#BBCtrending: Video spoofs India's skin lightening craze

  • 20 March 2014
Two Indian men in discussion
Image caption A celebrity lookalike explains the benefits of the spoof product

An Indian comedian aiming to skewer India's skin lightening culture has filmed a satirical advert for an intimate skin lightening cream - especially for men.

Its creators say they want to highlight "the absurdity of the trend" in which lighter skin is considered more desirable. The video has been viewed more than 200,000 times since it was posted on YouTube on Friday. The mock advert stars a young man - played by comedian Varun Thakur - who cannot find a wife because he is too dark. But with the help of the new spoof product his fortunes are transformed, and he instantly secures an enamoured bride. With a dark comedic twist, the skin lightening cream is specifically for male genitals. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, it broadly mirrors a real life advert for similar product currently marketed to women.

The idea began as a stand-up act performed around the country by Thakur. "I wanted to make a comment on how India was obsessed with fairness creams," he told BBC Trending. "We have a vagina bleaching cream. We have a fairness cream for every body part except testicles." The video has generated a slew of comments - mostly signalling an appreciation of the gag. "A big slap to those who sell fairness," said one. "Finally, the cream I had been waiting for!" joked another.

A number of Bollywood stars have appeared in real adverts promoting skin lightening creams. Last year actor Shah Rukh Khan's decision to endorse Fair and Handsome attracted a huge amount of criticism, and led to the creation an online petition by the Dark is Beautiful campaign. Sameer Pitalwalla of Culture Machine, the company that produced the spoof online video, says: "It's a whole roster of Indian stars who peddle a product because they're getting paid for it."

The genuine adverts propagate what Pitalwalla describes as "deep-seated racism" in Indian culture, and the issue appears to be a heavily entrenched one. One 2010 report suggested the market for skin lightening creams was worth £260m ($432m), and growing at 18% per year. "Fair-skinned people tend to get better jobs, they get more attention, they star on television," says Jerry Pinto an Indian cultural commentator. "It's a racist inequality."

Reporting by Sam Judah

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