While Ayushmann Khurrana’s Bala has been praised by critics and fans alike, many have pointed out that co-star Bhumi Pednekar’s brownface has diluted the film’s message of self-acceptance. The actor, who plays a woman who is routinely shamed for her dark complexion, has had her skin visibly darkened in the film. This also sparked a debate on why Bollywood is reluctant to cast a dark-skinned actor for a role that demands it.
Director Amar Kaushik has responded to the criticism claiming that the makers had initially thought of approaching an actor with a dark complexion but that didn't materialise. He told PTI in an interview,
"“There was an initial thought about casting a dark-skinned actor. I can’t say who we approached as this is not right to say. During the audition, you get to know whether an actor suits the part or not. The actor should look convincing. I felt Bhumi was superb for this character.”" - Amar Kaushik, Director
He also questioned why no one had a problem with Ayushmann Khurrana playing a prematurely balding man when he isn’t bald himself, and said that he was primarily concerned about Bhumi’s performance.
"“I felt Bhumi was fit to play Latika. But we had to do something about the colour. We did some tests on her (to get the dark skin colour). If the hero is going bald or anything, there isn’t an issue but when a female actor does (something), it is asked why this is done. For me, it was important how she is as a performer,” he said." - Amar Kaushik
He claimed that Bhumi’s makeover was part of her job as an actor. “We had thought people might say something or react in a certain way due to the colour thing,” he said, adding that physical transformation, whether putting on weight or changing skin tone, is part of the job. “Otherwise an actor will not be able to do anything... Then, it will be about an actor being suitable only for a particular kind of a role,” he added.
Directed by Amar Kaushik, Bala stars Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar with Saurabh Shukla, Seema Pahwa, Abhishek Banerjee and Javed Jaffrey in supporting roles. Set in Kanpur, the film follows the tale of a young man, who resorts to desperate – and sometimes repulsive – measures to find a solution to premature balding.
(With inputs from PTI)
. Read more on Bollywood by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsBhumi’s Performance Was Important: ‘Bala’ Dir on Brownface Debate . Read more on Bollywood by The Quint.