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Bollywood’s love for fair skin runs so deep that even Beyonce couldn’t escape it

American singer-songwriter Beyonce is the latest tool in Bollywood’s show of colourism. Khaali Peeli's song writers are only carrying forward an old legacy.

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Whether it’s Chitiyan Kalaiyan Ve or the latest Beyonce sharma jayegi, Bollywood has a skin colour problem. For decades, we have had songs about goriya and gora rang — white complexion — and it’s 2020 but Bollywood is still perpetuating the same thing. If it thinks a fair-skinned Ananya Panday can be called a goriya who can “put Beyonce to shame”, then Bollywood hasn’t really moved on from its ’60s-70s model and isn’t listening to Hindustan Unilever’s ‘Fair & Lovely’ campaign. 

And no, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, the American singer-songwriter has nothing to do with it. She is just a tool in Bollywood’s latest show of colourism. The first song from upcoming Hindi film Khaali Peeli, written by lyricist Kumaar and Raj Shekhar and composed by duo Vishal-Shekhar, released Monday to much criticism on social media, with people calling out the lyrics for using Beyoncé’s name in its skin colour comparison with the actor it’s picturised on — Ananya Panday. The other lead character, played by Ishaan Khatter, is seemingly mouthing praise for his co-star’s ‘beauty’. 

Perhaps the only heartening thing to see is that unlike in the past, when Indians consumed such racist, tasteless songs without a hitch, a section of people today are calling out the song for what it is — Bollywood, and by extension most Indians’, continued love for fair skin tone. 

The song, overall, is equally pathetic and can make your ears bleed.  


Also read: Dropping ‘Fair’ from Fair & Lovely won’t erase Indian racism


India’s ‘goriya’ problem

Hindustan Unilever Limited announced on 25 June that it would remove the word ‘fair’ from their ‘Fair & Lovely’ product line.

HUL’s decision was not the only one. A few days before that, Johnson & Johnson had announced that it will stop sale of its Clean & Clear Fairness line sold in India and Neutrogena Fine Fairness line available in Asia and the Middle East.

While we might have imagined this as a step towards more inclusivity and reclaiming the natural skin tone of Indian women, Bollywood decided since Indians were still far away from getting over their love for a ‘goriya’ or a ‘fair-skinned woman’, Beyonce sharma jayegi was just the lyrics to go with the time.

Much like ‘chittiyan kalaiyan’ where the woman asks for various things based on her ‘white wrists’, this song too ends up walking many decades back to say it all over again — fair skin is the be all and end all of a woman’s personality, and worse, her negotiating power.

While Beyonce, if she ever learns about the song, will certainly not feel the shame, we are truly ashamed by this blatant show of racism, and colourism.


Also read: Afghan Snow, India’s first beauty cream, was christened by a king and endorsed by Gandhi


Brown-skinned girl

Most Indians must be aware of Honey Singh’s ‘Brown Rang’, but there exists Beyonce’s very own ‘Brown Skin Girl’. While ‘Kudiye ni tere, brown rang ne, Munde patt te ni saare mere town de’ might be how Honey Singh wanted to honour the natural skin tone of Indian women, Beyonce tells you how to do it minus men, or any validation from outside.

As opposed to the Kheeli Peeli’s lyrics of ‘Oh tujhe dekh ke goriya… Beyonce sharma jayegi’, Beyonce’s empowering lyrics goPigment like the earth, you be giving birth/ To everything alive, baby, know your worth.’

And I rest my case.


Also read: Daren Sammy shouldn’t wait for apology from IPL teammates. India is in denial about its racism


Exoticisation, but didn’t Beyonce do it first?

I know a lot of you believe it’s a ‘foot-tapping’ song, and so the blatant ‘overconfidence’ and racism don’t matter. You might also say that Beyonce pulled a ‘worse’ stunt by exoticising India in Coldplay’s ‘Hymn for the Weekend’.

Beyonce as ‘Bollywood queen’ among other snapshots of India and a fleeting glimpse of Sonam Kapoor are part of the video criticised for appropriation.

Fair enough.

But not that we have been any better at it, in fact worse. From Mr. India (1987) to Fashion (2008), our own tone-deaf attitude towards Blacks have been mortifying, to say the least.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg.

But after a movement like #BlackLivesMatter, and the surging critique on the ‘fair gets you anything’ logic, which even made Shaadi.com remove its ‘fair filter’ — if not change its mindset — Khaali Peeli song is a blatant show of ‘we do things the way we always have’ attitude.

Such trauma is handed out in a pandemic-hit year that has been too much already. Really, I don’t think we can take more of ‘khaali-peeli’ anything happening anymore.

Views are personal.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Ask beyonce why she bleached her skin to get accepted by non black audiences! Have u read the story about her father who was obsessed with fair and white skin? You forgot to mention that in your article

    • Are you an idiot. African Americans do not bleach their skin. That is looked down upon. Beyonce is of African and French ancestry hence her complexion. I guess you think all people of African descent are darker than all Indian people. Funny. Learn your history and then you can understand Beyonce’s complexion. I too am a bronze red light brown skin woman of mixed African, Induan, Scottish and Jewish ancestry and I did not bleacj my skin. It is many women in Indis who do so because of people like you who hate themselves because they are not white like Europeans. I wonder how Iranians view Indians who think fair skinned is supetior and how they see fair skinned Indians in regards to themselves as well as Indians as a whole. I think you are jealous. You think people of African descent are below you and how dare they be lighter than you. Well many of us from tge caribbean to latin America to the u.s.

  2. It’s a fact that majority of Indians are racist. It’s also a fact that majority of Indians are Hindu. No wonder that vast majority of Indians are casteist and communal.

    • Your comment itself is communal. Being racist has nothing to do with being Hindu. Muslims are far more racist towards non-Muslims. You should go jump in a lake you hate-spewing morons.

      • lollol what do you mean by racist to non muslims??? plus to the 1st guy!! wtf has hindus to do with this????? everyone is on blame.. whether its hindu, muslim, christian or buddhist.. stop this hate already!! its 2020.. come on!! hating on eachother isnt any better than being racist! and we all know racism occur in the whole MF India!!!

  3. Bollywood is a Gutter of ignoramus folks. The IQ of bollywood is probably 10… maybe less.. Possibly goes negative. These folks will never learn. They are not even conscious to make the effort.

  4. So what’s wrong in liking fair skin. After all so many like tanned skin just as so many fall for ‘tall, dark and handsome’. The world has bigger problems then worrying about inanities like colour and shade preferences.

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