Bollywood Delusions: Race vs. Language

katrina kaif.jpg There’s a short article in Bollywood Mantra about the new Hindi film actress Katrina Kaif (pictured right), who has a small role in Sarkar and a starring role in Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya. She speaks Hindi with a heavy British accent, so professional ‘dub’ actresses fill in for her. Two other films of hers coming out will also have other women’s voices:

Katrina Kaif will have two releases in as many weeks and Akshay Kumar, who starts with her in Raj Kanwar’s Humko Deewana Kar Gaye, thinks she’s shaping up to be a “major heroine”. But Katrina’s relatively small walk-on part in Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar and her full-fledged part in David Dhawan’s Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya have one thing in common – she did not speak her own lines in both films. Reason? Apparently Katrina’s Hindi is a bit on the weaker side. In fact, Varma had originally decided to retain Katrina’s ultra-anglicised voice in keeping with her US-returned character in Sarkar. But the Hindi spoken by the actress was way too outlandish to pass off as a non-resident Indian accent. (link)

This raises a whole complex of issues, most of which point in one way or another at the weird neuroses that continue to haunt Bollywoood. But let me just make two points. 1. I’m generally sympathetic to the situation of Katrina Kaif. She was born and raised in England (indeed, her mother is British), so why shouldn’t she speak Hindi with an accent? Some of my Indian friends tend to be a bit intolerant of Hindi or Punjabi spoken with a bad American or British accent (i.e., by people like me). It doesn’t really bother me, but it is a double-standard: Indians speaking English with Indian accents want to be accepted and respected in the west, so why shouldn’t that tolerance work the other way around? Kaif did apparently lose some roles earlier because of her poor Hindi and her accent, including a part in Saaya (not that that’s a big loss).

If, by some bizarro accident I found myself in a Bollywood movie, I would also need that kind of help. So on this note I am somewhat sympathetic.

  1. But why is Katrina Kaif in Bollywood to begin with? Why is she getting parts? It’s not for her acting ability, which seems pretty minor, at least in Sarkar. I believe she and others are being brought in because they look white.

I don’t hold that against them, but I do question why it’s such a commodity in Bollywood. Here I swing slightly toward the side of the Bolly-skeptics. Generally, the complaint one hears is that the industry is hopelessly derivative of Hollywood in terms of storylines and filmic sensibility. In my post last week I disputed this — I think there has been a spurt of creativity and innocation in the past 5-10 years.

But in terms of its attitude to skin complexion and actors’ facial physiognomy, the recent wave of Anglo-looking actors and actresses suggests it’s a no-contest. Or perhaps I should say, it’s still a no-contest: Indian actors have always tended to be much lighter-skinned than ordinary Indians, and the projection of ‘western lifestyle’ has been a part of Indian movie mythology for at least 40 years. And it’s always been somewhat troubling to me — a sign of a lingering colonial mentality.

The difference now, in this era of hybridity-globalization, is that the simulacrum of whiteness is approaching perfection.

The oddity is that what is wanted is the physical appearance of whiteness mixed with a classy, sometimes English-inflected, but still authentic Hindi-speaking capability. I find that to be an interesting paradox. The need for good Hindi can be explained as an issue of effective communication with mass audiences, but it doesn’t make the paradox any less real.

To put it very directly: Why is physical difference from Indian norms acceptable (or even desirable), while significant linguistic difference is an impossibility?

97 thoughts on “Bollywood Delusions: Race vs. Language

  1. Some of my Indian friends tend to be a bit intolerant of Hindi or Punjabi spoken with a bad American or British accent

    That is one thing that vexes me when an Indian makes fun of my Punjabi accent because I cant pronounce certain words – and when they do I just laugh at their English stupidities and have a war against freshies as retaliation.

  2. A different question – why does the redubbing bother you?

    In an industry where actors don’t sing the music coming out of their mouths, and their lines are (probably?) redubbed for release in non-Hindi markets, why bother having any of the lines spoken by the actor at all?

    Why not separate the good looking actors and the good sounding actors and unite them for post-production only?

  3. “2. But why is Katrina Kaif in Bollywood to begin with? Why is she getting parts? It’s not for her acting ability, which seems pretty minor, at least in Sarkar. I believe she and others are being brought in because they look white.”

    I think the case of Shashi Kapoor’s kids is interesting. Kunal Kapoor and Sanjana Kapoor were not able to get a foothold in Hindi film industry because they were too white. Kunal with natural blond hair and Sanjana light brown hair.

    “and the projection of ‘western lifestyle’ has been a part of Indian movie mythology for at least 40 years. And it’s always been somewhat troubling to me — a sign of a lingering colonial mentality.”

    troubling to me too (and I am an fob). I absolutely hate those, which I call “wanna be” movies.

  4. As I said in response to Manish’s Shazia Deen post, I find this whole concept absolutely ridiculous. I can’t even be bothered to articulate it eloquently, I just think it’s lame. Getting an essentially foreign girl simply on their looks and having them dubbed is not only daft, it’s unnecessary. Lisa Ray and Katrina Kaif are the two I’m thinking about. No of course I don’t blame them for having lousy or absent Hindi, but why should Bollywood look to NRIs for a pretty face when there’s an abundance on their doorstep?

    Amardeep you reckon it’s because they look white. Maybe in Lisa Ray’s case, but not Katrina Kaif. To be honest, I really don’t find Kaif attractive. Yes Bollywood stars don’t look like typical Indians, I don’t find that a problem, everyone wants to see beautiful people in a movie. If one wants fair girls, you have that with Preity and the like.

    The thing that bothers me is as long as Bollywood dubs actors’ lines, it will never achieve the professionalism I want it to. I don’t agree Ennis, tongue-in-cheek though it might be, that there’s no difference in dubbing speech and singing. Western films dub singing as well – being able to act doesn’t mean you have to be able to sing. Part of the problem is that, as you pointed out Amardeep, most sound is dubbed on by foley artists and the actors in the post, so there’s no incentive for the director to use the actual actors’ voices when he can easily pay a fraction to some ugly aunty with flawless diction.

    On the other hand…with all these mixed race wooden actors with appalling Hindi…maybe I should try my luck in Bollywood.

  5. The receipe for Hindi movie casting is simple – you gotta be good looking and you goota atleast look Indian, and have some Indian connection.

    You can be good looking, but if you have no Indian connection then the masses dont embrace or relate to it.

    If good / ‘whiter’ looks appeal to the mass Indian poplulation, then whats wrong with it? Thats what turns them ON !

  6. As to the redubbing, anyone have any idea as to how many of these stars are actually getting their voices dubbed? I cant imagine that many! In katrina’s case, I guess shes just too lustfull to not have her on screen at any cost.

  7. I am sure you know what role English plays in India. One could safely say that English belongs to the Indians as much as to anyone else. And yes they speak it with an accent, but that is only if you are hearing it with “American” ears. (IÂ’ve noticed that occasionally on TV, especially on news reports, they do dub over some desi English accents. They tend not to do this with Australian or Scottish accents which can be equally difficult for American ears.)

    Anyway Hindi is not an American language. Our competence is nowhere near theirs – not even close. Most of us can’t read or write in a desi language. Let’s face it our Hindi (or other regional language) is “bad” compared to their English.

    I believe nearly 90% of Telugu movies have non-Telugu speaking actresses. They are all dubbed. I would venture to say that it is the same for Tamil movies. What seems like a minor oddity in Bollywood is the norm in other places.

    If Rekha, Hema Malini and Sri Devi could learn Hindi. I am not sure why the present lot cannot. And you donÂ’t even have to learn to speak it, just pronounce it. Because they donÂ’t have snyc-sound you end up dubbing yourself anyway, how hard could it be to repeat something.

  8. the whiteness was possibly more of a problem back in the day, nowadays you have bipasha basu, etc

  9. Vikrum Sequeira has related posts here and here.

    The flip side is that a lot of non-stereotypically desi-looking folks really resent being told they can’t possibly be desi: red-haired and freckled Kashmiris, blond sardars, Sindhis, Himachal Pradeshis, Konkanis, light-skinned Punjabis, Nepalis and so on.

  10. 1. She was born and raised in England, so why shouldn’t she speak Hindi with an accent? She can with impunity in her daily life but it’s not unreasonable to expect her to make an effort to speak semi-proper Hindi if she wants to be a bollywood star…

    2. But why is Katrina Kaif in Bollywood to begin with? Salman Khan baby! She already has “indian content” because of him. In any case, I wouldnt classify her as “white” looking. She’s light-skinned but many Indian women are…

    To vurdlife – when in the past was whiteness more of a problem than today? Bollywood actresses have always been a spectrum…

  11. “and the projection of ‘western lifestyle’ has been a part of Indian movie mythology for at least 40 years. And it’s always been somewhat troubling to me — a sign of a lingering colonial mentality.”

    Well, I think that’s probably because alot of Indians in the cities and suburbs there do live alot like westerners. They have AC, foriegn cars, go to nightclubs, etc. It’s not like Indians are not doing those things.

    On the other hand, India lives it it’s villages, and there you will find a more medieval type of setting and lifestyle. But that is a harsh reality and most Indians go to movies to escape their reality. They want fantasy. So for them, watching rich Indians globe trot on screen, well, that’s what they’re paying for – isn’t it.

    I don’t see the colonial connection at all.

    Plus, how many NRI’s would go to watch a film about the hardships of Indian rural life? Not many.

  12. Amardeep, you raise a pretty interesting paradox. I agree, the roots of the attitude are deeply colonial — a mirror image of Macaulay’s infamous Minute on Education:

    “We must do our best to form… a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”

  13. I’ll steer clear of making judgements on beauty – real and/or perceived. To me, the underlying thread in the discussion is that the portrayals in Hindi cinema are not representative of the Hindi-speaking world at large. I’ll broaden this. I used to wonder why Hindi cinema never used last names for the male or female stars. It always used to be Kumar, or Kumari or “Viki Saxena”. Anyway… recent movies have happily turned a corner. We see Shuklas, Agnihotris, Chopras, Srivastavas etc. A step in the right direction. It was also odd to never see keshdhaari Sikhs in leading roles in movies – even Punjabi movies for crying out loud -… but we’ve turned a corner with mainstream cinema showing leading men with turbans which brings me to… Sunny Deol, as big a ham as any. But he doesnt take himself too seruously and thankfully neither do some of his movies… a sign of maturity. I remember this popular movie in which he had a co-actor cast as “Darmyan” Singh. I may be off – but that was one of the more (really!) subtle presentations of gay men in a Hindi movie – and there was a fair bit of innuendo thrown in – earthy, but not cruel or demeaning IMO. Then in another movie – an actor commented about having a painful time sitting because of his previous employment with a Nawab. Our man chipped in with – “Oh-Ho! Nawab sahib shaukeen tabeeyat rakhtey they” – a cute line that wouldnt be out of place on Queer Eye. Anyway – I’ve digressed. All I wanted to say was that however bleak it looks, things will continue getting better. Pardon my typos – I was typing away. Also, apologies. I dont get to see Hindi movies too often – so my conclusions can be totally off.

  14. This is an issue that crops up every now and then, and now, thanks to all the attention being lavished on Bollywood in western media circles, it takes on a certain new-ness. While being “fair”/white has always been preferred for heroines (this just doesn’t hold up when you consider heroes), one needs to consider how distribution practices have changed over the last 10-15 years.

    A lot of the films that reach markets abroad are films that do not circulate outside urban India. And this issue gets even more muddled with the boom in multiplexes in cities in India. There are a number of films that are produced for the “B” cicruit (small towns, and some theaters in cities also) in which the heroines don’t look like Katrina Kaif. While the colour-issue still is pertinent there, body-types vary widely. So do one of 2 things: (a) broaden the range of what you include in Bollywood, or (b) take Bollywood for what it is: a specific mode of film production (incl narrative) that also involves actresses of Indian origin from the U.S./U.K./other countries. And if you accept (b), then you’re overstating what is perhaps another phase.

    And, we also need to recognize that Bollywood is ascribed inordinate importance when it comes to talking about “Indianness”. I can never say this enough: the regional film industries have their own economy of body-types and ideas about beauty, etc. Again, “fair” is good there, but there too, different circuits of distribution influence casting decisions.

  15. I think this not necessarily an “accent” issue. Foreign born speakers of a language usually don’t speak the language with an “accent,” they actually pronounce the phonemes incorrectly. This makes it more difficult and often intolerable for a native speaker to listen/understand.

  16. SMR, do you think bollywood has been representative of India in terms of actress skin color? I’ll direct you to, for instance, the late 70′s early 80s, the zeenat aman and jaya bhaduri days. Who’s the darkest mainstream actress you can find from that period?

    Can someone please direct us to pics of these blond desis I keep hearing about…?! I’m myself routinely told I don’t look desi but I’ve never seen a blond desi.

  17. “To put it very directly: Why is physical difference from Indian norms acceptable (or even desirable), while significant linguistic difference is an impossibility?”

    Methinks you should say Hindi rather than Indian. Almost all the Telugu movies that have come out in the last two years have a very un-telugu dubbing voice for the heroines, even when the actress herself is capable of speaking the language. It also seems to me that the dubbing is done by a person putting on the accent rather than speaking naturally, which makes it irritable after one movie and totally intolerable after another. Here’s an unintentionally funny story that bemoans the domination of Bombay Babes in the industry.

  18. you can google “Karan Kapoor” and you can see that he is blond. But he is ONLY half desi.

  19. –RC, I didn’t know that about Shashi Kapoor’s kids. I wonder if they would have the same problems today? I doubt it, somehow.

    –Aswin, good point. I’m willing to accept that this phenomenon might be temporary as well as local to Bollywood. It’s certainly not a universal thing by any means. This year we also had Vidya Balan, and even in Sarkar, Katrina Kaif’s character was pushed aside in favor of the more ethically and ethnically ‘Indian’ Tanisha (i.e., Kajol’s sister).

    –I think in the long-run it’s reasonable to expect (following SMR in comment #10) that actors in the Bollywood film industry learn them some Hindi, and use their own voices in their films. At the very least, it will probably make the acting seem more natural (synch sound would help even more, but that’s another issue).

    –Manish, thanks for those links to Vikrum Sequeira’s blog. I didn’t know about him before, and I’m impressed (the Barista post was also quite good).

    –I’m interested in the thing tef mentions, about the amount of dubbing going on in Telegu and Tamil films. I assume it’s because they’re using actors from the north — does it have to do with complexion as well? Are they largely using Punjabi/Sindhi/Kashmiri actors?

    –Interesting tidbit: according to the article I linked to at Bollywood Mantra, both Bipasha Basu and John Abraham used dubbing in their first films.

    I’m not sure why — Bipasha Basu was raised in Kolkata… I assume her accent was too Bengali? And John Abraham is a Bombay boy — mother a Parsi and father a Mallu Christian. Not sure how he managed to grow up in Bombay without learning at least enough Hindi to overdub himself in “Jism.”

  20. Thanks to Amardeep and Manish …. I read Vikram’s blog about Barista. It was amazing. Since I have never been to a “Barista” it was really illuminating. (Although I grew up in India, I came to US long before ‘Barista’ like entities existed) My personal experience was at an expensive hotel in India where my queries in Hindi were responded to in English. (quite pathetic actually)

    Such a shame that English speakers in India have this unfair advantage. I have always thought that India can NEVER realize her potential if the bias against non-English speakers continue.

  21. Amardeep,

    Complexion has a lot to do with it. But this has always been the case with Telugu films, but they were able to fill the need from within the state.

    But now mostly they are “bombay” girls with origins from all over North India. They also have a few actresses from other southern states, who also get dubbed.

    The language deficiency seem to encourage/force filmmakers to ‘reduce’ women’s roles. Strangely there was a telugu mini-genre of male-bashing feminist movies at one time and now the movies seem to be moving in the opposite direction

  22. We need to distinguish “whiteness” from “fairness”. Whiteness goes beyond (deeper than) race, or color because it also privileges the mental structures of some racially white groups over others.

    Fairness, otoh, is a preference seen in many asian societies, including some that were not deeply colonized by the West. As the theory goes, a fairer skin denotes wealth (&health) because you could afford to travel around in A/C cars or have ramu run to corner store, instead of you having to do it under the 110 degree sun.

    Sanjay

  23. “Plus, how many NRI’s would go to watch a film about the hardships of Indian rural life? Not many.”

    Uh, Lagaan?

  24. It’s well known that having an accent will get you infinitely better service at a Barista.

    The interesting bit is that a lot of the Gurgaon/Delhi Barista crowd are the call-center folks who exist in this limbo between the US/UK and India. These folks are pretty much coached to say “‘sup dude” on the phone to irate customers from the Midwest and they carry over their accents to the Baristas and the clubs across South Delhi. On my last trip to Delhi, I was shocked at the number of people speaking with pronounced American accents in the nightclubs and coffee-places. I tried chatting some of these people up (ok, so most of them were girls) and they all seemed to be fasicnated with going to New York /LA and working in the US and none of them had ever left the country!

    On a mild pedantic note, is it “a fob” or “an f.o.b.”? Not that it really matters because apparently fob is ghetto fabulous now.

  25. Fairness, otoh, is a preference seen in many asian societies, including some that were not deeply colonized by the West. As the theory goes, a fairer skin denotes wealth (&health) because you could afford to travel around in A/C cars or have ramu run to corner store, instead of you having to do it under the 110 degree sun.

    I have also noticed a similar ‘fairness preference’ amongst not just other Asians but also Hispanics and Africans . . . The Spanish channel seems to have actors/actresses who look fairer than the average Hispanic.

    Some people have suggested that this preference for fairness is a legacy of colonialism. However, was this attitude prevalent even before the British came to India, possibly endorsed by Aryan culture and caste-based society? It is likely that 200 years of colonialism strengthened this already existent discourse . . .

  26. re: fairness. i’ve commented on this before. here are some plausible points

    within a population:

    1) women are fairest post-puberty and pre-pregnancy.

    2) fairness also tends to correlate with low testosterone levels.

    3) in women, low testosterone tends to result in a high estrogen:testosterone ratio.

    4) this tends to result in smaller waist:hip ratio, but more importantly, likely has a fecundity correlation, more estrogen being proportional to greater likelihood of fertilization.

    the upshot is that there is an ultimate evolutionary reason to prefer “light skin” as compared to the population median for males in regards to females. women darken as they age, have children, and also the darker ones are more likely to be infertile (within a population, this subtly gets missed by many who read my comments on this issue). those who prefer light skin are maximizing their drive for young and fertile women. the opposite would be males who preferred, for example, older women whose complexion was darker due to several pregnancies and approaching menopause (when the estrogen level drops). obviously that would be maladaptive.

    a general sociological example could work like so….

    1) take some of the biases above as a base.

    2) add post-neolithic social stratification.

    3) the laborers work in the fields, they get dark relative to the cloistered elite.

    4) hypergamy is common, that is, women can marry up. lightness becomes associated with the elite because of environmental differences, but, genetically light-skinned lower class women can “pass” (and there might be a biased preference among elite males for lighter women because of the evolutionary factors above in any case).

    5) the passing of genetically lighter women amplifies the phenotypic difference between the elite and the peasantry, coupling the color association.

  27. I dont understand whats wrong with having a preference for lighter skinned women (or men). People have a preference for tall, short, thin, smooth skin and what not. Why is having a preference for a tall man benign while having a preference for light skin a suspect liking when both height and skin color cannot be changed (height more so than skin color) I prefer women who have light color hair and light colored eyes and I know a lot of men who prefer dark haired women with dark eyes. To each his own.

  28. Some of my Indian friends tend to be a bit intolerant of Hindi or Punjabi spoken with a bad American or British accent

    this seriously pisses me off, i usually take the jokes in stride about my poor pronunciation/accent (that is when I understand the slang jokes being thrown around against me) but the minute I call out someone’s fobby accent or mispronunciation, it’s an affront to humanity and grounds for never speaking to me again…what gives?

    I’m not as concerned w/ the fairness or lack thereof of hero/ine (s), I’m really more concerned about the fact that Bollywood literally cannot produce any creative material on its own anymore, that each and every actor/ress is virtually similar in body type/dress/looks and that all movies basically point to some story which has nothing to do about India or Indian life for the most part. Hindi movies should define their niche, right now it’s Hollywood East and it sucks. I used to watch hindi movies religiously when I was a kid but then it was just a decade of love story after love story followed by neverending shirt-removals and increasing sexual content for shock value purposes.

  29. “I dont understand whats wrong with having a preference for lighter skinned women (or men).”

    I am with AM on this. Really, every society has preferences and standards of beauty. Same way, one can argue that there is a “tanned skin” bias in Hollywood. How most Hollywood leading female actors (actresses) have taned skin. Someone with a trur pale skin with a lot of frackles is not considered desirable. What about that bias??

    And those “intellectuals” who are so worried about “fair and lovely” cream should know that an American woman uses several times more cosmetics than a regular Indian woman. So if there is no “bias” here in the west than WTF these women are putting creams and lotions for??

  30. I dont understand whats wrong with having a preference for lighter skinned women (or men).

    i tend to agree with you. the only caveat i would add is that i think it is important to focus on the skin color preference in indian society because i’m fucking tired of FOB and overseas browns telling me how racist the west is. hey, at least our brown actresses are 1 standard deviation within the color tone of the normal brown person (even “dark” actresses like bipasha basu seem on the border of 1 std).

  31. I really don’t think Amardeep intended for this to kick off a debate about fairness (maybe he did, just guessing!) as that’s one we’ve all heard before.

    I just wanted to debunk razib’s theory, sorry mate! Fairness doesn’t tend to correlate with low testosterone (derived from cholesterol), a lack of hair correlates with low testosterone. Skin colour is due to melanin, which is produced by melanocytes.

    The sex hormones (testosterone, luteinising hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone) determine waist:hip ratio and fertility and have no action on melanocytes. Darker-skinned races are more fertile than lighter worldwide. Within a population, skin colour has no bearing on fertility.

    Your second theory, I feel, is the correct one – dark represents manual worker in the field, porcelain skin represents high class lady eating bread and honey in the parlour. What what.

  32. I just wanted to debunk razib’s theory, sorry mate! Fairness doesn’t tend to correlate with low testosterone (derived from cholesterol), a lack of hair correlates with low testosterone. Skin colour is due to melanin, which is produced by melanocytes.

    bong, i said within a population for a reason. if the genetic background in the same, for example, among african populations where MC1R (the main regulatory gene of melanin production) then the factors which buffer gene expression to the phenotype are important. in other words, that is the reason that within populations males are 10% darker in reflectance measures than females. same genes, different color, because the expression is modulated. in fact, skin color is a polygenic trait anyway, so you don’t need to focus on modulation of one gene. the modulation is also why women darken as they age, especially after menopause.

    now, variation in skin color between populations is due to genetic differences (correcting for environment), but, i made it a point several times to emphasize i was looking at within population variance. of course, in a place like the USA the genetic background is varied because of the admixture of populations from very different regions. but this isn’t the evolutionarily standard state.

    so you missed the point i tried to make several times.

  33. this seriously pisses me off, i usually take the jokes in stride about my poor pronunciation/accent (that is when I understand the slang jokes being thrown around against me) but the minute I call out someone’s fobby accent or mispronunciation, it’s an affront to humanity and grounds for never speaking to me again…what gives?

    oh wow, you’re hitting a nerve with me, Lovin. I wish I had an answer for this. I too have been repeatedly frustrated by certain people who continue to laugh and make fun and tease me for my slow, carefully (incorrectly at times) pronounced Hindi. They say “hahaha I couldn’t even understand your hindi because your accent is so bad!”

    (well I can read hindi and your kids can’t, so eat somma dat!)

    but yeah, it’s not so hahaha if you point out that their FOBby english isn’t anywhere near great, even though they’ve spent 30 years in the US and I’ve only spent 2 years casually trying to learn Hindi. Instead of helping out and being a good tutor or something, I guess it’s easier to criticize and laugh at someone trying a new language and taking the time and energy to learn…

  34. from page 57 of survival of the prettiest (you can do an amazon search if you want):

    At puberty…Boy’s voices deep, their skin darkens…A girl’s skin lightens

    the genes don’t change, development does. development is buffered by various genetic factors, not just the genes which directly control the synthesis of melanocytes.

  35. I really don’t think Amardeep intended for this to kick off a debate about fairness (maybe he did, just guessing!) as that’s one we’ve all heard before.

    Bongbreaker, You’re right, here I was interested more in language issues– Hindi as a barrier vs. English as a barrier.

    But it’s all good (well, mostly — this discussion has skewed male a bit and bordered on sexism at times, unfortunately). And I must admit that I’m the one that brought it up with my framing of the paradox; the fairness issue does overlap with the language issue.

  36. Regulation of the human melanocortin 1 receptor expression in epidermal melanocytes by paracrine and endocrine factors and by ultraviolet radiation:

    We conclude that the MC1R is regulated by paracrine factors, including its own ligands, by specific endocrine sex hormones, and by UVR. Differences in the responses of NHM to some of these factors suggest differential regulation of MC1R gene expression, which may contribute to the variation in constitutive and UV-induced cutaneous pigmentation in humans.

  37. razib

    For some reason, I could not stop laughing when I read your last post and clicked on the link – you are just so supafly in your science.

    You win todays Gold Star for best post of the day!

  38. oh wow, you’re hitting a nerve with me, Lovin. I wish I had an answer for this. I too have been repeatedly frustrated by certain people who continue to laugh and make fun and tease me for my slow, carefully (incorrectly at times) pronounced Hindi. They say “hahaha I couldn’t even understand your hindi because your accent is so bad!”

    i usually try not to get upset about ppl’s cracks on my accent/pronunciation, it comes w/ the territory, but the funny part was when I told my cousins in India (who usually do most of the ribbing) to come over the pond to the states and see how they’d get undressed in a second for their accents they stop laughing and are like “what? why would you do that to other Indians?”…i guess in some way,shape or form, those of us ABCDs (or derivatives thereof) don’t technically count as Indian… I’ve known indians born and raised in Dubai who claim they’re more indian bcuz they ‘go there all the time’…wtf?

  39. I am 4th generation South African Desi. Want to know when everyone stopped speaking the Indian languages completely? Most desi people think they have a hard time cos they were born here and arent Indian enough. I think its hilarious! You should meet the desis (sp?) in the rest of the world. Listen for most of us who have existed outside of India for decades, we are just happy to know where in India we originated from! BTW, 90% of the people I know who are multi generation global indians dont know where from India they originated…

  40. Anglo-looking actors and actresses

    They look more middle-eastern (i.e. Iranian or Syrian) than Anglo to me.

    The linguistically normal, yet physically abnormal representation of Indians in Bollywood is strange.

    Then again so is the physically normal yet linguistically challenged representation of Indian-Americans in Hollywood.

    I blame Vestern influences.

  41. Razib, genetics fascinates me, though I’m not much of a “scientist”.

    Are you a geneticist?

    Where does this “eugenics” thing come into play in genetic research?

  42. Are you a geneticist?

    Where does this “eugenics” thing come into play in genetic research?

    my training is as a biochemist. i am currently involved in a project that does involve genetics, and it is a deep interest.

    as for eugenics, well, you are seeing it right now. only prolife people have babies with down syndrome now, as there are tests to check for abnormalities and most mothers opt to abort. of course, this issue is not heritable down the generations (more due to age and degradation of the eggs), but there are other tests and “precautions” that people are taking which are altering gene frequencies.

    evolution never stops ;) if you are curious, check out my weblog, gene expression. we talk about genetics a lot.

  43. Razib, I sincerely didn’t mean to get your goat nor try to make you look foolish. I apologise as you seem to have gone to some lengths to back yourself up. I’m quite willing to accept I’m wrong, I’m no expert and I can’t be bothered to google at this juncture. However I did get your point, hence the reason I put the exact phrase ‘within a population’ in my post.

    I did a research project on proopiomelanocortin (POMC), the precursor to ACTH, melanocortin and lots of other things. I freely admit I’ve forgotten most of it. In pregnancy, or Addison’s (excess ACTH) the skin darkens due to the effect of ACTH, not MSH (melanocyte-stimulating hormone), as is It acts as an analogue. MSH and ACTH are both derived from POMC – they’re two of the melanocortins. The members of the melanocortin family have varied actions – only alpha-MSH has a major role in pigmentation. ACTH’s primary function is at the adrenals, including up-regulating testosterone. So whilst the actions of testosterone are tied to that of MSH, I don’t believe testosterone has any direct effect on melanocytes. Or maybe it does. The Medline article you cited doesn’t specify what sex hormones they’re talking about in the abstract. Your book (written by a psychologist) is probably right.

    Nice blog though.

  44. Just to bring in a different perspective: Michelle Yeoh can’t speak proper Mandarin to save her life. But one of her most famous movies was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is in Mandarin. Born in Malaysia, her first languages are Malay and English, and her Chinese is Cantonese. Someone–sometimes even Ang Lee himself– would have to write out the day’s shooting script in pinyin (phonetic Chinese) and help her pronounce it. She would spend hours memorizing lines phonetically, and when Ang Lee would change the script during shooting she would have minor nervous breakdowns. This in a physically demanding role and after a broken knee. I’m told that her accent was audible and distracting even to American-raised Chinese who are non-Mandarin dialect speakers themselves. Knowing all this, Ang Lee–who had plenty of fx tech available to him–still used her voice, with sync sound. And I’ve never heard someone complain about her accent vehemently enough to suggest he should have dubbed her; they still wanted Michelle Yeoh to do the acting. I think this speaks to the extent to which most directors take sound and voice incredibly seriously. There’s a great making-of on the Harold and Kumar DVD mocking this seriousness, but it can be mocked to good effect precisely b/c it’s real and important. Now, Ang Lee might not have taken so much trouble with a lesser actress, or for a lesser film, but all things being equal, it was obviously important to him. And she worked really hard to fit in with that priority. Ever watch the making-of portions of the latest Chinese exports? The sense of artistic discipline and drive you get from the actors is amazing. Takeshi Kaneshiro works in three languages (Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin), and read up on archaic Tang Era expression. so he could inflect his Mandarin properly.

    Now that’s a very different market structure from Bollywood, and a very different class of films. It requires a lot of time and effort, a real market for that kind of quality, and a good script that is solidified long before shooting to base your preparations around. It’s absolutely unfair to compare Sarkar to House of Flying Daggers, for instance. But even the highest production value, lovingly scripted films like Devdas and Lagaan often seem to lack that final buff of perfectionist polish. A good counterexample: it’s really inspiring to watch Monsoon Wedding and hear the director’s commentary; which lines were spoken in Hindi, English, or Punjabi was all carefully thought about.

    Western actors do this kind of thing to a lesser extent but very frequently. Nicole Kidman has a really thick Aussie accent, but she also has a dialog coach for all her films. If you read Christopher Reeve’s first memoir, he talks about the accent books they have at Julliard, and how hard he worked just to master a Southern Accent for The Bostonions. Charlize Theron would spend hours listening to American audio, carefully repeating, to erase her Afrikaans accent. Adrien Brody hung out with Polish relatives for The Pianist. Benicio Del Toro has an American kid accent, but put together a thick Baja brogue for Traffic. We all know about Meryl Streep.

    I can’t believe there aren’t any beautiful, even Anglo, desi-2nd generation actresses who speak good Hindi. Maybe someone just knows her and wants to help her out, b/c we all know how hard it is for desi Actresses to get traction in the west. Wouldn’t Kaif have a hard time getting roles even in the UK? And if Bollywood has such a strong relationship with its expats and their descendants, why no roles for what Kaif is—a second generation Indian-Brit trying to make her fortune back in India? The real proboelm is a paucity of scripting vision in the end, here, there, everywhere.