The agony and pain and mental degradation it spawns is criminal. Millions have been seared by this viciousness. So, even though I am not an expert on Bollywood, one of the guys I have had a pretty decent opinion about is Shah Rukh Khan. Just a good sod. Decent actor.
Much to my horror, right through the IPL I watched him prance on to the scene a dozen times during the relay of each match selling sunshine in a tube for dark people to get lighter toned and, therefore, happier and more successful. He practically tells you that if you are dark you have no hope, no opportunity, no life. Without any sense of theatrics, I have to say I was appalled. Not because I believe that film stars have a moral obligation or any of that claptrap (they don’t) nor are they role models, but integrity per se is what you do with your value system.
Imagine the agony this sort of ad causes to young boys and girls born dark in a nation that is naturally coloured.
A man like him who trumpeted about racist America not a few months ago now makes money telling 80 per cent of the human race that unless they are fair they are damned in the depths of hell and can never make the grade. Apartheid rightwingers could make him their poster boy. This is Thierre Blanche all over again. How is this different than apartheid when you can go up there and sell a lie?
The IPL dirt is squeaky clean in comparison to the sense of revulsion such ugly advertising content generates.
We ruined the female psyche for years with all that ‘if you get dark no one will marry you’ blackmail, then we condemned all dark women to that nether world of self-loathing, flung the prejudice into all our songs and are now putting the colour sword to the men.
To shame millions because success and failure are fair and dark is sick and I am revolted to the pit of my stomach. Yes, I feel violently about it. I said that first up. I may sound like I am being a phoney, pious pratt and Khan has a right to be making his money any which way. But, give over. You want to talk bad breath, body odour, dental repair, obesity, speech therapy, like go for it, knock yourself out.
But to equate success with the colour of your skin is gross.
Let’s get to the point. “If someone paid you a million dollars to sell a skin fair cream, would you say no?”
I hope to hell I would have the courage to say no. Because I have spent years researching this issue and I have seen a great amount of the hurt and the confusion, the drop in self esteem and the ugliness of what we do to the darker amongst us.
Sorry, Mr Khan, you don’t get a free pass on this one…for what it is worth, shame on you, Sir, for perpetuating a national grossness. And shame on anyone else who would do the same or believe this is justified.
Ram Kishore is a freelancer based in New Delhi
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