Colonial syndrome of Krishna

By Laxmikant Shetgaonkar
17 March 2013 18:13 IST

Yahshomati Mayya Se Bole Nandalala, RADHA KYON GORI MAIN KYON KALA?

Do you remember this song from Raj Kapoor’s film? I have always appreciated the musical quality of this particular song.  The song was extremely popular and the film was a box office success. However the lyrics of the song often haunts me. What disturbs me particularly is the beginning of the song that roughly translates as “Krishna asks his mother about why he is dark as against fair-colour Radha?” The first verse itself raises so many questions in my mind.

1. Had Krishna any complexes about his skin color? As we all know he was dark. If yes, is there any historical evidence to Krishna’s inferiority complex (of being dark) in any of the books on Mahabharata? Or is it purely a writer’s imagination?

2. Is the writer making comment on the social beliefs in Mathura village about being indifferent to dark skinned people? (Racism you may call it if you wish to)

Krishna, I thought, was an epitome of heroism. He was intelligent; he was very popular among women. He is known to be a favourite among all the girls and women in Mathura according to various books on Krishna. As a matter of fact, he was Nanda’s child and thus belonging to a very important family in Mathura. He thus obviously received all kind of appreciation and adulation from the villagers. How come he has this complex as a child?

In the above song, Krishna questions his mother about him having dark complexion and Radha having fair complextion. As much as Krishna waits for the answer from his mother, I look forward further for the explanation in the song. And here it goes:

Gori gori radhika ke nain kajra re

Kale naine waline ne aisa jadu dala, isi liye kala

Well, here poor Krishna doesn’t get an answer. All he gets to know that he is dark because he was born at dark night and the neighborhood dark eyed girl has caught his fancy (courtesy Bollywood).

Sometime I really wonder why this nation is running after fair skin products. The cosmetics industry is booming with products claiming instant fairness creams. Every year the number of consumers increase with the cosmetic companies launching new specialized product every time for women, men and even children. In this context the song perhaps is relevant to Indian psyche at large. The writer of the above song is expressing Indian complexes through the character of Krishna. Krishna becomes the voice of the people running after fairness creams.

But isn’t Krishna a public figure?  I would have not bothered if it was some fictitious character having these dilemmas in a film. But here we are talking about Krishna, a mythological figure that has shaped our country. We are directly getting into the area of facts versus fiction.  The writer is trying to humanize a godly character and breaking an image of Krishna, a confident child otherwise.  Why on earth Krishna would be bothered about his complexion?

If one closely looks at the episodes in his childhood, we understand that confidence was the main characteristics of Krishna. Krishna and Rama are heroes made by the masses and both of them were dark. Not even one episode in mythology presents either of them having inferior complex since they belong to dark complexion.  Having complexes of being a darker person seems to be a colonial syndrome during British regime in our country. This will probably answer the mad rush for fair and lovely products.

Somehow I don’t see Krishna as asking the question RADHA KYON GORI MAIN KYON KALA. I also do not challenge the creative domain of a writer. Every writer interprets fictitious characters through his vision. Let me state that I am not a Krishna follower, but I feel being let down by the imagery created by the above song concerning Krishna’s character. Creative liberty, especially in Bollywood, is often justified by terms like PUBLIC DEMAND or SCRIPT DEMAND.  More than often we accept such creative liberties and get going with life singing the tunes… hummable as they are!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Laxmikant Shetgaonkar

Laxmikant Shetgaonkar is a Goan filmmaker of international repute, presently shuttles between Goa and Mumbai. He has created history with his first Konkani film “Paltadacho Munis” (A Man Beyond the Bridge) winning the most prestigious FIPRESCI award, also known as Discovery Award of the Critics, at Toronto International film festival in 2009. His first short film “Eka Sagar Kinari” had also bagged a National Award, the first one for Goa once again, in 2005. Laxmikant graduated in Theatre Arts from Kala Academy, Goa. He was an Actor-Teacher at India’s prestigious theater training school, National School of Drama, New Delhi. Overwhelmed with the quality of world cinema, he decided to take up the medium of cinema to express his concerns. He has also started a cinema movement in Goa, by forming Entertainment Network of Goa. He has also directed many more films. He has figured in the Top Ten youngest achievers of India in Sun magazine in 1995. His profile and activities are available on his website .

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vow! this is hit on indian psyche. can we have more of such stuff?

- smitha, mumbai | 23 rd March 2013 21:47


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