It has been just a few days after Abhay Deol slams the entire film fraternity for propagating racism among people. We were wondering what the Dev D actor has had in his dinner that made him speak out so much about the fairness industry.
People are praising Abhay Deol for his bold move. He has not spared a single A-rated actor or actress of Bollywood, who has endorsed a fairness product in his career. He commented on Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, Siddharth Malhotra, Shahid Kapoor and many more Bollywood celebrities for forwarding the idea of racism in people.
He has been trending on the radar, and absolutely, for all the right reasons. Someone had to do this, if not Abhay Deol. With Abhay Deol triggering the debate over fairness products, another Bollywood actress spoke up about the same.
Sonal Sehgal, who debuted on the silver screen with Nagesh Kukunoor film, Aashayein, spoke her heart out about prevalent racism in the world. The actress bravely accepted her fault of endorsing a fairness product in her career.
Read here what she said:
Just last week a politician’s racial remark sparked a wide scale uproar across social media. As I read the article online, I realised, according to this man, he wasn’t being racist. This prejudice against a darker skin tone runs so deep in our society that it has become acceptable. Why else would someone say something like this on national tv or hoards of tv commercials advertising “how to become six shades lighter” be bombarding our tv screens and nobody has a problem with it.
The same evening, I went over to my new neighbour, Tannishtha’s house for a cuppa. As we chatted about everything from films to housemaid problems to which new ‘herbal tea’ I had discovered, the topic of this politician’s remark came up. We both were equally disturbed and perplexed about how had we, as a nation, come to this. Not long ago, Tannishtha Chatterje, a renowned actress, a huge name in the Independent film circuit, having garnered innumerable accolades around the world was made the subject of ‘racist jokes’ on a prime time tv show.
Our conversation opened the floodgates of memory. I used to be like that. Dealing with my own day to day struggles I didn’t have time to reflect on the social evils plaguing our society. 2003, fourteen years ago, I moved to Mumbai to chase my dream of becoming an actor. One of my first modelling jobs was for a “Fairness Soap”. Believe me, everybody congratulated me on having landed such a plum assignment. The money was good enough to pay for my entire year’s rent. That was it. I was sorted. I didn’t think beyond that.
Cut to 2008 - I was the face of two huge TV series on prime time network and my housemaid, Gangu, took pride in working for me. She was my show runner. Without her, I wouldn’t have survived in Mumbai. One morning, Gangu came up to me with two different brands of fairness creams and asked me which one did I use. I suddenly realized how I had failed her. Her and millions of beautiful dark skinned women across the country who now believed that I am fair skinned because I use these creams! Without me realizing I had become part of a mafia undermining the self esteem of beautiful dusky Indian women.
In 2013, I decided to take a sabbatical and study filmmaking. I enrolled myself in Film school in New York. I came back flush with a new set of skills. I was now older, wiser and I wanted to make a difference. In 2015, I made this short film titled ‘Dancing in the dark’, on a subject I deeply felt about. I didn’t find any funders or voices to support my own. Only a handful of friends who helped make this film. My subject was “exposing the dark side of fairness creams”. I was up against a huge industry not only funded by large sums of money but propelled by deep rooted prejudices in our society. How ‘fair equals beautiful’ making beauty ‘skin deep’. ‘Fair also equals successful’ as depicted in many fairness creams ads. I didn’t find any takers for my film and was advised to let it stay in my hard drive, that “it was too big a fight to fight alone”.
2017 - As we discussed “Mr Politician so graciously living with South Indians”, Tannishtha reminded me of the short film I had made a couple of years ago. She told me it was time to get it out of the hard drive. A close friend and somebody who has always stood up for women, I had shown the film to her two years ago and we talked at length about this issue. But at the time, we just left it at that. Living room conversation.
Today I feel responsible for letting this kind of racism perpetrate in our society. For not speaking up. So I am finally uploading my voice on film. To try and make a difference. And correct a wrong.
In her short film, Sonal openly accepts how her own fairness product advertisement has left a negative impact on people. It takes a lot of courage to accept your own mistake. And it takes an even bigger heart to mend it in the best possible manner.
More power to you, Sonal and thanks for speaking up!