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Chakda ’Xpress teaser: Anushka Sharma faces criticism for wearing ‘brownface’; know what it means

In a country that is still obsessed with fairer skin tone, the concept of brownface is a strange paradox

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
January 7, 2022 8:50:25 pm
Chakda ’Xpress, Chakda ’Xpress teaser, Chakda ’Xpress trailer, Anushka Sharma in Chakda ’Xpress, Anushka Sharma brownface, Anushka Sharma complexion, Anushka Sharma as cricketer Jhulan Goswami, racism, racist stereotype, indian express newsThe actor shared the teaser for her role as ace cricketer Jhulan Goswami -- former Indian captain -- in the film 'Chakda Xpress'.

You may have heard of the term ‘Blackfishing‘, ‘Blackface’, or even ‘Asianfishing’, which many celebrities have been slammed for in the past. All of these terms are viewed from the prism of cultural appropriation — that is, when people belonging to other races and ethnicities try to copy or appropriate the culture of another race, usually ignoring the social, political and historical significance attached to it.

Blackface, for instance, is when a non-Black person, by means of makeup, alters their appearance to come across as Black. It was previously rendered as caricaturish and, therefore, censured globally.

Similarly, the concept of Asianfishing entails a non-Asian person altering their appearance to have ‘Asian’-like features — typically mono-lids — like singer Ariana Grande did recently. She purportedly wore the appearance of a Japanese school girl in a uniform, making fans compare her with an anime character.

 

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A post shared by Kat (@katiatemkin)

Now, actor Anushka Sharma is also being called out for ostensibly changing her look for a movie. While actors do it all the time, the reason that the A-lister is getting criticised is because for a naturally light-complexioned person to wear a darker skin tone by means of makeup is odd, to say the least.

The actor has been slammed for promoting ‘brownface’. She shared the teaser for her role as ace cricketer Jhulan Goswami — the former Indian captain — in the film ‘Chakda Xpress‘. In it, she appeared several tones darker. Take a look.

 

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A post shared by AnushkaSharma1588 (@anushkasharma)

What is the meaning of brownface and why is it problematic?

Much like the concept of Blackface, brownface is when a white or light-skinned person tries to portray themselves as a ‘brown’ person. By using makeup, they suppress their original skin tone to make themselves appear a certain way. In this case, Sharma portrays a character who has a different skin colour than her own.

It is akin to a racist stereotype, wherein in a biopic, instead of casting someone who looks similar to the person they are portraying, filmmakers go after bigger, more sought-after stars. A similar cry had erupted when actor Priyanka Chopra was roped in to play the role of boxer Mary Kom; she had to rely on makeup and prosthetics to make herself look like the boxer who hails from the Indian state of Manipur.

In Bollywood, brownface is not uncommon, with many actors choosing makeup to authentically play certain characters, but looking inauthentic instead. Like when Bhumi Pednekar played a dark-skinned person in the film Bala, or when Alia Bhatt played a dusky girl from Bihar in Udta Punjab.

Interestingly, this is the second time that an actor has tried to ‘look’ like Goswami. Previously, Aahana Kumra’s tribute to the cricketer was not received well by fans, who called her out for her outrageous makeup. Take a look at the post.

 

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A post shared by Aahana S Kumra (@aahanakumra)

In a country that is still obsessed with fairer skin tone, the concept of brownface is a strange paradox; what do you think?

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