Inside the Zee World Channel – where the darker shade is missing

As artistes do we have an idea how much damage we do to the society with our art?


By Royce Mapaike


I HAVE a confession to make. Well, it’s been long since I made a confession. For several months now I have been religiously watching an Indian channel on DStv called Zee World. The channel has interesting soapies, movies and music videos.

I have been enjoying this channel until it dawned on me that ever since I started switching to the channel I have never seen any dark complexioned actor/actress or even singer on the channel. All the characters in the soaps and the other film projects on the channel are fair complexioned and good looking.

Well, my little knowledge of India is that it is a country with people who come in different shades and hues. Charcoal dark, dark-brown, fair and some even look like white people.

I have seen very dark Indians in real life, not just here in Africa but in India itself, but unfortunately not on the Zee World channel. Is the channel deliberately segregating against dark Indians or is it just a commercial gimmick by filmmakers who are trying to sell India as some very beautiful country with very beautiful people?

Could this desire to sell India to the outside world have led to “everything dark, dirty, and bad being edited out of movies, soaps and music videos?” Is the Zee World channel an extension of the Indian tourism department?

The interesting thing about the Zee World channel is that it is about Indian people and their culture and the culture of a people is found in its stories.

Is black a cursed colour?

Perhaps the absence of dark complexioned characters in Indian stories on this particular channel tells a deeper story about India and segregation. Perhaps this absence is a silent symbol about the social standing of the dark complexioned Indians in that country.

This sad “discovery” brought with it many questions: Why is the darker complexion always unwanted? Why are the dark-skinned the ones that suffer and are always at the bottom of any pyramid? Is black a cursed colour?

Talking to a friend of mine about this sudden “discovery” he laughed at me. “The television and film industry is a very selective and biased world. It is about selling dreams to young people — dreams of success, bravery, love and beauty. It is a world of the beautiful and the handsome.

Look at Hollywood. It is almost the same story.” Well, the truth is there was a time when I thought there was no poverty in Hollywood. Or that only black people were poor. This was because most Hollywood films I saw told me so. How then do these images affect viewers in their various places, particularly young people?

I can imagine a dark complexioned Indian staring at the Zee World channel every week hoping to see himself or herself on the channel; hoping that his/her story would be told to the millions who watch that channel across the world.

I can imagine the disappointment and even the anger he/she feels after spending weeks trying to locate an image he/she would identify with on the channel — an image that looks like him/her.

After weeks or even months of searching and waiting will she/he realises that the films and the channel itself are designed to exclude him/her?

This had me thinking, seriously thinking. As artistes do we have an idea how much damage we do to the society with our art?

Do we even realise that we continue to encourage bias, segregation, hate, and other bad attitudes with our works? As a people will we ever completely deal with racism? Or the colonial mentality that fair skin is much prettier than dark skin?

Can we then fault young people when they then go about trying to change their image — using skin bleaching and external hair to try and fit into the so-called world of beautiful people and good life? They do this in the hope that they may get into television and film — food for thought.


Mapaike is with Exquisite Entertainment


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