Boss, you don’t have to be vellathu to be “cool”.

Longtime Mutineer Desi Dude in Austin left a tip on our news tab, which immediately got my attention:

Rajnikath don’t need no Fair and Lovely…not when he has 25 CGI artists lighten his complexion frame-by-frame for a song-and-dance sequence in his latest sambaar-mix potboiler Sivaji.

Say what?! I neither know nor care about either Sivaji the fillum or its rotund ishtar, but following the link DDiA left took me here: Rajnikant is white.jpg

If you have watched Sivaji..You have observed the fair complexion of Rajinikanth in the song Oru koodai Sunlight.Everyone thought it was make-up that made Superstar Rajinikanth look like a European in that song, but the secret is something else. [Naachgaana]

Yindeed, the secret is far more time-consuming and technologically advanced than some pancake from Max Faktor.

The secret of actor Rajinikanth’s ‘white’ tan in the song sequence “Style” in the ‘Sivaji’ was not the result of any fairness cream or cosmetic touch-up but an entire year of Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) work by city-based firm Indian Arts.
The colour tone of one of the U.K.-based dancers in the background of the song was used to turn up the tone of the actor, frame by frame. The post-production for the 6,000 plus frames took a year to complete, as computer graphics artists from Indian Arts toiled to make Rajinikanth the “Vellai Tamizhan”. [The Hindu]

According to the article from our new tab, a total of 6,700 frames were painstakingly altered, to give the second-highest paid actor in Asia skin as pale as the complexion of one of his Gori backup dancers. Okay, that sentence was awkward as kundi. I’ll just quote something, instead, yes?

sivaji.jpg

Once Indian Artist was selected for the job, Mr. Anand immediately knew that the CGI team would require a ‘reference’ for their work. So the team selected one of the dancers flown in from London for the song on location in Spain. So every shot that featured Rajinikanth was re-shot with the dancer and sent to Indian Arts. Mr. Anand explained that it was required because the skin tone would appear differently in indoor and outdoor shots, and a lot would depend on shadows. [The Hindu]

Apparently, this was the director’s way of “thinking big”:

Mr. Anand pointed out that it was one of the original concepts of director Shankar, who is known for his grand ways of shooting songs. “He was thinking about the way people admire Rajinikanth’s dark tan and wanted to show how the superstar would look had he been a European.”[The Hindu]

I know that colorism is a hotly-debated issue both on this site and within our community, so I promise that I am extra careful whenever I make statements about what I think is attractive and isn’t, especially after being on the receiving end of some unbelievably hurtful bullshit myself (another time, another post).

People on either end of the spectrum get nastiness hurled their way, so let’s declare decisively that this is not the special olympics of victim hood. I have uber-pasty, 100% Desi friends who get asked “And when or why did someone like you get interested in Indian culture?”, as if they were a White person, when they go to brown events. They feel just as miserable as I do when I’m told, “For a very dark girl, you’re pretty!”. This is sensitive territory and I hope that if lurking/commenting on or hating this blog inspires anything within you, it’s a sensitivity towards the colorS of our skin.

Whew, that was a lot of “fine-print”. ;) But wait– here’s more! What I’m about to state has nothing to do with either my own relatively dark, izhnerum skin OR my uncontrollable affection for hot-hot-hot chocolaty actor Sunkrish Bala, it’s from a pure place in my dil, I assure you– I think Rajnikant looks better dark, no diggity, y’all. Not that I find him attractive at any shade, but if he ever reads this post, and he asks me…

sivappaana aangal ingae silakoadi undu
karuppaana ennaik kandu kan vaiththadhenna

I will truthfully trill back, in my most high-pitched attempt at breaking the eardrums of small canines,

kadal vannam vaanin vannam karuvannam dhaanae
kadal vaanam kaanumboadhu unaikkandaen naanae

::

For those who don’t know Tamizzhrrzh:

There are a few crore fair skinned men here
Why did you pick me – a dark skinned man
The sea, The Sky, they are all dark
when I see the sky and the sea, I am reminded of you

141 thoughts on “Boss, you don’t have to be vellathu to be “cool”.

  1. but was his skintone lightened and is he wearing a blondish wig for a specific reason that has something to do with the song or movie?

  2. The director shankar has a fetish for technology, what could be achieved by mere makeup is instead a result of heavy CGI work! But what I liked bout this particular sequence was that they don’t project that fair skin is the only way out, but instead Rajini makes a comic reference to Kamal Hassan….

  3. Rajni’s target audience is the front benchers like myself who go to a movie ( even in Melbourne) in a banian & lungi and scream in delight when he arrives on screen. His skin color is not a cause for concern. He is one of us.

  4. but was his skintone lightened and is he wearing a blondish wig for a specific reason that has something to do with the song or movie?

    the song sequence has approx 20 wig changes, the skintone though was for a comic sequence

  5. The scene is for a song– Rajini is trying to woo the heroine, but the heroine hears that she will cause Rajini’s death if they marry, so she tells him that he is too dark and that’s why they can’t be together. Rajini goes through hoops to make himself pale for her (cut to song where this scene is) but she then admits that she did not care about that and didn’t want him to change at all.

  6. kadal vannam vaanin vannam karuvannam dhaanae kadal vaanam kaanumboadhu unaikkandaen naanae

    Oh good god! I had not thought of that song for a few years. Here is the video. Please to observe the excellent dance steps, which, Anna, please to do after you finish dancing around your tepee.

  7. I think Rajnikant looks better dark, no diggity, y’all. Not that I find him attractive at any shade, but if he ever reads this post, and he asks me…

    there is often a diff. between males and females. men are naturally 5-10% darker within any ethnicity because of common pathways between testosterone and melanin, and all things controlled the men with higher testosterone will be somewhat darker (think arnold schwarzenager). so i have know many females, some blonde, some who i even know very, very well who tell me that they don’t find pale, especially blonde, guys attractive. it makes sense then that some studies show that on online dating sites red-haired men seem to suffer a penalty while red-haired women do not.

    in other news, last week i analyzed one of the first brown skin color genome-wide association studies. turns out that a particular gene (SLC24A5) is responsible for about 35% of the variation between the lightest 20% and darkest 20% within the south asian population (their sample included punjabis, gujaratis, bengalis and sinhalese, to get the extremes). these gene exhibits a lot of heterozygosity in the brown population, which means that many are carrying the “dark” copy and “light” copy simultaneously (you have two copies of every gene). if two middle brown people with a dark and white copy marry there is a 25% chance that their child will have two light copies or two dark copies, and a 50% chance that they’ll carry one of each. i emailed some of you guys about the possibility of selective abortions of fetuses to make sure that the offspring are as light as possible because of the sampling variance possible within the south asian population. we’re there. we have the technology so that parents who have potential for a lot of variation in their offspring can abort the kala ones.

  8. Now as I go back and actually read the post, I see this…

    Say what?! I neither know nor care about either Sivaji the fillum or its rotund ishtar, but following the link DDiA left took me here:

    Rotund? ROTUND? :O

    WAAAAT!

    He’s not rotund. He’s not even “big boned”! I strongly protest!

  9. And most people thought Bruce Willis getting his hairline digitally enhanced in “Hudson Hawk” was an exercise in vanity.

  10. I think Rajnikant looks better dark

    I agree, I met him twice and there is something special about him, he has THE MOST wonderful smile. For me Shivaji is one of the worst films of RajniKanth, I blame Director Shankar for that.

  11. And most people thought Bruce Willis getting his hairline digitally enhanced in “Hudson Hawk” was an exercise in vanity.

    Vikram: I don’t know, but maybe I should remind you that, in Indian cinema, wigs are as common as 5 dance numbers in a movie with extras in the background dancing along. The market for Indian cinema is a lot different than the Hollywood market.

  12. Agreed, Shankar makes crap movies. I can’t believe Boys set records at the box office–I felt like I was watching four different movies at once.

    Lightened-Rajni just looks really unnatural. Also, I can’t believe that no one has mentioned yet that he is also shown in blackface in that trailer (scaring a woman, of course). UGH. I hate showing certain Indian movies to non-brown friends for this casual racism/worship of the white woman. It’s embarrassing. (I can’t wait for ‘Brown is beautiful’ or ‘Young, Brown, and Gifted’ slogans to catch on).

    there is often a diff. between males and females. men are naturally 5-10% darker within any ethnicity because of common pathways between testosterone and melanin, and all things controlled the men with higher testosterone will be somewhat darker (think arnold schwarzenager). so i have know many females, some blonde, some who i even know very, very well who tell me that they don’t find pale, especially blonde, guys attractive. it makes sense then that some studies show that on online dating sites red-haired men seem to suffer a penalty while red-haired women do not.

    i don’t think you can attribute everyone’s preferences to that genetic/evolutionary though. like my cousin who looooves white guys. and me, who prefers a certain skin color that is lighter and brighter/more golden than my own.

  13. i don’t think you can attribute everyone’s preferences to that genetic/evolutionary though. like my cousin who looooves white guys. and me, who prefers a certain skin color that is lighter and brighter/more golden than my own.

    i think there is a variance around the mean. also, assume that preferences are normally distributed. so anytime i make a generalization, just take that as a null unless i specifically say that i don’t think there is any variance, or make a specific characterization of features such as multimodality or skewness.

  14. also, ugh @ yet another movie where the plotline is basically boy (or in this case, octogenarian) meets girl, girl hates octogenarian, octogenarian annoys her to the best of his goshdarn ability, girl realizes how much she loves the octogenarian, and they live happily ever after.

  15. I haven’t watched Rajnikanth movie in 20 years. So I couldnt pass up a chance to watch this hyped movie that even though I do not realy watch Indian movies, I couldnt resist going. I remember him being one of my favorite South Indian actors because he seemed unique back in the day.

    The white skin thing was bizarre in Sivaji. I saw the Telugu version(which by the way has the funnier tribute to other south Indian superstars in the song medley compared to the Tamil version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAo3rGeqJm0).

    The white skin CGI talk by the filmmakers is funny considering Eddie Murphy was more convincing with good old fashioned makeup nearly more than 15 years ago in Coming to America. One really annoying thing I notice in indian movies is the amateurish way in which filmmakers speed up the action. It is like some film student who adores Tony Scott’s silly hyper stuff but lacks the technical and artistic finesse to pull it off. Sivaji makes Domino seem like a restrained mature piece of filmmaking. The director must be a total hack.

  16. Pravin, I watched that video and realized how ingrained I am with Telugu film music, having grown up listening to it. I can see now, I’m gonna spending part of the night searching youtube for those classic songs. dammit

  17. girl hates octogenarian,

    Um, Rajinikanth is not that old – he’s 57+ according to wiki. Of course his counterpart (Shriya Saran) is apparently 25, so there’s that whole Michael Douglas – Catherine Zeta-Jones thing going on on-screen. I really wish he would start acting his age – but the last time he did that was in Valli, which was quite unwatchable.

  18. This is not about fairness/darkness, eef you arr Tamizh, then you know thatt this is about cinema-man’s yingenu-ity.

    Sorry, I can’t translate the flavor of that into standard American English, but I mean the point seriously. Technical wizardry is why te item was newsworthy.

    As for production standard being impossibly low in Desi movies, I bet you 99 out of a 100 bollywood fans would argue that that is one reason why they are so special. Mani Ratnam’s movies are very good, but the polished presentation is severely disorienting, to say the least.

  19. Oh good god! I had not thought of that song for a few years. Here is the video. Please to observe the excellent dance steps, which, Anna, please to do after you finish dancing around your tepee.

    are you talking about the teepee that rests upon meena’s head? btw, speaking of age differences, didn’t meena act as a young child opposute rajni in anbulla rajnikant? though one of the movies i most enjoyed him in was thalapathi – and he did play his own age in that, even though his heroine (and her character) was a bit younger.

    thanks for the clip, pingpong – that see-through white veshti was hot.

    Tamizzhrrzh

    he he. and really, touche. after discussions at SM, i see very little point in the transliteration of the word – we should just come up with some symbol.

  20. If they didnt try to ape Hollywood movies, then I can live with the low tech shit. But they hype it like it is some technical breakthrough for Indian movies and it looks worse. When you ape Hollywood movie techniques, then we tend to compare the styles and Indian movies look like total shit in comparison. I saw 20 min of some movie with Bacchan Jr and Hrithek Roshan where Roshan is some thief. It looked polished compared to older Hindi movies, but it gets on my nerves more because I have something to compoare thes emovies to and this movie suffers by comparison.(I think the movie is Dhoom 2, but I am not sure). The zooms, panning, editing just seem a little off. The background scores in these westernized movies lack the charm of the older Indian movies and sound like total crap compared to Hollywood movies.

  21. touche is right-on, aK . and yah, this was literally shankar’s idiosyncratic cosmetic-fluity + wizardry — we know the Thalaivar is renowned for public appearances a la naturale, sans make-up and hair — so, really, this isn’t about skin colour.

    cookiebrown: mani ratnam, polished? definitely not melodramatic, agreed, but hardly polished — think nayagan, thalapathi, dil se, et al? searing stuff, non?

  22. If they didnt try to ape Hollywood movies, then I can live with the low tech shit. But they hype it like it is some technical breakthrough for Indian movies and it looks worse. When you ape Hollywood movie techniques, then we tend to compare the styles and Indian movies look like total shit in comparison. I saw 20 min of some movie with Bacchan Jr and Hrithek Roshan where Roshan is some thief. It looked polished compared to older Hindi movies, but it gets on my nerves more because I have something to compoare thes emovies to and this movie suffers by comparison.(I think the movie is Dhoom 2, but I am not sure). The zooms, panning, editing just seem a little off. The background scores in these westernized movies lack the charm of the older Indian movies and sound like total crap compared to Hollywood movies.

    Yeah, I really liked Athadu up until that Matrix-y fight scene at the end that was just TOO.MUCH. I don’t really care to see how exactly Sonu Sood’s skin ripples for 5 minutes in slo-mo while he is being punched.

  23. Was it just me who was exposed to this “joke” in childhood :

    God was making humans in a deep-frying pan. (Yes, kids will believe anything) After frying, some of them came out light colored : these were raw and undercooked people. Some of them came out really dark : these were charred and overcooked. Some of them came out golden brown : these were perfectly done!

    Racist as it sounds now, back then, it just sounded yummy to be brown. :-)

  24. thanks for the clip, pingpong – that see-through white veshti was hot.

    Damn you AK! I didn’t even realize it was transparent until you had to point it out! I was lost in admiration for the awesome dance moves, like those of a physical education instructor having a fit, and the camera which liked to travel up and down Meena’s torso for no good reason. Now I have to go back and find new layers of appreciation for the costumes and colors. BTW, you might also like this video, with its pleasing colors for the backup dancers.

    Tamizzhrrzh he he. and really, touche. after discussions at SM, i see very little point in the transliteration of the word – we should just come up with some symbol.

    Here is the symbol of so much transliteration grief: ழ். Probably easier to write Tamiழ். Or just call it TAM! Like a desi version of Emeril Lagasse. Kick it up a naach.

  25. I had not Youtubed for that stunning visual extravaganza when I posted the original link. That trailer made my day. Thanks Anna, now I feel the sudden urge to buy sunglasses from Bluefly.

  26. BTW, you might also like this video, with its pleasing colors for the backup dancers

    sadly, i did not enjoy it. this sort of thing is more my style…

    Damn you AK! I didn’t even realize it was transparent until you had to point it out!

    he he. no vorries – i notice the important things so the rest of you all don’t have to ;) plus i have a thing for dark men in their white white see-through veshtis (but please to not fold, unless accompanied by a sexy, stylised kicking action).

    Tall Dark and Handsome is no longer in demand.

    i always understood the dark reference was to hair – perhaps the dark skin was never in demand?

  27. God was making humans in a deep-frying pan. (Yes, kids will believe anything) After frying, some of them came out light colored : these were raw and undercooked people. Some of them came out really dark : these were charred and overcooked. Some of them came out golden brown : these were perfectly done! Racist as it sounds now, back then, it just sounded yummy to be brown.

    Yeah–if your IQ is 60.

  28. hahaha wtf Pravin, why is chiru repeatedly slapping sridevi??

    I have no idea. never saw the movie. Someone on Youtube put out that link.

    THe earlier link with NTR is great fun. He is like Shatner and Elvis combined in one fat package. And I mean that in a good way. Spaking of Elvis, I am surprised with the overkill of Britney coverage, not one reporter seemed to point out that the VMA opening was a ripoff of the Elvis Comeback Special in 1968 where he opens with “looking for trouble” and the red backdrop with dancers. I actually thought the VMAs overall were no better than Britney’s lame performance. At least it was not boring watching Britney even if she flamed out.

    I thought the villain was the best part of Sivaji. Suman did a really good job. Not hamming it up. Rajni also was funny during the popping the gum thing which I guess replaces his cigarette shtick.

    Most humiliating Rajni movie has to be some godawful Amritraj production I saw on cable where he plays a taxidriver and helps some white people in India find something.

  29. I don’t watch South Indian films (as a true pseudo-Delhiite) but I can comment on Bollywood.

    Nala: also, ugh @ yet another movie where the plotline is basically boy (or in this case, octogenarian) meets girl, girl hates octogenarian, octogenarian annoys her to the best of his goshdarn ability, girl realizes how much she loves the octogenarian, and they live happily ever after.

    I TOTALLY AGREE! Ugh, indeed. I get in trouble everytime I go off on one of my feminist rants about sexual harassment in the middle of the first song/dance sequence. I’ve pretty much quit watching them when I can help it. The industry is misogynistic and sadly, I’ve found it reflects quite strongly in youth culture in Delhi. It’s unsafe for women to be in public spaces alone because every young schmuck fancies himself to be SRK and finds it acceptable to engage in “Eve teasing” which is a stupid term. Even amongst the elite and educated, there’s a Bollywood dimension to relationships. This is to the point where I feel uncomfortable hanging out with my peers in Delhi, because well… it’s creepy.

    Everytime I even THINK about watching a Bollywood movie, I get depressed about sexuality and gender relations in India. Now added to this will be perceived notions of color and Indian identity :(

  30. Nala: also, ugh @ yet another movie where the plotline is basically boy (or in this case, octogenarian) meets girl, girl hates octogenarian, octogenarian annoys her to the best of his goshdarn ability, girl realizes how much she loves the octogenarian, and they live happily ever after. Ms. Nala,

    Let me hate to burst your bubble.

    Most of the Hollywood leading men are not only over 40 (Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Russell Crowe), but really established one are quite old (Harrison Ford, Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery).

    The youngest of the bunch is Daniel Criag (the latest Bond)……who is in his late thirties. In fact, no studio in Hollywood will put millions of dollars on younger men, and older women (except Meryl Streep ocasionally).

    They all romance very young female leads in the movies.

    In fact, Bollywood does have significant amount young male leads, they have always had, from the days younger Raj Kapoor, to Rishi Kapoor (the glory days of Bobby) to Aamir Khan (QSQT). It is only recently SRK and Aamir Khan still going strong past 40, and AB 1.0 still sell. AB 1.0 has broken the age ceiling. Currently, John Abraham, AB 2.0, etc.

  31. THe earlier link with NTR is great fun. He is like Shatner and Elvis combined in one fat package. And I mean that in a good way.

    More of that stuff here: search for “indian elvis” on youtube

  32. ” God was making humans in a deep-frying pan. … Some of them came out golden brown : these were perfectly done! Racist as it sounds now, back then, it just sounded yummy to be brown.”

    In the Egyptian version it’s an oven. When I first heard it, brown sounded good but it wasn’t till I saw sexy Brazilian models that I realized how yummy it really was. Now I just love brown. Not the light golden brown like I used to, but more like a nicely baked loaf of whole wheat bread. I just love my skin color–even in Northern France where I stand out.

  33. Most humiliating Rajni movie has to be some godawful Amritraj production I saw on cable where he plays a taxidriver and helps some white people in India find something.

    You mean, BLOODSTONE??? :D Did not know it was Amritraj. But it was made by the same guy that made the Anaconda series and Murder at 1600 (starring Wesley Snipes)!

    It’s on Netflix, y’all! It has some wonderful lines like,

    Money money money. Always money! What about love?

    Thalaivar is a taxi driver in the movie and it also had a Clouseau-esque CID officer. :D

    It’s as usual, fun!

  34. Kush Tandon, you really don’t need to ‘burst my bubble.’ I’m aware that Hollywood actors also act with actresses much younger than them. But it’s nowhere close to how it is in the south Indian films I’ve seen, where established actors like Nagarjuna/Chiranjeevi/Rajnikanth all act with women just a third of their age as romantic leads. Also, there aren’t many ‘stars’ in Hollywood anymore that can open a movie, not like in India where people will go to see a movie just because Rajnikanth is in it, so who’s famous and who’s not is a very different game in the U.S.–younger men who get lots of publicity include Orlando Bloom, Jake Gyllenhaal, now Zac Efron, whatever. So I don’t know what you were talking about with Daniel Craig as the the ‘youngest of the bunch.’

    In fact, no studio in Hollywood will put millions of dollars on younger men, and older women (except Meryl Streep ocasionally).

    Really?

    Also, I’m just not sure what Hollywood has to do with my original point, unless you thought I was being unnecessarily harsh on south Indian films, which I don’t think I was; I find a lot of the stuff that Hollywood churns out repulsive too. You bringing up who the ‘young’ actors are in Bollywood has nothing to do with what I said, because I was talking about south Indian films. Before you try to ‘burst my bubble,’ I’d recommend (well, not really) watching one of those films and seeing what I mean, when abuse turns to love in every single situation.

  35. It amazes me that depsite all the cultural assertions, good and bad – Dravidian Self-Respect, Hindutva, various Dalit movements – nothing has been able to convince brown Indians that they’re worthy of the same respect as West Asian “Scythian” Muslims or Europeans.

    I will have to agree with Sathya on this one – desis can never win this, they will always be darker, and others will laugh at what they consider fair, so give it up already.

  36. It amazes me that depsite all the cultural assertions, good and bad – Dravidian Self-Respect, Hindutva, various Dalit movements – nothing has been able to convince brown Indians that they’re worthy of the same respect as West Asian “Scythian” Muslims or Europeans.

    thats cause these right wing pride movements (in any country) smack of compensation. they feel inferior, so they yell loudly.

  37. Its just amazing that razib the bangladeshi nordicist can write such self-loathing wickedness and no one questions or condemns him.

    It’s just amazing that you thought a personal, non-issue focused flame would go unnoticed. Warning #1.

  38. also, ugh @ yet another movie where the plotline is basically boy (or in this case, octogenarian) meets girl, girl hates octogenarian, octogenarian annoys her to the best of his goshdarn ability, girl realizes how much she loves the octogenarian, and they live happily ever after.

    the only type of old man it will be worth my time being is a dirty old man. drty old men rock.