An Evening with Nandita Das


The Last Word bookshop hosted an interview session with the Indian actor and activist, Nandita Das on March 16th 2015. What I thought would be an open meet and greet turned out to be a scripted interview, with Ms. Nandita Das, indulging in conversation with her interviewer and a limited Q&A afterwards.

Not that the audience didn’t intervene every now and then, it wasn’t exactly the kind of “Evening with Nandita Das ” *air quotes* as I had hoped. Nonetheless, the interviewer did manage to ask Ms. Das about a sociable cause she is associated with which was of particular interest to me. Its called Dark is Beautiful (DIB as I like to call it) and Ms. Das’s motto is “stay unfair, stay beautiful”.

DIB is an awareness campaign launched by Women of Worth in 2009. The campaign’s basic agenda is to draw attention to the unjust and biased attitude towards people based on their skin color and to promote the notion that beauty is skin deep. Such a grave prejudice exists towards dark skin tone along with ugly stereotypes depicting dark women as being uneducated and belonging to poor social strata reinforced my social media.

According to the incredibly smart, witty and humorous Ms. Das (honestly, there is no stopping her! She can satisfy anyone with her reason and logic) she became the face of DIB by default because apparently no other actress exists in Bollywood who had a dark complexion and has stayed the same. Even renowned beauties like Bipasha Basu and Deepika Padrukone (I hope I spelled that right) have eventually managed to lighten their skin tones over time. Nandita however, has always refused whenever she has been asked to lighten her skin tone for a role. She herself has faced that prejudice in the industry where she was asked to look fairer because her character was that of some educated or rich. You hearin that Oprah?

Sadly we suffer from this disease just as much as India. After all, this is what all fairness creams cash in on. The subcontinent as a whole is plagued by this fascination with fair skin. Ask a guy what kind of girl he wants and majority would reply “pyari aur gori (beautiful and fair)” regardless of how they themselves might look. Not to go all senti but we all are beautiful in our own right, whether it’s something superficial or innate?

Like Gaga said,

“I’m beautiful in my way ‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret, Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way”

Enough said!