In a country where beauty is still somehow synonymous with light skin tone and largely euro-centric features, the issue of representation remains murky. A recent OTT show ‘Family Man 2’ featured the actress Samantha Akkineni with added thick coats of bronzer on her face. The phenomenon of ‘brown face’ has evidently been a major problem throughout the course of Indian cinema’s history but people were shocked to see such blatant ignorance even in modern times.
There aren’t a lot of actors on screen today who truly represent the majority of the population across India, as successful producers still struggle to cast dark skin actors and especially actresses in mainstream roles. When was the last time you had the experience of witnessing a love story unfold on the big screen with its primary focus on those with a darker complexion?
For years actress Konkona Sen who has featured in some of the most progressive storylines we’ve seen was still hounded for her physical appearance, which showcased a blatant prejudice towards her slightly darker skin tone. Unfortunately, this is sadly the reality for so many women around India who’ve grown up facing rampant colourism since their childhoods, unable to stop society from ‘othering’ them.
This is why a recent surge in art and photography pages capturing the beauty of dark-skinned men and women has been a breath of fresh air. These pieces of art glorify the melanin present in Indian skin by celebrating the unique shades we represent. Pages like Dark Indian Beauty on Instagram are centering the conversation on models in the industry that are captured in a favourable light as well as regular Indians living out their best lives and embracing their bodies.
Furthermore, in societies where dark skin is supposed to shy away from bright colours, illustrators like Reshidev Rk and Muhammad Sajid present these women decked in colourful contrasting clothing. By celebrating the indigenous identity that is so closely associated with our physical appearance and taking away the colonial gaze that often tends to limit brown representation, these narratives are claiming those spaces back.
It’s unfortunate that such visuals are not as widely present in mainstream media channels even in 2022 but this seems to be a beginning of a gradual shift. While it’s definitely overdue, our acceptance of native features, skin tones and bodies is a first in our long journey back into normalizing indigenous standards of beauty. In a country like India, where skin tone biases run deep into prejudices associated with caste and class boundaries, these artists and pages claim a radical presence in bringing change to the larger societal gaze.