Outrage is now India’s national pastime. Except that it is about all the wrong issues. We were very vocal in denouncing the infamous AIB Roast because it purportedly trespassed on boundaries of civil human behaviour. We lashed out at a certain comedian for mimicking two venerable figures on Snapchat. Because such expression ruptures the social fabric. It is not what we want our children to grow up listening to.
But shows like Comedy Nights Bachao, which (drawing from the AIB roast, in happy irony) are aired daily on our TV sets, are sacred. In these shows, blackface is funny and drag is ill-designed yet sure to draw laughter. They convey to our children that it is okay to make fun of fat people, dark people, skinny people, people with peculiar ways of speaking, people with any distinctive traits at all. All in the name of “family-friendly” humour. Because that is how we were brought up. And who likes the status quo to be disturbed?
Tannishtha Chatterje, who visited the sets of CNB to promote her latest film Parched, was accorded the “roast” every guest on the show is subjected to. Unlike other celebs though, she did not find it funny. Here’s why:
If this is too lengthy a post, let us paraphrase:
The jokes were almost entirely centred around her skin colour. “That’s what a roast is!”, you might argue, and there’s where the problem lies.
We have internalised body-shaming and colour-shaming so deeply that we do not find anything offensive about humour of this kind.
It is as absurd as making fun of someone for having two eyes or a pair of legs. Our notions of beauty are just so Eurocentric that we continue to look at dark skin as a deviation.
Tannishtha also goes into the origins of this prejudice:
"Once I was asked “ Your surname is Chatterjee? Oh you are Brahmin.. What is your mothers surname? Maitra! Oh…. She is Brahmin too…” And then indirectly he hinted how is my skin tone still dark… ? This is so deep rooted and linked to our perceptions of caste, class and skin tone. Upper caste =Fair skin =touchable. Lower caste=dark skin=untouchable. Yes I have pronounced it. Probably most of us will not admit to our hatred for the dark skin also comes from our caste bias."
As upsetting as this sounds in the 21st century, it is nonetheless true. We live in a fool’s paradise if we ignore or refuse to accept that this is how the general perception in society is shaped. And the reason why we need to take notice of this malaise is because the most casual of remarks has a lasting impact on people. This is a form of bullying that no one talks about, yet affects so many of us irreparably. Because we grow up believing that we are not fair enough, or strong enough, or beautiful enough or smart enough, to function "normally". And that, is something that demands our outrage.
Kudos to Tannishtha for not taking this one sitting down!
Title image: hotactz
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