Ms. Representation: All is not fair in cinema

In last week’s release, Bala, Bhumi Pednekar plays Lathika a strong-willed, independent lawyer who practices in Kanpur. Lathika doesn’t give two hoots about ‘log kya kahenge’. She believes women deserve to be respected and shouldn’t settle for anything else. More importantly, she strongly believes that the beauty standards women are subjected to are unfair. But Lathika had to suffer before she could wear her indifference as an armour. You see Lathika is shown to have dark skin. But guess what? Bhumi doesn’t.

This irony is just impossible to escape from. Lathika doesn’t allow fairness products in her office. She advises an older woman that she is perfectly fine the way she looks and that her extra weight isn’t an excuse for her husband to cheat on her. Well-intentioned, of course, but it feels like a sham. Every time, Lathika says, ‘You’re good as you are’, or talks about fairness or society’s skewed beauty standards, all I could think about was how unfair it is that an actor with fair skin had to be darkened for this role. It’s common knowledge that dusky women don’t get enough opportunities. And now, even roles tailor-made for them seem to be going to fair-skinned women.

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