Southern Cinema Needs To Stop Whitewashing Its Heroines
Most movies in the southern film industry these days have heroines who are not regional. But there is nothing wrong with that, right? All people deserve to take up work opportunities across our country, irrespective of gender or regional background. In fact, it seems like a healthy practice, which could help close the cultural divide between North and South. However, Tamil cinema has been whitewashing heroines right under our noses as this particular Twitter post points out.
Good morning to everyone except Tamil directors in this thread here trying to masquerade fair Punjabi girls (and Amy Jackson FFS) as rural Dravidian ones. Stop making films and drown in a tub of fair and lovely and maida maavu. https://t.co/pFf9Q3GCFP
— Shilpa Rathnam (@shilparathnam) September 12, 2018
The reason why most southern filmmakers these days cast heroines like Tamannah Bhatia, Kajal Aggarwal, Hansika Motwani, Amy Jackson and Rakul Preet Singh, is their fair complexion.
Endorsing the age-old obsession with fair skin
Now there is nothing wrong in giving opportunities to men and women who do not belong to any said state in regional cinema. Art and cinema should help curb the divides and distances that regionalism sows in our minds. But in this specific case, the reason why these women are getting preference above the regional women is disturbing.
- Filmmakers in the south are increasingly choosing fair-skinned female leads from the north over regional heroines.
- The obsession with fair complexion is leading to marginalisation of regional women, despite them being the majority.
- It also sends across the message that regional women are undesirable or unfit to play the lead roles due to their dusky complexion.
The film industry in Southern India has been objectifying women since ages, much like its glamorous and popular cousin Bollywood. Women are often nothing more than props in commercial potboilers. They are there to be either saved by heroes, kidnapped by villains or to do the usual song and dance routine. But under the shroud of this visible objectification, is the finer layer of subtle misogyny which we barely look at.
Today, numerous top-billed heroines in the south are fair-skinned ladies from the north, whose dialogues are dubbed by voice-over artistes.
Despite having moderate acting prowess at best and little or no command over the language of the film, these women land up as lead actors. All because the regional population, just like the rest of India is obsessed with fair skin. But what kind of message does it send?
Men watching such movies come out with a subconscious belief that fair skin is ethereal. They think of women around them as lesser beings and unworthy.
Women, on the other hand, end up with a low esteem and self-confidence for not matching up to such beauty standards. They feel marginalised and unrepresented in their own home turf, despite being in the majority. The truckloads of money, which southern commercial films make means they have little or almost no interest to back down and hunt for regional talent. Where does this leave talented female artists who are devoid of work opportunities just because of their dusky complexion?
This unhealthy trend needs to be called out. Cinema lovers must raise their voices. We need more people calling out this sexism. That is the only way this subtle whitewashing can be checked and course corrected. Cinema goers need to ask why exactly are filmmakers giving certain heroines preference over regional female actors, who are equally capable, if not more, and even have a command over the regional language with proper diction? Do they like the answer which comes back screaming?
Image Credit: Autumn Goodman, Unsplash
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own