Fair & Obsessed – Freaky Fridays – Weekly Blog

“Hi Handsome.. hi handsome.. hi handsome..” Do you recall this ad? Endorsed by Shah Rukh Khan, the ad shows a dark-skinned person not able to woo girls. SRK offers the guy a “Fair & Handsome” cream and in typical Bollywood style, the boy becomes fair in 7 days and has four girls “revolving” around him. That’s THE mantra to woo girls, if you are a not-so-fair guy that is. It shows a very typical Indian belief that if you have to win in life, you need to be “fair” in complexion. The ad is as much an insult to the female community as it is to the male. I will talk about the males first. Being handsome is equated to being fair. Neither brain nor brawn is required. Only color. As per the ad, that’s how a male thinks and we have the great SRK endorsing it. Nothing else matters in life. Equally insulting is the fact that the females falling head over heels with this approach and going ga-ga over the guy. So, in essence, “ Fair and Handsome” and the parent company Emami think that Indian males and females are a bunch of morons, flawed in their thinking that fairness equals handsomeness.

If “Hi Handsome” was all about the alpha male, then the female version gets even worse. There’s a stupid “Fair and Lovely” ad which shows a girl being rejected in acting auditions. Then she applies “Fair & Lovely” and says “Eureka”. She becomes a top actress with her photo on billboards. Unbelievable to think of such derisive marketing campaigns, isn’t it? But wait. There’s no point in blaming the campaign creators. The fact is that Fair & Lovely is a 2000+ crore brand in India. The fairness appeal cuts across regions and cultures in India. A cruder interpretation of the same is “ we are a bunch of fairness obsessed Indians.” The Indian fairness cream market is estimated to be upwards of 500 million $.

The problem does not limit itself to the youth. When I had signed up for a matrimonial ad in a newspaper, I was shown a few marriage ad templates. “ A tall and handsome Iyer boy is looking for a fair, slim and beautiful Iyer girl”. The Sunday matrimonial section of the newspapers had such ads all over. I was told by the experts that if I don’t comply with the same template, the opposite party may think I am not “fair” and I might not get “good” profiles. I must confess I went ahead with the standard template, party because of the fear that the experts’ words may come true.

It all starts with our mythology. In all the mythological movies, the Gods are fair and the Rakshasas are dark, fat and grumpy looking. Barring Ravana, have we ever seen a fair looking demon/villain? Kids growing up will obviously equate dark colour to evil. In teen-age, “Hi Handsome” takes over. The game ends by the time a matrimonial ad is released. Amidst all this, you have silly superhero movie titles like “Black Panther”. Why use the word “black”? Was there a white panther movie? \

The only plausible explanation I can think of for our society’s obsession with fairness is because of the British and American influence.  The Western society is a superior race, probably due to their fairness and hence we need to look fairer. The sad part is all of us using the fairness creams are educated enough to know that fairness and superiority have zero correlation. Otherwise Viv Richards, Muhammed Ali and Michael Jordan would be nobodies. The irony is that the folks from the Western world think that a pale white skin is unhealthy and wanting for healthy food/drink.

The young brigade is not the only one obsessed with fairness. When our child was born a few months ago, a lot of “well-wishers”( so called elderly relatives, colony residents) have asked us “Colour aaya hai kya?” “ Is the baby fair?”. I wanted to reply “Hey guys – I have a paint box with me – Asian Paints Apex Ultima White. Will paint her white. You can also take some with you”. A friend of mine tells me that people would not come to see her elder sister during childhood as she was dark. I wish all these people were sent to Guantanamo Bay and tortured there.

Despite being a no-brainer, we will never stop our obsession with fairness I guess. If this happens, we will be a fairer society not by complexion, but by action.

Until then, let’s address each other as…

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“Hi handsome.. hi handsome ..hi handsome”

Jai Hind