Published on July 24th, 2012 | by Prasanna8
It is hard to miss, or ignore, the demand for imported female leads in Indian Cinema – I use the word “lead” very loosely. These are generally giggly, two dimensional roles propped up by exotic locales and erotic lingerie. We now have an entire generation of actresses who can’t speak a word of the language they’re filming in, and look like they’re from a thousand miles away, because they are! Surely this has social consequences. Sure – Vyjayanthimala, Jamuna, Hema, Sri and Jaya made a few waves up North, but that pales in comparison to the invasion of the South by the dubbing divas. Just like lip carpeting, this phenomenon seems to follow a sliding scale – non-native/foreign imports exist in Bollywood, but they’re much thicker on the ground in the South. Katrina Kaif of ZNMD fame is one example from Bollywood. Her initial public offerings were standard caucasian features, cheesecake and a blissful ignorance of all Indian languages. Late blooming dancing talent, as exhibited in a couple of kickass item numbers, seems to have redeemed her presence as a dancer – a latter-day Helen, maybe.
But why this import frenzy? For those who claim that Tamanna, Simran, Jyothika, Illyana, Genelia, Sneha, Reema, Hansika or Shriya get jobs in the South because they are more talented or that they charge less, (though still requiring a language overdub) – I can guarantee that there are just as many talented African actresses who would charge less and do more, but would never get hired. No sir, the imports need to look Caucasian. I feel for the likes of Trisha, Asin and Nayantara – having to protect their turf against this tide. In an ironic escalation, fair skinned Indian girls are now facing competition from flesh and blood Whites! Witness the Maryam Zakarias, Erina Andrianas, Gabriela Bertantes and Nargis Fahkris. What is going on here, is the local talent pool so shallow?
No. It is not that the local talent is found wanting. It is just a bunch of businessmen preying on the skin-tone complex we all have, South Indians to a greater extent. In the West, Barbie now comes in several colours because of the (late) realisation that the self image of non-caucasian girls takes a beating when they idolise a white doll. Do you doubt that similar pernicious pressures are bearing down on the lives of young girls in the South, indeed all over the country? If there is merit in being a locavore in food, there may also merit in being a locavore in film.
By the way, my list of dubbing divas is missing an important name. I saved her for last – the grand mummy of them all, Khushboo. Khushboo’s hotness came mainly from her foreign fairness. And from persistent sexualised depictions that brainwashed the audience into associating desirability with fairness. The fine folks who peddle fairness creams found in her their killer app. Fairness started getting weaponized; If you could buy desirability from a bottle, wouldn’t you?
Ponds Fair & Lovely had languished since its launch in 1978. Khushboo’s Southern debut in a 1986 Telugu movie, and the eventual growth of her franchise, made its sales take off, until in 1988 the brand was able to go international. Today, Fair and Lovely has a majority stake in the market, most of it being in South India. The number of cosmetics majors selling fairness products keeps increasing – Garnier, Vaseline, Loreal, J&J – symbiotically keeping pace with the influx of fair skinned girls into the ‘woods. King Khan (*King being a contraction of his first name, King-Face, and not a rubric) crossed the sex divide when he headlined Fair and Handsome for Men – sadly, the vehicle was a manipulative campaign showing a man’s fortunes go from “dark” to “fair”, ostensibly because of the fairness cream!
We should ask this of ourselves and our movies – is there only one lovely, is that fair?