Actress Tannishtha Chatterjee, who is promoting her new film Parched, left a TV show while it was still taping after being derided for being dark-skinned. Ms Chatterjee said though she had been warned that Comedy Nights Bachao, which airs on the entertainment channel Colors, “roasts” its guests, what she was subjected to was racism. She talked Aneesha Baig about her experience and why she decided to go public with her anger on Facebook.
The irony is, when I was told it’s a roast, I was told it won’t be harsh, it’ll be a halka-phulka roast. This is halka phulka?! A roast is supposed to be a counter to a toast. So when they said a roast, I thought it was great, I thought they will celebrate my body of work by making fun of it. And this was all they could think of!

What is this content you’re propagating? That’s what they didn’t get. They thought I’m personally offended. I’m very happy with my skin tone and comfortable in it. I wish they had offended me. They are still propagating an idea that’s deeply rooted in our caste system and they still think it’s funny. The racism is so entrenched they didn’t even know they were being obnoxious.

It’s 2016. We’re competing to be a superpower, we’re supposed to be talking progress. And we have to talk about it till it changes. The first thing we have to be is proud of our skin tone and not apologetic about it. This is the first step to any progress in the nation.

We’re promoting a film called Parched in which we’re actually talking about issues like this, and who knew we would be encountering it in real life during our promotions. The film is set against a rural backdrop. This is a highly urban environment, and still…
I have been treated this particular way, for the first time. Lines like “You must have eaten a lot of jamuns as a child”. Imagine. I was there to have fun made of me! So why are you bringing in something we should be past? Why is this even funny? The fact that it’s seen as funny is prejudice. You still think dark skin is a thing. I am an actress and I have a body or work – and I still have to hear just this. And then I have to explain why it’s not funny. Because they think it is.

Colours has tweeted saying that it’s really unfortunate that what was supposed to be a fun experience turned out to be this. I have tweeted back saying it’s not about me. It’s about the conversation. I mean, so deep is the prejudice that everyone thinks it’s funny – right from their childhood they’ve grown up with it. I guess they’re just products of their own upbringing. I’m not fighting them, I’m fighting prejudice. This is our fight.