“Gori Chitti” to Sportscaster – Meera Venkatesan


A young  girl, with evidently little sophistication is quite worried. Her parents are discussing about the boy  who is coming to see her next week with a marriage proposal. Her mother’s hopes are low it appears, because of her dusky skinned daughter. Cut to a friend offering her a miracle,  “Make yourself fairer ( gori chitti) within a week “( or something like that she says). All you need is this cream applied everyday.  The girl and the mother cannot believe their good luck and go on to use the same  cream as directed. Hey presto, the dark skinned one is magically fair much to the satisfaction of  the boy who comes to see her and much to her mother’s relief.
Anyone who has watched Indian television in the 1980s could not have missed this commercial for a famous fairness cream. As a young girl who believed that she was a feminist and a dusky skinned one at that,  this advertisement never failed to irritate me.
Why does someone need to be fair skinned to be liked?   And how could a girl offer to white wash herself simply to win the approval of the groom’s family?     Many of the advertisements in that era were sadly on those lines.  Another classic ad I can remember is that of a worried daughter in law cleaning up her bathroom pending her mother in law’s visit.  Interestingly, the people they were projecting(  my generation of the young women of India) was surging ahead  at that time to unchartered fields and  successes. The advertisers seemed to have been clueless of that.
Cut to  the present. I happened to see the commercial for the same cream- which it appears has survived the long time. The girl, this time is a wannabe  sports caster, a la Mandira Bedi.  She is all set to  blaze the screen, but the only issue, sigh , again her dusky and lacklustre skin. She is worried, but mama dear is prepared. (Was this the same mama who got married with the help of the cream?). She produces the same with a flourish and viola, beti dear is all fair complexioned and ready to win the world on screen.
A small improvement some may say,  but I am  truly glad that the era of the submissive females is getting extinguished in the advertisement world at least!  A host of feminine products are now sold targeting individual success, growth and confidence.   The young girl in Indian commercials   need no longer make  herself  presentable  only to impress the man in a bride seeing ceremony. She instead  will do this only to achieve her goals.   We also see a host of women in different professions  in ads, be it a journalist, a model, a sports coach. Of course there is that element of the Barbie syndrome in the ad world where all these ladies in the different walks of life are perfectly turned out without a hair of their head out of place!
Why the fairness factor is still required is beyond my understanding.  Perhaps  it is soo  ingrained in the Indian psyche ( the  superiority of the gore log) to be changed.  Perhaps, it requires another 20  years to change this perception in Indian advertising!


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