There have been several campaigns about dark is beautiful, but discrimination against dark-skinned people still continues. Taking the campaign a notch higher, Chennai-based duo, Bharadwaj Sundar and Naresh Nil, have come up with a photo series called ‘Dark is Divine’ through which they want to normalise the thought that our gods and goddesses can be dark too.
What started as a conversation about how our gods are portrayed as fair skinned turned into the photo series, through which the creative minds depict gods in dark skin, aiming to celebrate a different view of their divinity, serenity and all-pervasive beauty. The powerful photo-series feature Lakshmi, Saraswati, Durga, Seetha with Luv and Kush, Shiva, Krishna and Bala Murugan in warm skin tone, yet radiant and beautiful.
“While we were talking about gods and goddesses and how they are portrayed in common culture, we found that the perception of divinity was often associated with white or ‘fair’ skin, and its depiction was often done in the same way, or sometimes in other colours, shying away from ‘darker’ skin tones. Hence we chose this theme,” says Sundar who has been working as a creative director for the past five years. Sundar and Nil run an ad film production house and are also into ad film commercials.
Talking about the concept, Nil, who is into photography for about eight years now, says, “The concept is to showcase divinity through darker skin, to present an alternate view of gods in our daily life. We shot for two months, taking care to carefully represent the gods in their glorious form.”
The duo are planning to reach out to as many people as possible to show their work. “We would be ecstatic if the idea catches on and we see our work hanging in the puja room of households,” adds Nil.
Religion is a sensitive subject in our country, yet the duo chose gods and goddess and dared to show them in dark skin tone. So did the duo have any reservations about the project? “We had no hesitation at all! Despite how they have been described in literature, in common culture they are rarely depicted as dark-skinned, with other colours being used in certain cases. This series showcases our gods as dark skinned for people to see and understand,” says Sundar.
The duo, who feel that any kind of discrimination is bad, found it tough to find the right models, but the models understood the concept very well and were happy to be a part of it. “They knew that this project would make others feel better. So the models were very welcoming,” say the duo adding that this kind of work gives them peace.