The quiz show contestant

The above click is “going viral.” One of the things that crosses my mind: would a guy who looks like this ever get a shot in Bollywood, or more generally Indian, film industry as a leading man? Is skin color an issue for men as well as women? The only leading men I know off the top of my head are relatively fair to medium, as opposed to dark (I can think of three or four, hardly any, I don’t follow Indian media).

25 thoughts on “The quiz show contestant”

  1. I asked a friend in China whether Chinese culture had any official position on men’s skin color. (Women, of course, are supposed to be white.)

    She made the following comments:

    “I like men with dark skin, like my husband.”
    “But maybe there are people who like men with white skin.”
    “Before, society favored men with dark skin.”
    “Now it seems like both are fine, nobody pays attention to this.”
    “But I like men with dark skin and big lips.”

    This n=1 sample would seem to basically support the Peter Frost thesis that skin coloration is a sexual characteristic and it’s better for women to be feminine and men to be masculine.

    I have no idea how Chinese male celebrities tend to be shaded.

  2. There are quite a few dark skinned leading actors in Kannada and Tamil cinema. Light skin seems to be preferred for females, and appreciated in males, but in the latter I wouldn’t call it an aesthetic ideal. Being too light skinned as a male is a departure from the masculine ideal and may be associated with being delicate and wimpy.

  3. This guy seems to have a typical South Indian complexion (as far as I know).

    In Pakistan, fair skin is preferred for men as well as for women. The ideal is what is called a “wheatish” complexion–whatever that is supposed to mean.

    Bollywood stars tend to be ethnically Punjabi and Pashtun, which would explain their relatively fair looks.

  4. This guy seems to have a typical South Indian complexion (as far as I know).

    yes. typical indians by complexion are not on their media, right?

    1. South India has its film industries. I don’t know about the complexion of their actors.

      But yes “Bollywood” or the Hindi-film industry is big on fair skin. Shahrukh Khan actively advertises “Fair and Handsome” (the male equivalent of “Fair and Lovely”).

    2. Kannada film stars:
      1) Shivarajkumar:
      2) Duniya Vijay:;_ylt=AwrxhdetwMJajC4AECwO9olQ;_ylu=X3oDMTBsZ29xY3ZzBHNlYwNzZWFyY2gEc2xrA2J1dHRvbg–;_ylc=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–?gprid=qJAJB4uhQL604RzmjmaGPA&pvid=A7H7tzEwLjLE3KYqWnLA9wE1NDMuMgAAAAAwf_18&p=duniya+vijay&fr=yhs-CND-002&


  5. Male actors in the Indian cinema, particularly the Hindi and South Indian industries tend to have whatever skin color is bequeathed to them by their well connected fathers and their wives.

    Female actors in these industries are overwhelmingly fair, especially those in the Southern industries.

    The few self-made male actors, like Shah Rukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Irrfan Khan are not particularly light skinned. The one lightish skinned self made actor I can think of is Akshay Kumar, but even he is not fair by Kapoor standards.

    Self-made female actors tend to be extremely light skinned, especially in the Southern industries. Perhaps Deepika Padukone represents a shift here ?

    Dark skinned actors like Ajay Devgan and Prabhas can become superstars, if their parents are well connected. Ajay Devgn’s case is particularly interesting since he is from an OBC background. But so far, the darkest skinned female superstar has been Smita Patil.

    In general, if you see Marathi cinema the actors tend to look more real life like and representative of the population.

    You might find the list here interesting:

    Looks like there is a substantial Ravidasia presence in the Indian entertainment scene.

    1. Forgot to include Rajnikanth, another dark skinned self made Indian superstar.

      I feel that though he matched SRK in popularity and box office appeal, he hasnt left the enduring body of work that SRK and Aamir Khan managed to leave outside their stereotypical blockbusters.

      1. Rajnikanth is traditionally a South Indian actor though; Razib’s query was on Bollywood actors.

        Real life pics of him now shows him to be dark, but there are earlier pics of him that show him to be light skinned, like below.

        While I don’t watch Indian TV or cinema, I do shoot a glance at them when family is watching. Even in South India, the % of fair skinned actresses is way over represented. Some of it looks like make-up but what is very noticeable is focused lighting on the face to make them look fair. It looks hilarious, in a sad way, because one clearly notices how whitewashed and unnatural their complexion is.

        1. MMP, a lot of non-Indians use Bollywood as a placeholder for all of Indian cinema, therefore I included discussion of non-Hindi cinema actors here. Rajnikanth has done some Hindi movies though.

          I think the proportion of fair skinned actresses is more in South India. I can name many Bollywood actresses who were not really that fair, Kajol, Rani Mukerji, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Konkona Sen Sharma, Swara Bhasker …

          I cant think of a single South Indian film with a dark skinned actress in a major role.

  6. Also lots of actors are lightened up quite a bit with make up and lighting. Its not beyond imagination that someone who looks like him could get a film lead in some of the southern systems, but its likely that he’d be “brightened” up. People aren’t oblivious to the beauty of darker tones, maybe its just considered a risky choice to bank money on. There was a kannada song a few years ago where the main verse of the female lead was “kariya (blackie) i love you”. The actor Vijay’s nickname is “Black Cobra”. Many actors in these production systems truly come up from the streets and get a cult following, if they look too international, it will be a huge detriment to the male viewer base. Quite different than say a Karan Johar film.

    1. girmit, the motif of dark as beautiful was quite common in Braj poetry, and is used quite often in modern day Hindi songs via sawara/sawari (dark one). Krishna, of course, literally means black or dark.

      1. I think we South Asians generally have a fairness complex. Whether it comes from being colonized by the British or from being associated with being from a “high” caste (or foreign origins in the case of Muslims) who knows?

        Isn’t there a bhajan where the refrain is Krishna asking his mother: “Radha Gori, Main kyon kaala?”

        1. Definitely, the light skin fetish is prominent in South Asia today. I would attribute it mostly to British Raj since skin color based racial ideologies developed most markedly during the colonial era.

          Given that a lot of major Hindu figures are either dark skinned (Shiva) or literally have names which mean dark/black (Krishna, Kali, Rama) I would say the attitudes in the past might have been more accommodating of darker skin tones.

          1. Agreed – the Raj & the fact the most conquests/migrations of note stemmed from the North-West..

            It’s a sad and sickening syndrome that should be wiped out..

          2. why do you think it is during the raj?

            the muslims differentiated btwn white and black muslims. and in north india i’ve read most of the skin color terms date to the muslim period.

          3. I also mentioned that the kernel of colour prejudice stems from the Aryan & Islamic invasion (northwestern invasions/migrations).

            However I do think that in general the Raj took the vulnerability/tendencies of South Asia (caste, communalism & colorism) and maxed them out..

  7. ok, some of the actors are lejit kala.

    that being , i have yet to see an indian actress in india who is actually lejit dark-skinned. all the examples are women who are just average brown. perhaps that’s the make-up and lighting.

    1. What holds for the film industry isn’t the case with fashion modelling however. Somewhat medium to dark complexion is sort of the norm

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