Samantha Akkineni just gave a fabulous performance in “The Family Man 2”, if you choose to overlook the make-up slip about her antagonist, the Tamil terrorist Raji. On the show, Samantha’s face was ‘browned up’ more than necessary, to pass her off as the Sri Lankan Tamil character she plays. The outcome was not quite what one would have hoped for. The brownface syndrome had struck in Bollywood again, this time on the OTT screen.
The term brownface generally refers to lighter-skinned actors getting drastic darkening make-up to pass off as darker-skinned characters. We have seen it happen in Indian showbiz many times, and more often than not, like Samantha Akkineni, the outcome has come across as a gaffe on screen. Several actors have gone a shade too many deeper while browning up for a role.
In the past, you could think of Shreeram Lagoo’s face being almost painted black in “Souten”, and Radhika Sarathkumar’s character Chando in “Naseeb Apna Apna” starting off as an overtly made-up dark woman because it was a tale of a rustic ugly duckling metamorphosing into the pristine swan.
Rajendra Kumar had a double role as twins in the Bollywood film “Gora Aur Kala”, where one brother, born with a blood disorder, has dark skin — reason enough for the make-up department to unleash boot polish therapy on his face. Sunil Dutt played the brownfaced farmer-turned-bandit Birju in “Mother India”. Dharmendra had shades of the black-brown daubed on himself that hardly seemed authentic, while essaying the Abyssinian slave Yakut Jamaluddin in “Razia Sultan”.
Quality of everything including make-up has become more sophisticated in our film industry — so they say. Yet, when it comes to browning or blackening of actors, we still tend to go over the top. IANS looks at a few recent examples.
SAMANTHA AKKINENI IN THE FAMILY MAN 2
South star Samantha made her debut in the digital space with a brilliant performance in season two of the series. She portrays the antagonist Raji, a Sri Lankan Tamil terrorist. To make her look the role, she is made to wear a dark skin shade that would seem twice her actual skin colour. It’s the only unbelievable thing about her otherwise authentic portrayal.
HRITHIK ROSHAN IN SUPER 30
Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan came under the scanner during “Super 30” where he played the role of Anand Kumar, the math whiz from Bihar who revolutionised preparation for entrance exams by crafting an affordable but effective education model. Kumar is far from Hrithik’s Greek God looks, and while the actor couldn’t do anything about the glaring disparity in physical built, he liberally had his face bronzed to get his ultra-fair complexion a few shades closer to Kumar’s darker heartland hue.
BHUMI PEDNEKAR IN BALA
Bhumi Pednekar went brown with vehemence for the Ayushmann Khurana starrer “Bala”, to essay a dark-skinned girl. This Bollywood film dealt with several issues, one being about dark-skinned women getting a raw deal in the marriage scene owing to skin colour. Bhumi was natural as ever playing the role, her made-up skin was not.
RANVEER SINGH IN GULLY BOY
Ranveer Singh was loved as Murad, an aspiring rapper in the slums of Mumbai. “Gully Boy” raked in crores at the box-office, but critics and fans alike were quick to notice that Ranveer had gone a few shades darker. The makeover had absolutely no connection with the storyline or his character in the film.
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