Saumya Tandon: In auditions abroad for projects, I was told ‘Indian girls aren’t supposed to be fair’, and was rejected
The debate around discrimination on the basis of colour has been revived again, after two multinational companies announced their decision to drop the use of words such as ‘fair’ and ‘whitening’ from their beauty products. Actor Saumya Tandon is ecstatic at the decision.
“You can call someone fair or not fair, that is fine. People calling me ‘fair’ is not an abuse, neither am I apologetic about it. I just want to say every colour is beautiful. But unfortunately, in our society, the conditioning is such that they associate the word ‘lovely’ with fair. That means, they feel only girls who are fair, are lovely, which is not the right notion,” she tells us.
Though she welcomes the decision, she also reveals that discrimination is not just limited to having a skin tone other than fair. Tandon tells us her personal experience of facing a bias due to her fair complexion.+ +
“I lost out on a lot of work because they said ‘she is too fair’, because they perceive an Indian girl to not be that, she should be ‘brown’. A lot of auditions I give abroad, they say ‘oh you are fair, Indian girls are not supposed to be that’. I said it’s so stereotypical. The world outside perceives the Indian girl to be brown. No wonder why, 99 percent of actors of Indian origin, working abroad as Indians, are shown to be brown. They will not accept any other colour. I have been rejected being told ‘you are not brown, so you will not be cast as an Indian,” the actor narrates.
Tandon further says that she would tell the casting directors there that in her country, people of all complexions are there. In fact, recently there was an international film, which she lost out on. She tells us some other girl, who was not fair, got it instead.
“Photographers take dark models because somehow they feel they are more exotic, or they are going to be better for a saree or Indian jewellery ad, they want that ‘Indian-ness’, which in their head is brown. It is not fair for girls like us. What about girls from Kashmir, Punjab, they are fair, don’t you call them Indian?,” she questions the stereotyping.+ +
On her comedy show Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain, Tandon is frequently called ‘gori mem’ (fair lady). Does she feel that too, at some point, is classifying her on the basis of colour? She says it doesn’t.
“I don’t find it as an abuse, as long as they are not saying we will prefer you because you are gori. It’s taking it too far. If anyone is tall, we will call them tall na? Main gori hoon, gori bolenge, gaali nahi hai. This is how God made me Again, as long as you are not saying ‘you are fair, so you are the best’. That is wrong. A lot of other comedy shows make fun of people who are dark or fair. Actually that is also fine, as long as they are not doing it in bad taste,” Tandon says.
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