DER Documentary

A Darker Side of Fair

by Deepak Leslie
color, 25 min, 2004
in English and Hindi
with English subtitles



Shedding new light upon issues of global diversity, this documentary focuses on the extent to which a "fairness fetish" has permeated various levels of Indian society. Today in India fairness is a benchmark for beauty; marriages are decided on the basis of skin color; and fair means "lucky" whereas dark means "ugly". Fair skin as an ideal exists in all facets of Indian life: fashion, marriage, advertising etc.

Although historically women have been burdened with the need to conform to the societal perception of the "light-skinned beauty", increasingly today even young Indian men feel the need to opt for products and processes to enhance their skin tone. While the origins of the fair-skinned ideal can be traced back to the ancient Indian epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, today Western influences and media pressure have resulted in a growing market for fairness products and skin lightening treatments.

Fairness is a serious business in India, one with intensely psychological ramifications. With a focus on the emotional and psychological impact, this film addresses the historical and contemporary factors that contribute to the pressures thrust upon Indian women by a society obsessed with fair skin.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Memphis International Film Festival, 2004
Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, 2005
Northeastern Anthropological Association Ethnographic Film & Video Festival, Lake Placid, NY, 2005
Heard Museum Film Festival, Arizona, 2005
American Psychological Association Annual Convention, Washington DC, 2005
10th Mostra Internacional do Filme Etnografico, Brazil, 2005

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