Kollywood: A Biased Film Industry


It is no secret that India is a nation obsessed with fairness – a country that constantly conveys to women that fair is beautiful. From skincare products like Fair & Lovely and White Tone, the beauty market is filled with dubious creams and powders that claim to make women more fair and “beautiful.” This message is repulsive and absurd.

The majority of Indian women have darker skin complexions ranging from tan to dark brown. To invalidate such a large part of the female population and make women feel as if they need to change themselves to be considered “beautiful” is wrong.

The biggest platform that this message is conveyed in is Indian cinema, specifically South Indian films. Let’s look at Kollywood, the Tamil film industry. While most Tamil girls have tan to dark skin tones and are beautiful, sadly the Tamil film industry does not agree. A Google search for “Tamil actresses” yields the following:


Notice a commonality? They all have similar skin tones.

Worse, with the exception of Trisha Krishnan and Shruthi Hassan, none of the actresses are even Tamil. Hansika Motwani and Tamannaah Bhatia are Sindhi from Mumbai. Sneha’s mother tongue is Telugu and Asin is from Kerala. Shriya Saran is North Indian, Simran is Punjabi, and Aishwarya Rai hails from Mangalore. Other popular Kollywood actresses include Nayanthara Kurian (Malayali), Kajal Aggarwal (Punjabi) and Anushka Shetty (from Karnataka).

Non-Tamilians playing the role of Tamil girls in Tamil movies bothers me because it conveys two messages:

  1. Tamil girls are not pretty or talented enough to act in Tamil movies.
  2. The natural skin tone of a Tamil girl is too dark to be accepted in the Tamil film industry.

An emerging popular actress in Tamil films is Amy Jackson. While all other actresses are from various parts of India and speak other Indian languages, Amy is neither. She is white British and speaks no Indian languages.

Of course, this does not mean that she cannot act in Indian films. I am perfectly OK with that. I loved her role in the film Madharasapattinam, where she plays a British girl living in India during the colonial era.

However, what bothers me are her roles as a common Tamil girl in movies like Thanga Magan and Gethu. In the film Gethu, she plays a Brahmin “girl next door” character. A British woman is cast to play a character named Nandhini Ramanujam because Kollywood apparently could not find a single Tamil woman who could play such a beautiful Nandhini. To say that was disappointing would be an understatement.


It makes me ask – are there no Tamil girls that are talented or pretty enough to play these roles that Kollywood must cast an actress from Britain? Moreover, she was praised for her acting in the movie and for her ability to perfectly lip sync Tamil dialogue that was being dubbed. Yet why do we have actresses that need to lip sync dialogue when we can get actresses who can actually speak Tamil?

We all know that media and films have a strong impact on people, especially the younger generation. By creating the image of a beautiful woman as one who is fair skinned, stick skinny and, in most cases, non-Tamil, Kollywood is increasingly dangerous to young Tamil women who are watching these films. This impossible standard of beauty is unattainable and damaging to a woman’s self-confidence.

Movie actresses are often seen as a symbol of beauty. Girls compare themselves to these actresses and think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be so pretty?” or “Wouldn’t it be nice to be so skinny?” Girls who do not fit this “ideal” feel pressure to use fake fairness products and go on ridiculous diets.

The truth, however, is that actresses are people just like everyone else. When Kollywood film actresses do not look like the majority of South Indian girls, it screams to everyone watching these films that being dark skinned is not beautiful, being South Indian is not beautiful and being Tamil is not beautiful. I am not OK with this and you shouldn’t be either.

So here is a shout out to the Tamil film industry, Tamil ads and Tamil media as a whole: please cast Tamil women of all different skin tones so that everyone can relate to them. Let’s start creating realistic standards of beauty, not just irrational ones. Let’s teach our girls that having fair skin doesn’t make you beautiful, but that embracing and accepting yourself just the way you are is the real beautiful.


Did you know that TC is turning 5 this year? Join us to celebrate on Friday, September 16 at the Spoke Club on King West (Toronto) with a fun and vibrant night market theme that gives you a chance to meet the founders behind some of the most influential companies and organizations in the Tamil community. Grab your tickets here.

Related articles:

How Fa(i)r Will We Go?
Why Skin Colour Should Have No Bearing on Beauty
Growing Up Dark-Skinned in a Color-Conscious India

Are you single? Are you interested in meeting Tamil singles in your city and across the world? Join myTamilDate.com!

Editor's Note

Thank's so much for being a TC Reader! To continue bringing you more of the stories you love for free, our team needs your help. Will you make a small contribution? Every bit helps!

Give $15 Give Another Amount


Saimithra Reddy

Saimithra Reddy

Born in Chennai but raised in Chicago, Mithra is often mistaken for an American Born Confused Desi. Being a hardcore Rajinikanth fan, an established Indian classical dancer, and someone who has left a piece of her heart in Chennai, she begs to differ. She loves to write, run long distances, and dance for a ridiculous amount of hours. She's also the biggest sweet tooth you will ever meet!

Read More Stores From Saimithra Reddy...
Tags: , ,

81 thoughts on “Kollywood: A Biased Film Industry

  1. According to Malcolm X, this is a form of ‘self hate,’ introduced by the British who enslaved our lands, as well as our minds…

  2. But your eyes sees it right, even if you don’t think it’s right! Your eyes and is observation tells you that light skin women are much beautiful than dark skin. But at the end of the day beauty is in the women who is self sustaining and daily motivation to others in their life. Why post this!

  3. Keethan That your mind perceives darker skinned women as less beautiful is symptomatic of a colonised mind; one unaware of a social construct built for another’s agenda. That dark skin itself is not inherently seen as unattractive is affirmed by the countless dark skinned South Indian actors who are praised for this very feature. Apparently Kabali’s wife wishes to smear her skin in his darkness, while of course being fair skinned herself.

  4. And why do your eyes think it’s right? Is it because you’ve been conditioned to think it’s right?

  5. Plus beauty is in the eyes of each individual, you can not blame media ! Blame your self for believing in it. Pc culture is irrelevant to true life style. Unless you are controlled and motivated by what u see in movies and social media, why bother posting. The media industry cast lighter skin women bc it bring more viewers. They aren’t saying that darker skinned women can’t act or be a magnificent actress, their just saying people prefer lighter skin women and it brings the money to their million dollar production. This is pure in the south Asian entertainment business !

  6. No good sir, my individuality and my taste picks who I consider beautiful not media or anything that you believe has conditioned me to believe that lighter skin is beautiful!

  7. As a South Asian living in the west, I am definitely on the darker side and while this society perceives me as ugly, there are many westerners who actually compliment me for my skin shade. They find South Asian women, Latino/Hispanic women absolutely sexy for their darker skin shade alone and try various methods for tanning, contrary to what Indians believe in “fairness” being more attractive. I wouldn’t blame you for being whitewashed. 🙂

  8. If people felt so strongly about shadeism and want to make a real impact the answer is simple, stop watching it, whether it be dark or light skin. No point in being hypocritical about it when you say there’s too many light skinned people but you tacitly agree to it by watching it anyway. At the end of the day, Its a matter of preference both for males and females and people forget that society in India is more homogenized anyway so to bring an argument of shadeism to our doorstep is futile, cause what can we do, our values and our understanding of society is quite different .

  9. Omg this has nothing to do with being white washed this post it self is pointless. You your self believe the society things your ugly then you state westerns compliment you they are part of your society as well as other race! And please don’t assume I think or believe lighter skin is Better than dark I simply have an individualistic preference of what is beauty. This is why everything about this post and Tamil culture post are mediocre at best!

  10. Excuuuuse me for third wheelin ya’lls post U0001f602…I hate the whole skin tone bias thing too! Never understood why south India has to be down played, they have some good movies too from what I’ve heard and very pretty actresses…Shriya Saran U0001f60d

  11. Girl you are always welcome U0001f602she is pretty!! But that’s the thing though! She’s not even South Indian U0001f644 most of our actresses are North Indian.. esp in Tamil movies. I sometimes like to think maybe not a lot of Tamil girls opt for a movie career but I could be very wrong lol all you have to be fair skin toned to be in our movies. Acting ability could be meh.. And dubbing dialogues could be so out of place. You got white skin? You’re good U0001f602

  12. Whaat?! She’s not South Indian? U0001f633 I guess Tamanna may not be either then…ugh “fair skin you’re in” I hate that! These shows our parents watch all the girls are fair skinned and most of them lately look the same…need more variety and it’s not fair bc I’m sure it’s just as competitive to get a lead role in a tv show as it is to get into Bollywood.

  13. Ya Tamannah is from Bombay lol Yes! I noticed that in our Indian serials too! U0001f644 jeez people. If you’re dark either your poor, or a villain U0001f60f like just stop U0001f44e

  14. That movie Dheeram has the right looking actors…is it a sri Lankan movie or from India?

  15. So true! It’s so great to see people standing up to this narrow minded way of thinking!!

  16. I think this whole shadeism nonsense was imposed by the british itself early on when they colonized india!! And now she, a british herself speaks against it.. Pillaya nulli viddu thoddilum aaddi viduraan – (you pinch the baby and then try to rock it to sleep)

  17. I have never heard an Indian Tamil speak their own language without an English word in it… Exept for Vairamuthu. But north Sri lankan tamils speak beautiful Tamil with the understanding that English is no where near the complexity of Tamil.

  18. This is just the tip of the iceberg. You look at the arranged marriage front a fair woman is a must for all mothers looking for their sons. So at the heart of it woman are also to blame for this school of thought that fair is beautiful because God forbid they end up with a dark skinned daughter in law.

  19. i’m tamilian and dark skinned but i don’t see what’s so wrong with non tamilians playing tamil roles. directors select actresses because they will make the film succeed. it’s a business pure and simple. and at this point, tamil audiences seem to have a preference for girls who are non tamilians, light skinned, and fit. that’s okay. nothings wrong with that. and i think in many ways, it shows how open minded tamils are for accepting a british girl (amy jackson) as one of their lead actresses and other actresses from all across india.

  20. This is indeed a form of ‘self hate’ but the British did not introduce it. Hinduism introduced it and perfected anti-black racism long before the British arrived – http://www.trinicenter.com/more/India/invasionsandracism.htm “The Sudras were always vilified as a black race: After Prajapati (ie. Brahma) created the beings,
    ” The colour (Varna ) of the Brahmans was white, that of the Kshtriyas red, that of the Vaisyas yellow, and that of the Shudras black”
    — [ MBh.Santi.6930 ff ][ Muir.I.140 ]
    ” The Brahman is his mouth; he is the Kshattriya-armed, that great One, Vaisya-thighed, and has the black caste abiding in his feet.” ” Brahmananam kshattra-bhujo mahatma vid-urur anghrisrita-krishna-varnah”
    — [ Muir.I.156 ] [ Bhg.Pur.II.1.37 ]
    “Others he [ Brahma ] created from his feet, whose chief characterisitic was drakness.”
    — [ Muir 62 ] [ Vis.Pur. I.6.5 ]
    ” these 7 varshas have a system of four castes. The caste which dwell there are severally the Kapilas, Arunas, Pitas, and Krishnas (or, the Tawny, the Purple, the Yellow and the Black). These, the Brahmans, Kshattryias, the Vaisya an Sudras, worship woth excellent sacrifices Vishnu … in the form of Vayu… ”
    — [ Muir I.499 ] [ Vis.Pur.II.4.12 ]”

  21. What makes anyone attractive or not attractive? It’s all a learned experience. So at the end of the day, there is a category of people considered unattractive and a category of people considered attractive. This will consistently change over time. We just got to learn to respect everyone, be kind, and compassionate. Attractive, unattractive, blah wtv, you can easily overcome that with personality. It’s a cruel world but not a hopeless one.

  22. It’s amazing that this struggle continues the world over. We try to face this and challenge the underlying assumptions about beauty and skin color in the African- American community, but even there, there is a bias.
    Black IS beautiful.
    “fairness” is outdated

  23. U0001f64fU0001f64fU0001f64f it’s ridiculous that no one looks like me in the industry that is supposedly for me. it’s also gross how gendered this anti-blackness is though it reflects on the target audience of kollywood who are young men.

  24. True, but with that said, the British have reinforced this through color consciousness, changing of our names through conversions, and recategorized India as to which ethnic groups and so called castes were civilized, or not…

  25. There is beauty in everything, the fact that you’ve conditioned your mind to a specific liking of lighter skin contradicts everything your saying! Beauty is in everything you just choose to ignore that and choose to only see lighter skin as beauty. That’s ignorance and conditioning lol

  26. There’s a lot of good literature out there on subtle conditioning and unconscious biases.

  27. I bet you never been to Toronto. Mate, your second generation can’t speak a word and their dishwasher illiterate parents are so proud of it.

  28. Keethan I gotta give it to you. You stick to your guns and are honest about it. The problem in Canadian diaspora is everyone lies to be politically correct. Look at the all the Tamil doctors, Politicians, businessmen. Their wives and girlfriends are mostly fair. What I can’t stand about these guys is they’ll preach against shadiest and portray themselves as feminist while they do exactly the opposite in their personal lives.

  29. Haha i didnt see the movie, but why didnt he Pick a Dark skinned lady as his heroine in stead of adding a scene as she wants his darkness U0001f602U0001f602U0001f648
    And everyone think what a great gesture U0001f648U0001f633

  30. I personally can’t stand dark girls who compensate by acting bitchy. Like it doesn’t help the cause. Worse are the ones who carry a Mindy Kaling book. I already find you ugly and you have to be rude and arrogant to make it even worse. Like it’s not helping. I am gonna get a girl from south east Asia.

  31. Ps: I used to be a rajini fan when I was younger! His movies are cool but if you really look deep you will find yourself bit disappointed !!!

  32. He may be talking about all of us in Europe U0001f602U0001f648
    Not Torontonian Tamils U0001f61b

  33. ^ come on! Rajini is a huge hypocrite. He claims black is beautiful in Shivaji but then made fun of angavai sangavai in the same movie. Basically if you’re a dark Tamil male, you’re good. But if you’re a dark Tamil female, you’re fugly.

  34. Well ladies from the South:
    What about boycotting watching these Tamil movies… Not only for skin colour reasons but a bunch of reasons women are portrayed in these movies?
    Maybe when an actress states publicly that she denied acting in a big budget movie due to the portrayal of the woman, maybe some may open up their eyes!?!
    Well a problem can only be changed by either people involved or people supporting it!

  35. Dude, they can’t speak a word of Tamil. And you’re commenting on TC about Tamils speaking Tamil. Hahahaha

  36. During that scene, she reassures him that he is worthy of her love. His dark skin tone is one of the traits she loves about him. This compliment only ever comes from women in Kollywood – and frequently. Here’s a classic song dedicated to the cause: fair skinned Malavika sings about her love for Murali’s dark skin tone.
    “Karupputhaan Ennaku Pudicha Coloru”
    Edit: This hypocrisy goes deeper than Rajini. It’s embedded in Kollywood and with its viewers.

  37. What still gets me is the ad from the movie “I” for “Fair and lovely” where they used Amy Jackson as a South Indian and she became so white after using this product.

  38. I visited China recently, I don’t know why, but they use European models for pretty much every advert. It’s something beyond the obsession of colour I guess. Being westernised is a kinda cool they must think.U0001f605 Just my thought. It’s not fair though. Gotta fight the injustice. I don’t think Kollywood have same standard for male actors.

  39. I beg to differ. Hope you have watched Kakka Muttai and films by BALA . The heroines portrayed in such movies are shown to be tan/dark skinned. It is the story and the characters background that decides how they are shown in movies by sensible directors. If it is a fantasy movie (far removed from reality) I don’t think any thing wrong in showing them as fair beauties. In Tollywood movies go one step ahead and drench the actress in at least one song sequence and hope you know for what. Hope as the society matures all this may go away one day .

  40. Idk what the world’s obsession with being light skinned is. This has been going on for so long it’s embarrassing. The movies promote it, which causes companies like fair and lovely to exploit dark skinned women. Can you name one dark skinned actress in kollywood? Impossible. Everyone is beautiful, skin colour has nothing to do with it. We need to embrace our dark skin women.

  41. >”No good sir, my individuality and my taste picks who I consider beautiful not media or anything that you believe has conditioned me to believe that lighter skin is beautiful!”
    That’s not possible because you don’t exist in a vacuum. Media and culture definitely shape your thinking whether you are aware of it or not.

  42. So what? She’s a Telugu who was born in Chennai and had exposure to Tamil media. Those qualify her to express her opinion on the subject. Some Telugus who have been living in TN for generations also identify as Tamils. Are average Telugus and Tamils so racially different?

  43. I don’t think so. This is rooted in Indian history way before British came along. Some British were opposed to the caste system. The Vedas of the indo-Aryans depict dark skinned indian natives in a bad light.

  44. Of course you can blame the media. To downplay the effect of media on the way people think is very naive.

  45. >” Mate, your second generation can’t speak a word and their dishwasher illiterate parents are so proud of it.”
    Wrong about both claims. This is a huge generalization. Just because they speak English in an English speaking country doesn’t mean they don’t know how to speak Tamil.
    Eelam Tamil parents in the west definitely encourage their children to learn their native language and at home they converse in Tamil. This is why Eelam Tamil diaspora have vibrant Tamil cultural events.

  46. Siva Eesan lusupayale, this is the subject that she abord, why there were no tamil girl awear of it?! And Mr. Easan, i m not à Tamil nationalist and i m not proud of you as a Tamil. In my comment there is nothing against the author. It’s all against you the Tamils!

  47. Thank u very very much for this article! I’m first indian then tamil and i’m sooooo proud of my skin tone and if someone is not happy with that, I don’t care at aaaall!! ☺️

  48. The fact that you think a fantasy where everything is perfect would include a light skin girl is the problem lol. And just because a few movies don’t do this doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. If everyone who walked by you kicked you, but then one person walked by without kicking you, you think there is no problem there?

  49. This is one of the major problems in the many many problems that the Tamil film industry has. The women don’t even have roles in movies 95% of the time. She’s just there to look pretty…. Most of the women don’t know the language and don’t do their own dubbing. The majority of the industry is extremely immature in this regard. The industry has actually regressed in this regard, women were better actors and had more important roles in decades past them now… Sad

  50. Thanks Saimithra for this. IT means a lot. 
    I also agree with the point given by Manoj Anbuselvam in the comments. Women hold very little executive or decision-making power in the Tamil film industry. Glad to see that changing with more female producers, writers and directors.

  51. As a person hailing from chennai i can explain to all people blaming tamil films without knowing whats going on here,so no tamil women in film industry search for famous bollywood heroines you will come across names like vidya balan,hema malini,sridevi all these are famous heroines with pan india audience all these women are tamil,these women all married fair north indian men and became full hindi wallas why not marry tamil men,tamil women and indian women as a whole look down on dark skinned men they go for fair men,  despite having influence they never voiced any support when tamilnadu had issues with neighbouring states and they never cared about silankan issue either they feel ashamed to call themselves tamils atleast we had some north indian actresses who came south learned the language and took the tamil issues to national level,what do rest of india think about tamils ugly darkskinned people and about srilankan tamils they are terrorists that have to be shot dead this is the truth if you think sinhalese are bad then indians are far worse than that,most male actors are not tamil either all newcomers are not tamil,chennai is not at all tamil there are more hindi and telugu speakers than there are tamil,recent media reports claim there are more telugu speakers than tamil in tamilnadu tamil students are now a minority in colleges across tamilnadu the writer herself is not a tamil she should write about her state andhra pradesh a state with high rates of crime and bad track record on women and a much bigger film industry which makes more violent movies and not even won a national award or so.

Leave a Reply

More In Life