Shah Rukh Khan is everywhere. Yesterday, after being assaulted with images of him sending out flying kisses to the audience during the cricket match, I gasped and grunted as today’s BBC Breakfast show did a little piece on an advert featuring Shah Rukh Khan. The advert is for Fair and Handsome.
Here’s the Youtube video showing SRK urging a “brown” boy to turn fair. And not use creams meant for women.
Now, I find the whole idea of fairness creams rather unpalatable. But I can’t really pass a judgment. As I was told very politely a few years back when it was pointed out that I already belonged to the “fair category” and rightfully had no say about skin lightening. But in India, you can never be too fair.
In the end, so much is about affluence. In India, if you’re fair it means that for generations your ancestors had no work that had to be done in the blistering sun. Which doesn’t really make sense. But what really is the right response anyway? For years, I cringed whenever Bollywood movies quickly showed a dark man as “Madrasi”. But why was I cringing? Did I want North Indians to know that “not everyone is dark”? In the North, when people discuss a bride’s appearance, they hardly ever say she is beautiful. They will just say she’s fair. It’s assumed that you know that fair = beautiful.
It’s no different in this Brit culture. The whole notion of a tan rests on the assumption that if you’re wealthy enough, you can afford to holiday in a nice sunny place. And so it is that every year, around April, there is this flood of fake-tan products staring at you from every window shops. How to tan evenly. How to tan well. How to keep the tan from yellowing. How to tan without getting skin cancer etc. So it amused me quite a bit as they went on and on about how some “Asian communities” are obsessed with skin colour.
I don’t want use some “black is beautiful” cliché. Or go about saying that society must change. That fairness creams must be banned. How can I tell somebody else what is beautiful. How can I claim something is “more beautiful”. If a dark person wants to be fair, that’s his or her prerogative. I can only hope that at some point it all becomes less relevant.