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Dark Is Divine: Chennai-based photographers challenge fair-skin obsession | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

Much has been written about Indian mindset obsessing over the fair skin. Even the gods and goddesses were not left out of this discussion since the day Raja Ravi Varma decided to depict Hindu deities, scenes from the epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, or Puranas. He made sure that people had easy access to his paintings back in the day. This possibly established that even the religious representation will lean towards fairness, even if Krishna, Ram, Shankar, etc were described as having darker skin tone. Trying to break this barrier about the fairness of skin and challenging the obsession of the society, two creative minds from Chennai decided to work on something titled 'Dark Is Divine.'

Bharadwaj Sundar and Naresh Nil run Slingshot Creations. It's a five years old ad film production house based out of Chennai. The duo observed that the Gods we worship are often depicted as having a ‘fair’ skin tone. Despite how they have been described in the literature, in common culture they are rarely depicted as dark-skinned, with other colours being used in certain cases.

Within a span of two months, they shot seven deities from Hindu mythology choosing to depict them in darker skin tone - Laxmi, Durga, Saraswati, Shankar, Lord Muruga, Sita with Luv and Kusha, and Bal Krishna.

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"While ideating, we had thought about 12 deities, but because of the time and budget constraints, we only did 6. During the shoot though, our make-up artist, who loved the experience and could relate to what we were trying to say, expressed her interest in being a part of the series as well, which gave birth to the Sita, Lava and Kusa scene," said Bharadwaj Sundar as he explained the procedure.

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These creative minds have no intention of hurting sentiments. All they want is to celebrate a different view of the divinity, serenity and all-pervasive beauty by going beyond perceptions. "There are certain considerations which need to be kept in mind, especially sourcing the right model and replicating the depiction of the deities properly," said Naresh Nil when talking about if they faced any challenges as they were working on the photoshoot.

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Talking about the divine experience they had while shooting for the Lord Shankar image, they revealed, "While we were setting up for the Shiva photo, we had put a lot of smoke on set. Our model had positioned himself already, and our Shiva emerged slowly as the smoke cleared, which was exactly the representation we were hoping to capture."

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For them capturing the image of Durga proved to be one of the difficult tasks. But by the time they shot for Bal Krishna they started to feel that the things are falling into place organically.

Ask them to pick a favourite, they reply, "We love the project as a whole. Every photo has its own story, difficult to pick just one."

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While the concept is being appreciated among the Instagram crowd, their Facebook posts found some people disagreeing with their concept. But photographer Naresh is not bothered. "Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and we welcome positive and negative feedback. We executed our ideas and that’s the biggest positive for us," he added.

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Bhardwaj Sundar and Naresh Nil are planning to reach out to as many people as possible. "We would be ecstatic if the idea catches on and we see our work hanging in pooja halls of people," they conclude.

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