Creators of the Indian hit series The Family Man 2, have defended their decision to paint actor Samantha Akkineni several shades darker than her original skin tone after a spate of “brownface” accusation from fans.
Filmmakers Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK told Film Companion that Akkineni’s character of Rajyalakshmi Sekaran, a Tamil liberation fighter, “demanded that she had to be fit because she’s a military person.”
The duo said they were “responsible filmmakers” who wanted to establish “that the idea was not to propagate any context of beauty or race” but simply what the character demanded.
“This whole thing comes in the context of beauty when you’re trying to say dark skin is not beautiful and fair skin is beautiful... This is not that context, number one. There is no context of skin beauty in this. We are all shades of brown,” says Nidimoru.
“We are trying to get the character of Raji (Rajyalakshmi) right. We want her to speak it, we want her to look it, we want her to be that action girl who can land the punch; someone who can be physically fit and take on a guy double her size. That’s our main challenge. So if you look at what she wears... she’s a soldier, she’s a weather-beaten girl, there’s no time for worrying about self-care. If you’re a soldier in the Himalayas, your face is going to be red, that’s the makeup,” he said.
DK said Akkineni took up intense training sessions to get the biceps she needed for the role.
She learned martial arts from the choreographer, and a separate dialect of Tamil language (which is not the Tamil she normally used) to prepare for the character.
“To add to that the concept of hair, makeup, and costume, that is a complete character that we are presenting. This is the character of Raji; she looks a certain way, she walks a certain way, and she’s a killing machine, and that’s all there is to it,” said DK.
However, Twitter users were quick to spot Akkineni’s altered skin tone.
Many have also praised Akkineni for her performance.
One Twitter user wrote: “We have to appreciate @Samanthaprabhu2 for her guts to accept this role. No one can do justice to this role other than Samantha. Huge respect, Dedication matters #SamanthaAkkineni.”
“Your eyes speak thousands of words Raji Unspoken language of pain we can see it @Samanthaprabhu2 you carried this emotion throughout the series Sam,” wrote another user.
The Family Man 2 is the story of Srikant Tiwari, played by actor Manoj Bajpayee, a family man secretly working as an intelligence officer for a special government task force. The series premiered on Amazon Prime Video on 4 June.