Actor-director Nandita Das says there is a need to put the ‘unity in diversity’ line to practice but such is the level of discrimination that fair is considered lovely in a country where 90 per cent of the population has dark skin.
Das says she was fortunate that her parents did not put any complex about her skin colour but she encountered such biases in the film industry.
“Everybody faces that discrimination, everyone who is dark has, especially in this industry. Like if I do the role of a slum dweller, a rural character, a Malayalai or Bengali film, then it is fine. But the minute you do the role of affluent, educated women they would say, you need to lighten your skin,” Das told PTI.
“We don’t need to be defining ourselves with the colour of our skin, there is lot more to all of us and we need to explore that.”
The actor, who has been associated with the campaign ‘Dark is Beautiful’, says she fails to understand the divide prevailing in society be it for skin colour or religion, especially in a country like India, which is so diverse.
“India does have a lot of shades and we are not celebrating it. We have been hearing ‘there is unity in diversity’ but we are not practising it. There is so much diversity in terms of religion, skin colour, languages, sexual preference, we are always creating a sense of them and us. I think it is time we celebrate our diversity.”
Das says discrimination on the basis of skin colour is the most absurd. “Skin colour is the bare minimum. Why would you want to discriminate? A lot of young women come up to me and say that this campaign has validated the way they feel about themselves.
“It is a campaign started in 2013 by a Chennai based organisation called ‘Women of Worth’. There are so many issues women are fighting, I did not think (the issue of) skin colour needs stand alone attention. (But) so many people lose their confidence, their self-esteem because of skin colour.”
Popular culture helps perpetuates these myths, says Das pointing out at the images in cinema, hoardings and magazines where models with lighter skin colour are given prominence.
“So, in a country where 90 per cent of people are of dark-skin colour are made to feel that we are not good enough,” she says.
The actor says it has been a decade since they launched the campaign and they now want to reinvent it.
“We need to stop calling ‘dark is beautiful’ as we women don’t need to be burdened by looking beautiful all the time. We just want to say, whatever maybe your colour, be comfortable. And let’s celebrate our diversity,” she says.