‘Kadhaiyin Nayagi’ explores issue of stigma attached to dark-skinned people

Charulatha Rangarajan

Chennai: A talented woman artiste with dark complexion does everything in her capacity to land a role in a film. But all her attempts fail. She is ridiculed, body-shamed and packed off despite being able to emote well the character she is given during the audition.

This simple storyline of short film ‘Kadhaiyin Nayagi‘ (Heroine), directed by Charulatha Rangarajan, has won several awards in film festivals across India.

“It occurred to me that I have to film it when the lead of my short film – Saranya – rested her hands over mine and told me her life would have been different had she been of the same complexion, when we met long back. She has been through a lot to become what she is now. That particular incident affected me a lot,” says Charulatha when asked about what prompted her to pick the storyline.

Before venturing into making this film, Charulatha did an analysis to identify the reason behind the stigma attached to dark skin in Indian society. “When I spoke about this issue with filmmakers, the reasons were – it has become a habit or people prefer watching fair girls on screen – it was merely a blame-game,” she says.

Although it is a short film about the practices of the cinema industry, Charulatha states that she wanted to make this film grab the eyeballs of directors.

Screengrab of the short film Kadhaiyin Nayagi

“I wrote about the problem to draw attention. However, it struck me only in 2018 that I should write a script and go about filming it to create an impact. Soon after scripting it, I got the filming dates from the lead actress and wanted to wrap it up as she was busy with another movie,” adds Charulatha, a professional dancer with a degree in actuarial science.

Fulfilling her wish, Charulatha screened the film for a few directors from Tamil cinema that garnered the response she wanted. The Velacheri resident says, “I invited prominent directors like Bala Shakthivel, Stanley and Rohini soon after completing post-production. Many had tears in their eyes and were guilty and promised me that they would search for talent and not go by complexion.”

Kadhaiyin Nayagi was sent to around 10 film festivals and has won eight awards. “Almost in all festivals, the short film was selected. Lead Saranya won the best actress award in Balu Mahendra Film Festival and Chambal International Film Festival, while we won the best story award at the Bombay Film Festival,” says the 27-year-old woman.

Asked about the impact of fairness cream products leading to the stigma, director Charulatha Rangarajan firmly stated, “Actors should refuse to promote such creams. Being dark is beautiful.”


Bhavani Prabhakar