“They wanted someone who’s not brown”: Actress Priyanka Chopra opens up on colourism in Bollywood

The actress stated that she lost a film in her earlier career days because she was not fair.

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There have been different actresses and actors who have come forward and spoke on how they were treated differently because of the way they looked. Miss World and famous Hollywood, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra also talked about colourism in Bollywood. The actress stated that she lost a film in her earlier career days because she was not fair. She said, “I was out for a movie, and somebody called one of my agents and said, ‘She’s the wrong ‘physicality’…And then my agent broke it down for me. Like, ‘I think, Priy, they meant that they wanted someone who’s not brown.’ It affected me.”

What is colourism?

Colourism has become deep-seated in the Indian Society and it has penetrated the Bollywood film industry largely, as a result if which, most of the Bollywood business, is based on the appearance factor rather than acting and performance skills of the actor. Casting decisions that are taken by the Casting Directors of various movies and web-series have been really affected by this phenomenon.  This phenomenon can be portrayed as discrimination based on skin colour, and hereby, preferring lighter skin tones over darker ones.


How Bollywood has become biased due to Colourism?

Over the years, Bollywood has set certain glamour and beauty standards. Consequently, actors with fair skin tone are often preferred for leading roles in movies, popular brand endorsements, brand-ambassadorships, and magazine cover shoots. Fair-skinned people are being considered superior to darker-skinned individuals, due to which all of the career boosting opportunities are somehow bagged by the former, while the latter are downgraded to supporting roles.

Traditionally, Bollywood has celebrated fair-skinned heroines as the essence of beauty and this has made dark-skinned women feel a sense of inferiority, making them question their worth as the society continued to admire the milky-white complexion. Thanks to the thinking of the Indian Society, Bollywood has managed to glorify these harmful stereotypes.


The launch of skin-lightening products in India: -

The introduction of skin-lightening products in India made every brown-skinned woman long for a fair and milky-white complexion. This also increased a sense of insecurity in own skin. Advertisements for these products portray darker-skinned individuals as unhappy or unsuccessful and further show that having fairer skin tone leads to achieving happiness and success.


What is the impact of colourism beyond the film industry?

The impact of colourism extends beyond the film industry, deeply influencing the Indian Society.  It has profoundly undermined the self-esteem and mental well-being of the individuals who have been born with a darker complexion. Bias based on skin colour is interfering with a person’s ability to succeed as colourism has reached workplaces also. Even in matrimonial advertisements, seeking a fair bride/groom has become prevalent. This perseveres inequality.


What should be done?

Casting directors, filmmakers and the various stakeholders involved in the film industry must diligently work to demolish the firmly rooted biases that extend colourism. A more inclusive film industry must be formed to promote an equitable society.

Initiatives that aim at promoting self-acceptance should be launched which will benefit not only the movie industry but also the wider society.

Bollywood can play a pivotal role in reshaping perceptions of the society.