Samantha Akkineni, Bhumi Pednekar in Hrithik Roshan and Ranveer Singh, Bollywood continues to face its stars

Samantha Akkineni is the latest star to have a brunette face in Bollywood (Photo credit: Movie Still, Episode Still)

Samantha Akkineni just gave a fabulous performance in “The Family Man 2”, if you choose to neglect the makeup on her antagonist, the Tamil terrorist Raji. On the show, Samantha’s face was more than necessary to make her come across as the Sri Lankan Tamil character she plays. The result was not quite what we would have hoped for. Brown Face Syndrome had struck Bollywood again, this time on the OTT screen.

The term brownface generally refers to lighter-skinned actors who put on drastic makeup to impersonate darker-skinned characters. We have seen it perform on several occasions in Indian showbiz, and more often than not, like Samantha Akkineni, the result has appeared like a blunder on screen. Several actors have gone a little too far while turning brown for a role.

In the past, one could think of Shreeram Lagoo’s face almost painted black in “Souten”, and the character of Radhika Sarathkumar Chando in “Naseeb Apna Apna” starting as a dark woman with open makeup because it was the story of ‘an ugly rustic duckling transforming into an immaculate swan.

Rajendra Kumar played a dual role as twins in the Bollywood film “Gora Aur Kala”, where a brother, born with a blood disease, has dark skin – reason enough for the makeup department to trigger therapy of shoe polish on his face. Sunil Dutt played Birju, the brown-faced farmer turned bandit in “Mother India”. Dharmendra had shades of black brown smeared all over himself that looked barely authentic, while trying on Abyssinian slave Yakut Jamaluddin in “Razia Sultan”.

The quality of everything, including makeup, has become more sophisticated in our film industry, they say. Yet when it comes to browning or blackening actors, we always tend to go over the top. The IANS examines some recent examples.


Southern star Samantha made her debut in the digital space with a stellar performance in season two of the series. She plays the antagonist Raji, a Sri Lankan Tamil terrorist. To make her look like the role, she is made to wear a dark skin tone that would appear to be twice her actual skin color. That’s the one amazing thing about its otherwise authentic portrayal.


Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan went under the scanner during the “Super 30” where he played the role of Anand Kumar, the math genius of Bihar who revolutionized preparation for entrance exams by developing a model of affordable but effective education. Kumar is a far cry from the appearance of the Greek god of Hrithik, and while the actor can’t do anything about the blatant disparity in physical build, he generously tanned his face to bring his ultra-fair complexion closer to a few shades of the darker shade of Kumar’s heart.


Bhumi Pednekar vehemently turned brown for Ayushmann Khurana star “Bala”, to try on a dark-skinned girl. This Bollywood film dealt with several issues, one of which involved dark-skinned women who were abused in the wedding scene because of the color of their skin. Bhumi looked more natural than ever playing the role, her makeup skin was not.


Ranveer Singh was loved as Murad, an aspiring rapper in the slums of Mumbai. “Gully Boy” raked in box office crores, but critics and fans quickly noticed that Ranveer had gotten a bit darker. The makeover had absolutely nothing to do with the script or her character in the movie.

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