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. Interesting point. I watch a lot of Chinese and Japanese cinema. Whilst comparing Indian cinema to Japan is a bit unfair in some respects, I think comparing it to China’s film industry is fair game. And in my opinion, Chinese films are superior to Indian, for the exact reasons you mentioned Saheli. Although, Michelle Yeoh was a huge star before CTHD, so dubbing her would have never been on the cards even if they did all that.

    I find the idea of a Bollywood director painstakingly waiting upon a star to master the subtle nuances of the accent or dialect they’re supposed to be portraying laughable. Perhaps there are some. The stars are no better, out of the current generation of actors and actresses, the only one I can think of who has not played the same character in every movie is Aamir Khan.

    The vast majority of Indian films, leave aside just Bollywood, are vapid and superficial – the paucity is not simply in scripting Saheli, it’s far wider reaching than that.

  2. The casting of actors has been no different than the reason why hindi movies are so succesful in the first place. A hindi movie, as i try to explain to non-desi’s are fantastical and overly melodramatic because no one wants to see realism in their movies. A movie on poverty is not so successful, because a lot of times the mass public has a first hand experience of the poverty. They dont need to go to a movie to be reminded of the same. Its the same with the actors. They need actors that are ‘flashy’ looking and of a lighter hue…because no one wants to go to a movie and see people that might resemble themselves. If in the West movies are supposed to take you far away, in India, movies are supposed to take viewers to another planet.

    p.s. is the site gonna be better-ly compatible with firefox. the comment section is broke!

  3. p.s. is the site gonna be better-ly compatible with firefox. the comment section is broke!

    Broken how? I just left this comment using Firefox. Please use the contact form at the top right of the home page.

  4. Its the same with the actors. They need actors that are ‘flashy’ looking and of a lighter hue…because no one wants to go to a movie and see people that might resemble themselves.

    At the same time, Ritesh, bollywood movies present a dreamworld don’t they? A sort of perfect lifestyle that people wish they had. So doesn’t skin colour become one of those marks of perfection?

    I saw Sarkar on the weekend, first bollywood movie i’ve seen in the theaters. It was much better than I had expected, although the katrina kaif girl was pretty bad

    The only main actors who looked like they wouldnt look out of place on an indian street were the bad guys, minus the swami (maybe?), that’s telling isn’t it?

    and the one tamil guy was sort of a jackass, what was that line? “style from south…”, that was lame.

  5. known indians born and raised in Dubai who claim they’re more indian bcuz they ‘go there all the time’…wtf?

    Dubai or Gulf born Indians live like they would have lived in India for the most part. They go to school with all Indians, hang out with Indians and all their parents friends are Indians. They speak Hindi with no accent and speak English with an Indian accent. They have Indian passports and virtually no rights in the Gulf. They have almost no social interaction with the local Arabs and very few speak any Arabic. I am not surprised that they consider themselves more ‘Indian’ than ABCDs. I wonder if its even possible for them to be more Indian ?

  6. I wonder if its even possible for them to be more Indian ?

    Seriously, dude. That’s like saying State Department or Army brats aren’t really American just b/c they spent most of their lives living on bases/in embassies. Not to mentin all manner of other American expat kids.

    It would be great to have a day of Sepia without The Great Label Debates.

  7. Sometimes ago, on sepia mutiny I had myself raised the comparison with Chinese film industry. They have recently(in last 5-10 years) reached new heights (with some help from hollywood and Chinese diaspora but not entirely) even though their film industry had languished for years and still faces a lot of hurdles. I am not even comparing with Japanese film industry.

    Indian film is lot older (and had always environment to grow) but it seems (barring few exceptions) is going in other direction in terms of creativity. As regards skin color, we always are fixated about lighter skin. The Gandhi-Nehru family is fairer than 99% of Indians and even Martin Luther King noticed this when he visited India.


    PS: I am a fan of Ms. Rai’s grace and beauty but the latest Devdas is no comparison to Dilip Kumar/ Bimal Roy’s version. It lacked empathy.

  8. In response to Al Mujahid and Lovin, Im a fresh of the boat indian (sort of. been in IN, GA and NJ for the past 6 years, so i feel safe with my mullet), and have noticed a key difference between Indians born in the US, UK and Aus., and the ones born and living in other indian populated regions (Hong Kong, Dubai, and other middle east parts). The difference is that the ‘other’ indians dont seem to care about who they are as much as the ‘westerners’ seem to. It seems like being Indian in the West is more taboo. It could also be that in the middle east, Indians fit into the crowd more easily. Im not sure why this is, but there is always a conflict within most ABCD’s about their identity. My friends from Dubai dont get bogged down by their identity as much as the westerners do. Plus, there is a consistent attempt by ABCD’s to be different. They will go to extreme measures to not be confused as the skinny, tight jeaned, fake t-shirt indian. In any case, if you guys think you have it bad, i am a DCBA. A ‘Desi confused by America’. But i dont have an identity crisis about it.

    ps. admin, i again couldnt preview or post with firefox. The buttons once pressed wouldnt do anything besides flicker the page.

  9. Plus, there is a consistent attempt by ABCD’s to be different. They will go to extreme measures to not be confused as the skinny, tight jeaned, fake t-shirt indian.

    could you explain this please? I’m not sure how abcd’s take extreme measures.

    By the same token, i see many fobs (not trying to be mean, just saying the term) who constantly criticize how things are over here in the US, how they don’t want their kids to grow up here, and particularly how sensitive they are to other ppl’s views of them. It’s not just the ABCDs that need to come around.

  10. Why is physical difference from Indian norms acceptable (or even desirable), while significant linguistic difference is an impossibility?

    This is a really good question! Here are my attempts at some answers:

    1) The producers think the consumers of these products they’re thinking of prefer this, for whatever reason, (which I assume are desi even though the films are watched worldwide by nondesis). 2) Fairness and Hindi-centrism are both values held by the current Indian elite since independence. 3) The increase in power of the Indian state and the Indian elite and Bollywood are being reflected in some linguistic chauvinism. 4) They’ve seen any of Andy McDowell’s movies and are worried about what poor delivery of lines can do to an audience.

    I’m not sure why — Bipasha Basu was raised in Kolkata… I assume her accent was too Bengali?

    I’ve never heard her speak and don’t speak Hindi myself, but I’ve been told Bangalis are notoriously bad at Hindi. Interesting note: Bangla and English, are, to my knowledge, the only two Indo-European languages without gender.

    this discussion has skewed male a bit and bordered on sexism at times, unfortunately).


  11. I like what Manish pointed out about non stereotypically looking Indians- Considering how kids in my school ( yes Indian kids) wouldnt believe that I was Indian ( I looked more oriental, and East Indian didnt work coz of lighter skin). On a side note, it does make for interesting incidents as orientals approach me and start off in their languages ( trying to be friendly) and then after 5 mins of one-sided conversation ( that I didnt follow), they realise something is wrong and ask : Are you not filipino/Japanese/Korean?

  12. With regards to discussion on Indians from places like dubai, hong kong etc. I lived in the Gulf for a very long time and as Mujahid (?) pointed out, we do not feel the need to ‘fit’ in.Infact, unless you think about it, you don’t realise you are not in India- which may sound ridiculous but it strikes you when people in India ask ‘so did you miss India’ and you think’no’ not just because (for some) you dont care to be in India, but coz really you had everything Indian around you anyway so you don’t miss the country as much. I do however think a big reason for this is that places like dubai have a huge Indian population as compared to the locals, whereas in the west ,while Indians do form a sizable population, the ratio of Indians to Non-Indians/non south asian is significantly lower.

    Lovin and someone else pointed out their annoyance when their accents were picked on but they couldnt pick on fobs for their accent. I do agree that it is unfair that you guys are picked on for your accents ( when you speak Indian languages) but I think you cannot compare it with picking on fobs . The reason for this is : There is a difference with picking on fobs and the parody of Appu on Simpsons. Typically not knowing English is considered to be ‘lower’ ( therefore non-english speakers are discriminated in India with jobs) and to not be able to speak English without the Indian accent is also looked down upon. while you guys may not have had this in mind when you picked on them, other people do. This in my opinion, stems from being colonised and the the bias that is internalised. though I am not a resident of UK, I have made several trips there and oddly enough I always seem to find Brits taking a pick on Indians for their accents and this is usually done in a tone which is clearly meant to degrade Indians. Therefore, inability to speak English without your Indian accent is looked down upon as you are not considered ‘educated enough’. I personally do not favour taking digs at fobs and NRI’s speaking with accents. I prefer to appreciate the efforts of the latter and to not make the former feel uncomfortable. ( im not a ‘fob’ neither do i speak hindi with an accent. It’s challenging for people to make fun of my accents for both languages phew saved)

  13. also, while Kaif , Ray and Yana gupta are much hyped over , I am glad that actresses like Rani,Kajol, Bipasha, Nandita Das are successful and sought after despite their darker skin tone owing to their acting talents ( ok maybe not as much for Bipasha). While some of these darker skinned women do have the family connections to get into films, I would argue it is their talent that helped them to stay and land some good roles ( eg Rani in Black)

  14. Vidushi,

    True, except for Nandita Das, who has struggled to find a foothold since her roles in ‘Fire’ and ‘Earth’ (which were both produced with Canadian money, and were hence not ‘Bollywood’ films). The last major Bollywood film she was in was ‘Supari’ a couple of years ago, and even that, as I recall, was a flop.

    My feeling is that her complexion is too dark for B-wood film producers (or audiences) to accept her in romantic lead roles.

    If not Bollywood, maybe ‘Mollywood’ — I thought she was quite good in Mani Ratnam’s film “Kannathil Muthamittal (“Peck on the Cheek”), a Tamil language film that came out 2-3 years ago.

  15. Amardeep, I agree with you about Das’s lack of popularity with masses. However, I think movies like bhandarkar’s Page 3 and Chandni bar are heartening not only because they are artsy but because the focus on being ‘fair’ is not there. Who knows, the fair beauty trend might change if these movies get more acclaim. I wonder why you guys do not discuss art movies as this blog seems to be a good place to make people aware of all those good Indian (albeit few) movies out there. Or have I just missed those posts since I’m new? Honestly, I do not bother with Kaif, Celina type movies so I can’t discuss their works ( or lack of it) .

    Also, it is intereting to note that NRI’s have started venturing into VJ-ing. I saw a documentary of some Indian- Canadian who landed a spot on channel V recently. Dont remember her name. And sometime back Anushka( I think), from Australia, won the MTV VJ hunt.

  16. Nandita Das was on the Cannes jury this year. I seem to recall another Indian actress getting a hell of a lot more coverage for the same achievement.

    Vidushi, I haven’t been here that long either but wait a bit and independent Indian cinema is guaranteed to crop up as a topic – just check back through some old topics.

  17. This in my opinion, stems from being colonised and the the bias that is internalised.

    i can see the rationale of this however, just as speaking improper english is viewed/stigmatized as uneducated/lower class, the same rationale should be applied the other way around as speaking hindi w/o the proper accent to many fobs indicates a lack of cultural awareness, when it is not always true. I agree w/ you though, the effort that someone is trying to speak to you in a foreign tongue should be looked upon as a positive in that they care enough to want to be part of your culture.

  18. I agree with you there Lovin but ‘usually’ fobs get their impressions from Indian movies ( eg Purab aur Paschim-couldnt think of anything recent). While these portrayals are not always wrong it is unfair to assume without giving people a chance. But I think ( and hope) fobs learn eventually that their assumptions are not always true.

  19. Forget ABCDs and FOBs – try being a white girl speaking Hindi in India – man! you REALLY get made fun of then. However I think they do it in jest and with affection. Mostly they are impressed that a “firangi” is making an attempt at “going native”. Still, makes you real self-conscious.

  20. I am glad that actresses like Rani,Kajol, Bipasha, Nandita Das are successful and sought after despite their darker skin tone owing to their acting talents.

    Am I the only one who would not describe any of these actresses as “dark”?

  21. bdeshini : the key word is dark-er ; hence it is a relevant term since comparison is with the likes of celina, kaif,ash,kareena, preity etc 🙂

  22. I’m with you Bdeshini. They are not dark. But that is what we are supposed to believe.

  23. I agree with you there Lovin but ‘usually’ fobs get their impressions from Indian movies

    i don’t know about that, for the most part they tend to be a lot more knowledgeable about the outside world than do Americans. I think what happens is though that cultures in which sex, drugs, mental illness etc is not necessarily a stigma are ‘exotic’ to them and from there many of them form general impressions that these lifestyles are the norm. I know some of my cousins in India assumed that I was getting laid daily in college due to their belief that white girls are easy, and they said they believed this bcuz of the teen pregnancy rate and availability of drugs and alcohol.

    While I was proud to receive undeserved credit for attracting the opposite sex (I had a hell of a time getting dates, a whole different topic! :P), they were really surprised to learn that our single parenting rate was way less than what is in scandinavian countries, or that comparatively speaking to other developed countries, the US is actually more conservative regarding these topics.

    On the other hand, i have seen people from here go there and totally mess it up for the rest of us who want to connect over there. My female cousin from here is an example, as are my sisters. My stupid cousin visited our bhua in the village where everyone lives in a HUGE joint family and the women are very low key, and generally subservient. Now here in the US, it’s not cool, but there that’s life. This idiot cousin of mine goes in and gives them a lecture about how it’s bullshit to be subservient and domestic housewives and is telling their kids that they need to learn to be independent and not heed the advice of their parents on certain matters. Needless to say she caused some heart attacks.

    My sisters also have a hard time of following local custom. My older cousins in india are drunkards and goofballs, they mean well, but are careless. So they were shooting guns off the roof at night and woke everyone up and got the cops called over, and my sisters who are 10-15 yr younger than my cousins started yelling at them for being inconsiderate and childish. I’m trying to tell them to settle down and that youngers don’t yell at elders but they weren’t hearing it. Needless to say I think they’re not going to be hanging out anytime soon. So it does go both ways to an extent.

  24. Where are the monitors?

    “racist, abusive, illiterate, content-free or commercial comments rants will be deleted.”

    A poster has been posting under a racist term “white t—” with impunity.

  25. Lovin : What I observed was that fobs tend to think :

    a. white girls are ‘trash’.

    b. brown girls here are not at par with brown girls from ‘back home’. for the most part, fobby guys thought brown girls would also fit in category a. if they weren’t too ‘brown’. Seen a few nasty comments coz of that. I cannot ignore remarks by brown guys ( here) of wanting to marry a girl from India.

    I agree with you on that they think this is because of teen pregnancies etc. But I still hold Indian media partly responsible for this as it does feed these stereotypes. I know of guys who have come here from their respective small towns and villages, really their knowledge of teen pregnancies et al issues isn’t as good [ as I discoevered from conversation]. So the majority may not be deriving their information from media, but a few do.

    As for being more knowledgable,Americans/Canadians tend to think the world revolves around them/their continent. I read about every murder case in Canada in the national newspapers but somehow they fail to cover the bombay floods that claimed 1000 lives, the mysterious pig flu in China. I mean really, how can you fit into 3 pages of world news , like National post vs the remaining 17 for Canadian/American/ war on terror news. We are made ignorant.

  26. This skin-color thing has to be one of the most irritating (at best) and horrifying (at worst) desi obsessions.

    And it’s just AMAZING, really, when some of us decide to cast a professional scientific eye on the issue and pronounce iron-clad reasons why lighter skin is genetically preferable. Here’s a dunce hat – go sit in the corner.

    How the hell can we, as a group, try to correct western assumptions about us, when we’re so goddamn busy parsing the pigmentation, accents and presumed values of each other!!

    Amardeep, I don’t think the preference for the physical appearance of whiteness mixed with a classy, sometimes English-inflected, but still authentic Hindi-speaking capability is paradoxical as much a still present symptom of colonial ass-licking and caste-pride superiority. The sheer stupidity of both frankly aren’t worth discussing.

    And for all you speculators: I’m not American-born, I’m dark, my English and native accents are perfectly acceptable(even if the latter is rusty), and when I went back to visit after living in the US for 5 years the first thing my relatives said was, “ohhhh! But you’ve gotten so daaarkkk!! How can that happen in Amrika??” Nice to see you too.

  27. By the way, Amardeep, I didn’t mean that as any sort of criticism. Your writing ability, thoughtfulness and breadth of knowledge are always astonishing. Perhaps I’m rushing to conclusions here but I think that asking for Indian-inflected English to be accepted by westerners in general is different from asking the same when auditioning for a film.

    An Australian actor can’t play an American unless he switches accents, so much the same way, I don’t think Katrina can be believable playing a native-born role with accented Hindi. I agree with this – I believe she and others are being brought in because they look white. – and would also add that it might be because (of the presumption that) they’re more likely to not fuss over revealing clothing and sex scenes. I’m NOT judging morality, values, etc, of anyone…just repeating something that foreign-born or totally foreign actresses themselves say in filmi magazines.

  28. This skin-color thing has to be one of the most irritating (at best) and horrifying (at worst) desi obsessions.

    I am not sure if preference for light skin is ‘horrifying’. Indians usually prefer men to be tall and women to be light skinned. I am not sure why one preference benign while the other is evil.

  29. I am not sure why one preference benign while the other is evil.

    Because we do not hear of Indian men resorting to extreme measures such as surgery to increase their height . Nor do Indian men get passed over for jobs/opportunities if they are not tall enough. But the quest for fairer skin is an everyday happening for browns. Prime time television is bombarded with fairness creams, soaps and lotions. So much so that even Estee Lauder has seen the potential for fairness products and has introduced them. This is a big deal because these fairness products contain abnormally high and unsafe quantities of mercury and hydroquinone (amongst other ingredients).

    Some of the problems with mercury are :

    Neurotoxic problems such as ataxia, speech and hearing impairment; mental problems such as irritability, fearfulness, and depression; kidney problems such as mercury-induced nephropathy ; and immunotoxicity Research has shown that continued and prolonged use of these products causes various forms of cancer and deformities.

    A muslim feminist woman wrote an excellent article on the race, gender politics of fariness products recently. I cannot recall her name- can anyone help me out?

  30. Sorry Manish. It should have read ‘ Indian men are not passed over jobs/opportunities if they are not tall enough, on a larger scale ‘ [ in comparison with darker skinned women vs fair one to highlight point : fairness is given a heavy weightage when indian/asian/african women are being judged]

  31. It’s horrifying for me because I live now in a country that once had a “one drop” rule as law, about whether a person was white or not. Because that theory is “still influential,” according to Wikipedia. Because I’m so damn tired of people who fall into the “not” catagory sizing each other up on a spectrum not of their own making, one that sets snow white on the candy end of the lollipop.

    I don’t care if you desi men prefer biscuit, caramel, cafe au lait, or some other edible color for your mates. Saying you prefer “fair” is still playing into an old and tragic myth. I don’t care if men are discriminated based on height – so are women. I don’t see any supermodels under 5’8″, do you? Short women have as hard a time in business as short men. Worse, in fact, since women and earn 20% less to every male dollar earned (see penultimate paragraph).

    In the 1700s, women ate arsenic to look paler, and the search goes on. I don’t mean to rant, and yes, we are all entitled to our preferences, but it does strike me as odd, that these desi males casually professing to prefer “fair” complexions. I think it would be great if we all just miscegenate, but I find most desis hung up on fair skin also want a ‘proper indian girl.’ What a quandry, no?

    According to this white supremecy website, third world immigration is seen as a threat greater only to “Chinese communism”, and faaaar behind the “International Jewry” (take a look, really. It’s all kinds of pathetic, ignorant and hilarious), but forum memebers still had this to say:

    I feel that the most current, in your face enemy is the brown tide, flowing across America like a tidal wave of raw sewage.
    The brown wave of sludge washing over us is a real danger to us folk, whether mestizo or not. The brown “culture”, if one can call it that, is so different from anything we’ve built in this country, and it doesn’t show any sign of assimilating.

    Yes, they’re probably a tiny bunch of inbred psychos. But I feel like it’s the crayzees who’re most likely to go after some harmless sardarji..

    I’m don’t mean to be as chicken-little-ish as this might sound..(I think someone actually said that about me on some other Sepia thread. Hmm)…I’m just sad that these neuroses linger on.

  32. It’s horrifying for me because I live now in a country that once had a “one drop” rule as law, about whether a person was white or not.

    Funny – according to this theory, I’m a “colored person,” and those who know me here can attest that I’m about as white as they come. 🙂

    I think racists are more concerned with what their eyes tell them than some blood quantum. I may pass for Norwegian, but my mom wouldn’t, and my grandfather absolutely not. Funny then, that he’s one of the more racist people I’ve encountered in my life 😉 Luckily, cicatrix, most racists are of his variety – blowing smoke from the armchair – than the “get out there and kill the brown people” variety. In fact, those guys who talk all that garbage on websites probably are the same ones who cross the street and put their hands on the wallet when a black guy comes walking their way. They’re cowards, not fighters.

    You do have your share of crazies, but your chance of getting killed by one is probably less than getting killed by a car on your morning commute…

  33. Because we do not hear of Indian men resorting to extreme measures such as surgery to increase their height

    Skin tone can be lightened pretty easily when compared to the surgery required to increase your height. The abundance of skin lightening products might have something to do with the fact that they work. If height could be increased with lotions, there would be more height increasing lotions than cereal boxes in a grocery store.

  34. Al Mujahid, since you brought up male insecurity vis-a-vis purchasing power, I’m so terribly tempted to make a bad viagra joke right now….

  35. Al Mujahid, the link I posted shows a breakdown of disorders due to repeated use of fairness products. Yes it is easier to use them but their effect comes at a high cost, one usually not known by the users. In the long term, these products build up in the body and result in various serious health problems. The Indian man’s preference for fairer women has a higher health cost vs the short-term pain to surgery to increase height. I do not know of any long term side effects from this surgery.

  36. Andrea, I’m not bothered about getting killed by a racist nutjob, or, for that matter, a terrorist nutjob. I just find it sad that people who aren’t considered ‘white’ by, basically, ‘white people’…can spend so much fucking time rating themselves on some pale-scale.

    I’m not fair, at all. I don’t worry about. But times like when a black guy said “Indian girls have such great hair and skin color” to me, in front of a black girl…The look on her face was just heart-breaking. It’s not limited to desis, obviously. And it’s so stupid, I can’t stand it.

  37. On Deepa’s “Lagaan” example to the comment that not many Indians want to sit through movies about people toiling in the fields…I don’t think Lagaan really qualifies. Those peasants slaving away under the relentless sun were still quite prettified, in a Milagro Beanfield War kind of way, much as those in Swadesh were.

    On the subject of perceptions, and misperceptions, of the U.S. and “The West” in general, in Swadesh when Shahrukh Khan’s character is invited to some village event and one of the elders says “People in America have no culture”, I thought to myself “Here we go again”, but I was suprised to hear SRK’s character say “No, that’s not true, they have their own culture too, etc etc”.


    To contradict “RC on August 2, 2005 12:11 PM ” Kunal doesn’t look ‘too white for movies’ and doesn’t have blonde hair from what I’ve seen on the web: and he does have roles in Hindi movies He’s married to another Bollywood Royal Family

    As far as race vs. language first off, the profession of acting is considered a very bad thing to do socially, and the people drawn to it were marginalized anyway. Bollywood has an excess of actors who are muslim, parsee, Anglo-Indian, and even Jewish (Pramila, Bollywood actress, first Miss India other Bollywood actors include: Helen, David, Nadira & Sulochawa)

    The “paleness” came easily – people who went into making films for lack of other options happened to be pale. Yes, paleness is idealized because pale people stay pale when they don’t work in the hot sun all day (in China same fondness for palour, and small feet!). Of course there is a prejudice factor too but other things come into play as well.

    Accents: in Britain a proper theatre accent for serious roles (e.g. educated) and the regional strong accents for comic roles. Standard. It’s not INDIA that makes these rules it is the profession of theatre. A lot of Tamil actors (Kamal Hassan most notibly) are excellent but have ‘Tamil accented Hindi’ and the audience won’t accept it – so Kamal’s Bombay exploits were flops…. and you wonder why they dub? In the west same thing: the silent films went to talkies from the 1920’s onwards, and many many actors careers crashed to a halt (or lived briefly through dubs then crashed). VOICE is a huge part of the experience of fantasy for these characters, serious, melodious ‘perfect’ Hindi goes with being ‘perfect’ looking – the audience wants it. We know that from Kamal Hassan and other Southern Actors who failed to thrive in the North. The only exception is if the accent itself is in demand, as were French accents in the 1930’s and 40’s in Hollywood for Romantic leads.

  39. hello people….i’m sasha. I’m in 8th grade and I live in Seattle. My mother is Hispanic..French..n English. My dad is Black..n Indian. I love bollywood. But don’t u notice that all the bollywood actresses are light skined like Aishwarya. I luv all the girls…don’t get me wrong and Ash is goregous but your average indian girl is not light like that. Indian people aren’t white. They need to stay in the culture and put your authentic indian girls in there. They also always have white girls as the dancers in the films sometimes. If i wanted to see white girls…i can just watch American tv. So bollywood needs stay in their culture n put the beautiful brown gurls in their. BROWN PRYDE

  40. Meenakshi, You tried to contradict me but gave links of all the WRONG Kunal Kapoors. (I know 2 other Kunal Kapoors, who dont look anywhere near like any film leading men 🙂 )

    I was talking about Karan Kapoor, who is Shashi Kapoor’s younger son. Kunal Kapoor did have a semi-hit movie.

    anyway its too late to debate it now

  41. Interesting topic. I didn’t read the entire post but vurdlife thinks there aren’t blonde desis. Half of my mother’s side of family has light brown hair. I used to in a school with a girl with blonde hair (her entire family was blonde) and there were also two sisters with red (i mean flaming red) hair and freckles. And one of my cousion’s gave birth to a girl with blue eyes two years ago. These genetic traits are not common at all. But it is my observation that people who have these traits tend to have history of such traits on both sides of their families. A great place to find such traits is to go into punjabi villages and you will find many traits that we generally associate with western beauty. But, it is understandable that to someone living abroad this might come of as a surprise. Indians make up a very small proportion of population in Europe/America so it is hard to find such variations on day to day basis. I also know too many Indians in the west who try to pass themselves as non-indians because of their genetic makeup. In this age of hair colors/extensions, tinted contact lens etc who knows who is fake or real. You will also find people purposely seaking accented hindi/punjabi.

  42. wow! there are people like me! yeas i think it’s bs that in bollywood everyone is soooo WHITE looking….even more they frekin act like soo glamarous and hollywood type. with all the shimiring costumes and big houses and everyone in the movie is like a freking perfect looking white colored person… pisses me off..thats not what indians are like. stupid indian cinema!