'Racist roast' infuriates Indian actor Tannishtha Chatterjee

Tannishtha is known for her work in films such as UnIndian, Angry Indian Goddesses and Parched. Photograph:( WION )

New Delhi, India Sep 28, 2016, 02.45 PM (IST)

Indian actress Tannishtha Chatterjee has slammed the makers of the popular television show 'Comedy Nights Bachao' for their insensitive and racist comments about her skin color.

The actress, 35, narrated her unpleasant experience on the show in a lengthy Facebook post and also spoke about the deep rooted caste and colour-related prejudices in the Indian society.

"I was actually looking forward to being roasted. And then this show began. And this was an entirely novel understanding of roast that equates itself with bullying. And to my utmost horror, I soon realised that the only quality they found worth roasting about in me was my skin tone.... They could identify me only with that. I could not believe I was sitting in a nationally televised comedy show in 2016 in Mumbai amid such regressive (I can't call it humor), and blatantly racist content."


She rued how roasting had become synonymous with bullying and that making fun of one's physical attributes "stems from deep prejudices."

"I explained to them the common perception of roast and how it is different from bullying. That there is no humour value in a joke about someone's physical attributes especially one that stems from deep prejudices. I don’t think they got it. Some friends also told me don’t take it so seriously, it’s just a comedy. I think that’s what the show also thinks. It’s all fun and games!

Except there is nothing funny about this. Precisely because - in a country where we still sell fair and lovely/handsome and show adverts, where people don’t get jobs because of their complexion, where every matrimonial advert demands a fair bride or groom and the color bias is so strong, in a society which has a deep-seated problem with dark skin, which also has deep roots in our caste system, in a country where dark skin is marginalised, making fun of it is not roast. Even considering that dark skin is a joke comes from that very deep prejudice." 

Tannishtha, known for her work in critically-acclaimed films such as Brick Lane, UnIndian and Angry Indian Goddesses, also said that she was worried about the "white skin hangover" and promoting such stereotypes on a national channel. Comedy Nights Bachao airs on Colors television.

"Why does skin tone still lend itself to jokes? How is it funny to call someone dark? I don’t get it.. In an India of 2016 I still have to be apologetic about my skin tone? What is this white-skin hangover? Where does all our pride as a nation go away when it comes to the acceptance that most of us have a darker skin tone? Once I was asked 'Your surname is Chatterjee?' 

'Oh you are Brahmin.. What is your mother's surname? Maitra! Oh…. She is Brahmin too…' And then indirectly he hinted how is my skin tone still dark…? This is so deep rooted and linked to our perceptions of caste, class and skin tone. Upper caste=Fair skin=touchable. Lower caste=dark skin=untouchable."
Colors, meanwhile, apologised for the 'unfortunate incident' with a statement on Twitter.

"It is rather unfortunate that what you had expected to be a fun and novel experience turned out to be traumatic for you."

Comedian Krushna Abhishek, who co-hosts 'Comedy Nights Bachao' with Bharti Singh, meanwhile told DNA in an interview that the actress was doing this for publicity and was "going overboard" with her comments.

"Tannishtha is going overboard. She is doing this for publicity. We always meet the actors before they come on the show. I had asked her if she had seen the show before and if she was familiar with our (roast) concept. She said she hadn't seen the show. She hadn't watched even AIB Roast. If she didn't know what it was, she shouldn't have come on the show. Secondly, we gave more importance to Radhika Apte who is a bigger star. That must have also been a problem for Tannishtha," Krushna Abhishek told DNA.

Tannishtha, whose work in the film 'Dekh Indian Circus' fetched her a National Award in 2013, was promoting her film 'Parched' on the show.  The film opened to rave reviews in India on September 23.


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