The year we almost lost Tall (or Short or Medium-height), Dark and Handsome | entertainment | Hindustan Times
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The year we almost lost Tall (or Short or Medium-height), Dark and Handsome

As a teenager, my idea of being a naughty girl in school was reading Mills & Boon romances in class, writes Sushmita Bose.

entertainment Updated: Dec 29, 2007 23:07 IST
Sushmita Bose

Fair adj. Definition: pale or light-coloured, beautiful;
Antonyms: repulsive, ugly
(Answers.com)

As a teenager, my idea of being a naughty girl in school was reading Mills & Boon romances in class. For that, I had to hide them inside my big, fat Bengali grammar book. Two things struck me as I viewed the world through rose-tinted glasses (my disciplinarian parents wouldn’t dream of buying me contact lenses — “you’re too young to be so vain,” my mother would scold me).

One, the M&B heroines would invariably be virginal (earlier boyfriends would have only planted brotherly/fatherly/avuncular kisses on their cheek) and vulnerable (they would wilt like tainted daisies when The Hero grabbed them by the scruff of their neck and French kissed them violently).

Two — and more to the point — The Hero would invariably be “swarthy” or “tanned” or “olive-complexioned” or had skin colour resembling a fine shade of some kind of wood (either because he was a tough outdoors type or because he was so rich that he’d be yachting on the Aegean Sea with the Mediterranean sun beating mercilessly down on him).

The Perfect Hero was always Tall, Dark and Handsome. Not just in M&B world, I was told, but all over the world. Forever. Not Fairever.

Two years ago, that complexion changed. At least in India it did. Indian males, research revealed, were applying girlie fairness potions — in droves, but on the sly. There was a figure: 40 per cent of boyfriends/husbands of girlfriends/wives applying white magic solutions that came in little tubes were applying them too. As the poor sods were getting caught in flagrante delicto, the hawk-eyed Indian corporate machinery spotted a business opportunity.

For positioning, India Inc took the line that men’s fairness creams were constitutionally stronger than women’s. Simple. Think beer. Basically, if Fair & Lovely is lager, Fair & Handsome is Haywards 2000.

That was good enough to get the guys off the girlie stuff and on to their own brands. Fair & Handsome, Menz Active, Fair One Man and a male bleach called Saka. The sector came a whopper when Shah Rukh Khan decided to endorse Fair & Handsome sometime back. If two years ago, it was a sunrise sector, this year it climbed all the way to high noon. Sales were scorching: Rs 270 crore is the current estimate; and sales are growing at 150 per cent.

In purely civilisational tones, 2007 probably bridged the Indian gender gap a little. If girls are not fair (and therefore not lovely), they don’t get married; they don’t even get to be cricket commentators. They suffer. Terribly. Sob.

Now we hear, boys suffer too (from a lack of self-esteem) if they aren’t fair.That’s only fair, no?

(Only chocolate-faced boys — and girls — may email Sushmita at: sushmitabose@hindustantimes.com)