Color and casting

Ashok B. Boghani
2 min readJun 1, 2022

In 1984, a TV series called Far Pavilions premiered. One important role was that of Anjuli, an Indian woman. Amy Irwing was cast in that role because for some reason the makers of the series did not think an Indian actress was capable of fitting the bill. I clearly remember Amy Irwing, looking like she was dipped in chocolate, gamely playing along. However, the casting looked fake.

Shortly afterwards came a TV series called Mahabharata (1989–90), based on the Indian epic. Almost none of the characters was Indian, they were white and black Americans. However, unlike in the previous example, no one was painted brown to resemble the skin color of Indians. The producer was making a statement that skin color should not matter in telling a story. Besides, how would one know what exactly how the many of the characters in Mahabharat really looked like?

That did not go well with many Indians. They were particularly troubled by black actors playing Indians…you see many Indians are extremely conscious of the color of skin. It is like having a black actor play Jesus.

Fast forward to Bridgerton, a TV series we finished watching. It is a period piece set in England of the last century. What is curious is that many leading parts are played with dark-skinned folks, including the queen. Unlike the case with Mahabharata, we know exactly what was the skin color of the upper crust of the English society. It wasn’t black, so there is no ambiguity. Thus, the point being made in Mahabharata was further advanced by Bridgerton.

From white folks playing dark skinned part, we have come to dark skinned people playing white folk’s part. From the days of white folks not trusting a dark-skinned person to play a dark-skinned character, we have advanced to producers creating shows in which the skin color does not matter.

And why should the skin color matter? How long will it be when we become completely unaware of the color of the other person’s skin?

Certainly, not in my life time. My granddaughter’s? Maybe.

Maybe not.

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Ashok B. Boghani

I am a retired management consultant who enjoys reading and writing on a variety of subjects. I am fascinated by people, places and physics.