University of Texas at Austin
  • Inclusive Hindi
  • Instructional Material
  • Making Hindi Grammar Inclusive
  • Inclusive Classroom
  • Student Voices
  • About

Instructional Materials


Colorism is prejudice against darker skin-tones of the same skin color - it is a preference for the 'fairer' in society.

While not unique to India, the parent culture of Hindi, colorism is rampant in every nook & corner of India and in the Indian diaspora around the globe. It is an age old practice where being dark is considered undesirable as dark skin is associated with belonging to a lower caste.

Such discrimination based on skin-tone is taught and ingrained from a young age, through overt and covert messages where fairness is equated to beauty and being dark is considered ugly. While dark skin tones are considered to be an undesirable trait irrespective of gender assignment or identification by those who practice colorism, the brunt of colorism falls on the girl child and on women. More often than not, women with a darker skin-tone are stigmatized since birth as being ugly, inauspicious and undesirable with limited prospects of being 'successful', where success is equated to, ‘making a suitable marriage alliance’.

These prejudices of colorism are perpetuated and underscored by media, the most influential of them being the Bollywood or Hindi film industry, the soft power of which cannot be overstated. Many of the instances of colorism on Bollywood’s silver screen are subtle but powerful. For instance, women protagonists are often featured with a darker skin-tone in scenes when being rejected by the desirable male protagonists (who may or may not be of a dark skin-tone), only to suddenly reappear with a noticeably lighter skin-tone when fully embraced by the male protagonist - she has suddenly become desirable now that she has a lighter skin-tone, or, now that she is desirable, she cannot be featured with a dark skin-tone, either way, is colorism at its subtle best!

Not so subtle skin-lightening products normalize colorism through marketing strategies that employ Bollywood stars in their advertising campaigns to send a loud and clear message that you need to be fair in order to be successful - this time 'success' referring to both, the personal and professional. Stardom overshadows the inherent prejudice of colorism and society blindly accepts, with the victim internalizing and victimizer normalizing the discrimination.

Discussing colorism in the Hindi classroom opens a window into the lives of young native speakers of Hindi, both in India and the diaspora, giving an age appropriate glimpse into the parent culture of the language that is not found in traditional textbooks. It also lends a voice to both, many of our students who have experienced colorism directly or indirectly, as well as to students who have experience with other forms of body-shaming discrimination. In a nutshell, it leads to language acquisition through engagement with age appropriate materials that reflect the social realities lived by our students.

Since the prejudice of colorism is more pronounced against women, many of the materials listed in this section can also be used for modules discussing sexism and gender disparity.


Hindi Films

Bala, 2019 / बाला, २०१९

Hindi language film currently available on

Directed by Amar Kaushik; Written by Niren Bhatt and Ravi Muppa; Actors: Ayushman Khurana, Bhumi Pednekar

Bala is a Hindi language film that addresses issues of internalizing societal norms and expectations of body-image and the subsequent anxiety that results from body-shaming. It revolves around a young man Bala, whose identity was vested in his full bodied hair when he was young and who now, in his youth, is petrified that people will mock him were they to even get an inkling that he has lost most of his hair due premature balding. Ironically Bala is a sales person for a skin-whitening cream and cannot understand the contempt and resistance he faces from his childhood friend who is comfortable in her dark-skin tone.

Skin-Whitening Cream Sales Seminar scene Transcript & Vocabulary

Counter numbers 13:10-14:39 : In the scene chosen to address the issue of colorism in the Hindi classroom, Bala is hosting a sales seminar where he is selling the skin-whitening cream to a roomful of young men and women. The sales pitch is that "no one want so marry a dark skinned 'girl', but that the women in the room need not worry as now they have a solution for their problem, viz. the skin-whitening cream, Pretty You".

Vivah 2006 / विवाह २००६

Hindi language film currently available on Netflix, Amazon Prime & Youtube

Directed by Sooraj R. Barjatya; Written by Sooraj R. Barjatya; Actors: Amrita Rao, Seema Biswas, Amrita Prakash, Alok Nath

Vivah is a Hindi language film about a young orphaned girl Poonam who is brought up by her uncle (father's brother) and aunt (his wife) who is hostile towards her because she is 'fairer' and hence prettier than her own daughter, Poonam's cousin.

Transcripts & vocabulary of the clips from the film विवाह/Vivah

Approximate counter numbers for the clips from Nextflix:

Clip 1: 02:26-03:26; Clip 2: 09:15-09:40; Clip 3: 09:41-10:14; Clip 4: 1:24:-34-1:24:47; Clip 5: 13:39-14:07

Hindi film songs

Hindi film songs often perpetuate colorism explicitly or implicitly through references to the "fair skin toned", the "dark-skin toned who is nonetheless endearing" and a multitude of euphemisms for a lighter fair-skin toned person. Transcripts of clips from 3 popular Hindi film songs with references to colorim occurring with varied degrees of subtlety, highlight how the message of colorism can get internalized, sometimes subliminally.

फ़िल्म: मैं हूँ ना, २००४ - गीत/गाना: गोरी गोरी/Film: "Main Hoon Na", 2004 - Song "gori gori" ||

फ़िल्म: दिलवाले दुल्हनिया ले जाएँगे, १९९५ - गीत/गाना: 'मेहंदी लगाके रखना, डोली सजाके रखना'/Film: "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaenge", 1995 - Song: 'mehendi laga ke rakhna' ||

फ़िल्म: दिल से, १९९८ - गीत/गाना: 'ऐ अजनबी'/Film: "Dil Se", 1998 - Song: 'ae ajnabi' ||

Transcript of various short clips from songs perpetuating colorism in indian

Skin-lightening products

Advertisements of skin-lightening products are plentiful in South Asia. They initally targeted young girls and women, but now, in a move to be inclusive, have expanded their market to include men, though their primary clientele still remain women. 'Fair & lovely', recently rebranded as 'Glow & Lovely' is one such Indian skin-lightening product marketed by Hindustan Uniliver since the 1970s. It is one of the most successful skin-lightening products in terms of name recognition and is a common household name in countries across South Asia and in the South Asian diaspora, with young girls often being encouraged to use it to lighten their skin-tone.

(i) मधुबाला की कहानी/Madhubala kii kahaanii (ii) Ayurvedic Fair & Lovely

Transcript & Glossary of the ads 'Madhubala kii kahanii' and "Ayurvedic F&L'

Article, "देर आए दुरुस्त आए 'फेयर & लवली', लेकिन यह पहल काफी नहीं है" is an article questioning whether Uniliver's move to remove the word 'fair' from its skin lightening product 'Fair & Lovely' is sufficient to combat colorism. Hindustan Uniliver replaced the word 'fair' with the word 'glow' - the skin lightening cream is now sold under the name 'Glow & Lovely'.

Glossary & grammar points for the article "देर आए दुरुस्त आए 'फेयर & लवली', लेकिन यह पहल काफी नहीं है"

Example of a module on colorism

All the materials listed above can be used meaningfully across various levels of proficiency. Below is an example of how they were used in the second semester of a first year Hindi class at UT-Austin.

example of how to broach the topic of colorism in a first year hindi class


Instructional MaterialCaste/Race RelationsLGBTQIA+What to do when one's hands are tied by existing materials?
Emergency Information
Creative Commons License
The Inclusive Hindi Project