In writer-director duo Raj and DK’s The Family Man, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Samantha Akkineni plays Sri Lankan rebel Raji. While reviews praised her simmering rage in her performance, they also pointed out that the otherwise fair-skinned actress did the part in brownface. The creators talk about why they thought that was necessary:
Raj Nidimoru: Usually, this whole thing comes under the context of beauty, that dark skin is not beautiful and fair skin is. Of course, that context must be looked down upon. Even in Shor in the City, when Radhika Apte is looking at the models walking on the ramp, she starts applying a fairness cream. We were doing it satirically to show how things are influenced. The idea was to show a context of beauty wherein a dark skinned woman would have a problem and a fairer one would have everything. This is not the context in The Family Man. There is no context of skin beauty here. We’re all shades of brown. So, it’s not a race thing either.
These are the two contexts where it should be looked down upon. And we’re well aware of it. We’re not irresponsible filmmakers who would propagate something of that kind. Those two subjects or their contexts are out of the picture.
Here, we were trying to get a character like Raji right. We wanted Samantha to speak and look like Raji, we wanted her to be that action girl who can land a punch, who can be physically fit, who can take a guy double her size and finish him off with her bare hands in seconds. That was our main challenge. If you look at Raji, she’s a soldier, a weather-beaten girl, there is no time to worry about self care. So the idea was to give her accurate makeup. If we wanted to show soldiers in the Himalayas, their faces would be red…
Krishna DK: It’s all about the character. The character demanded that Samantha had to be fit because she is a military person. And she did extensive training in the gym for three months and got those biceps, so that she could play the role. She learnt her martial art moves from the action choreographer. She took classes every week leading up to the shoot to perfect those moves, that’s why the action sequences have come out so well. She also learnt a different dialect of Tamil to prepare for her role.
The concept of hair, makeup and costume were just added to that. That is the complete character you’re presenting . This is the character of Raji: she looks a certain way, she walks a certain way, she is a killing machine, and that’s all there is to it.