As the Black Lives Matter movement spread across social media last week, Bollywood stars also began to chime in. However, it was not long before fans started questioning the stars for their selective activism and called them out on their hypocrisy because amid domestic riots and issues, Bollywood has always chosen to stay silent.
“End this race war here in the US, and around the world,” wrote Priyanka Chopra, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars who currently lives in America. “Wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, NO ONE deserves to die, especially at the hands of another because of their skin colour.” Other big Bollywood’s household names, such as Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Deepika Padukone and Disha Patani, also posted messages of support for those protesting against racism in the name of George Floyd, who was killed in the US when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes.
But these messages of anti-racism and equality rang hollow coming from the mouths of Bollywood’s biggest names, some of whom in the past had made endorsement deals with skin whitening creams, or products that promoted “fairness”, thereby helping to fuel the still-rampant discrimination of darker skinned people in India.
The skin-lightening cream industry in India may be controversial but is still worth billions, and, often with Bollywood endorsement, promotes the idea of beauty being conflated with whiteness, or “fairness” and “lightening”. Chopra had previously promoted skin fairness products, though recently said it was something she regretted. After receiving backlash, Priyanka has now announced that she’s stopped endorsing fairness creams.
Many of the Bollywood stars were also accused of speaking out against race-driven atrocities in the US while remaining silent about the ongoing persecution of Muslims, migrant workers and lower caste members of society in India.