to ‘ Munni,’ women were made to dance in front of groups of male counterparts and presented as entertainment objects. The presented dirty lyrics, filthy clothes, and body moves objectify the women’s bodies, and it shows how Bollywood normalizes the objectification of women. In fact, these big media houses are using women as a marketing tool to sell more tickets. Such demeaning toward the female body is offensive and has a high social impact on society.

Indian cinema pressurized women

Indian cinema has never stopped being sexist. In Bollywood movies, the peak age for female actors is 18-30 age. The time is ticking for women. There is always a bar age for women actresses. The industry is still reluctant to hire an old actress to cast for a lead role.

When an elderly woman does a romancing scene with a younger actor is a piece of news while vice versa, and everyone falls in love with the duo. Additionally, the popular concept of hourglass measurement 36-26-36 figure for actresses acknowledges the representation of women in Indian society. This so-called ‘ideal image for women’ that depicts one body type as the perfect shape over other shapes is an absurd image. It devalues women of other shapes and sizes and leads to self-hatred towards themselves. Moreover, this throws women into the limelight to be used and judged.

Impact of cinema on Indian society

Cinemas play a vital role in influencing society. It reflects the values, beliefs, traditions, and ways of living of the specific culture for which the movie is made. People, especially the younger generation, look forward to actors and actresses from lifestyle to fashion. Whatever they are shown in the movies, people imitate the styles, and become a trending popular culture.

Indian cinemas have a profound impact on the mindset of the audiences. For instance, in Indian movies, the filmmakers successfully showcase the actors flaunting their chiseled abs, which became a hit trending among male youngsters. Bollywood’s leading actor, Salman khan, set the trend in six pack abs culture, and now youngsters are obsessed with the six-pack abs as the ideal physique for men.


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