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If I have 10 things to do, how I look should be the 11th thing on my list: Nandita Das

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: October 14, 2019  | 21:51 IST

New Delhi, Oct 14 (PTI) Actor-director Nandita Das on Monday said even though the phrase 'beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder' is a cliche, it rings true as there cannot be only one definition of what it means to be beautiful. Das said the idea primarily stems from a patriarchal set-up and hoped a time will come when achievements would precede looks. "Even though we say, 'unity in diversity', we've never really celebrated diversity. It's a few people who are always going to define what beauty is going to be. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. It's a cliche, but it's a true cliche. Why do we have to have one notion of beauty anyway?" she said. "How important is it (beauty) for me? If I have 10 things to do, how I look should be the 11th thing (on my list). Most often I'm unable to even finish the four things that I had to do. So how much of a priority are we making defining us. We all like when people compliment us but we also want to further our interests and talent," she added. The filmmaker was speaking at the launch of the 'India's Got Colour' campaign, hosted by UNESCO and produced by Nandita Das Initiatives with the support of JSW Group. The discussion was moderated by Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative, and also had Kavitha Emmanuel, Founder and Director of Women of Worth, who started the 'Dark Is Beautiful' campaign in 2009 as a panelist. Das been supporting the campaign since 2013. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, the campaign was reinvented and got a more inclusive name, 'India's Got Colour'. A video, featuring Swara Bhasker, Radhika Apte, Ali Fazal, Divya Dutta, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Tillotama Shome, Vikrant Massey among others, aiming to spark a conversation around colourism in India, went online on September 25. Das said she became the face of the campaign six years ago by default as "many of the actors were becoming lighter and lighter with every film". Without taking names, she said, "There's such a lot of pressure on women today to be lighter. They are doing all sorts of invasive surgeries, using problematic creams and medicines that are cancer causing." "Lot of dermatologists who themselves do these treatments have told me that it is actually very harmful but this is where we get our money from," she said. "So, what is the model of the society that is ready to do that? We can't blame any one (person). All of us are complicit in creating this divide," she added. About colour bias in cinema, the "Manto" director said, being fair had become synonymous with being beautiful. "Even in our Hindi songs we've words like 'gore gore gaal', 'gori hain kalaaiyaan', and all kinds of things. "So you're constantly having to overcompensate. In films, if there's dark woman, she has to be exceptional or she has to be a very nice person. She has to be something more." While the conversations have begun, the impact can be seen in the advertising world to some extent, Das said. "That's a real victory. In fact, they have stricter rules for fairness creams. But they find ways. Now they call it 'bright' or 'even tone' but they always have a shade card. It's a much deeper issue than a white man getting tanned," she said. Asked how Indians are perceived in world cinema, the director said people understand racism but they don't understand colourism that how "a country that is largely dark can actually be discriminating within itself". "When there is a role of a rural or Dalit woman, or a slum dweller, then the skin is fine. But the minute, I have to play an educated, upper middle class character, immediately somebody comes and says 'I know you don't like lightening your skin, but this role is of an upper middle class educated person'," she recalled. Das also emphasised that as art could create stereotype, it also had the power to shatter them. "The impact of cinema and art (is) that it goes into your subconscious without you realising it. It challenges those prejudices. Just as stereotypes get formed because of images, stereotypes can also be broken through images. It takes one generation to change things," she said. Emmanuel said in their counselling sessions they found that women suffered low self-esteem due to deep-rooted colour bias. "It affects women right from the time they are born to the time they have to look for life partners. We had a lot of responses from men, saying they also want to be included and they have faced discrimination too. (But) Women face more (colourism) due to the notion that they have to be beautiful. They face pressure in all age groups," she said. PTI RDS BK RHL

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