Akshay Kumar’s film Raksha Bandhan launched fresh talent Smrithi Srikanth. Hailing from Delhi, Smrithi plays the role of Akshay Kumar’s sister Laxmi. Sadia Khateeb, Deepika Khanna and Sahejmeen Kaur play the other three sisters of lead character Lala Kedarnath (Akshay). Talking to Hindustan Times exclusively, Smrithi opened up about her dream debut with Akshay Kumar’s film and shared her thoughts on colourism in the 21st century. Also read: Aanand L Rai reacts to claims of Raksha Bandhan being called regressive: ‘Next time when I make a film…’
Smrithi is a trained dancer and starred in the song Kudiye Ni with Aparshakti Khurana. She got her big Bollywood break with the Aanand L Rai-directorial which had lines like ‘aamavas ki raat’ to define her dark-skinned character. In the film, Laxmi struggles to find a groom due to her complexion. Does that make the film regressive? “Even I have a dusky complexion in real. But for the character, my skin was toned down further to two more levels,” Smriti shared.
Drawing examples from her own life, Smrithi said, “Even I have faced comments on my complexion since childhood. People used to mock and make fun of it.” When asked about what made her sign up for the project which may have highlighted use of racist remarks casually, Smrithi quickly defended, “When I was auditioning for this character, I read the lines and felt that it is the fact. There are people who talk like ‘dhoop me mat ja kaali par jayegi (don’t step out in the sun or else you will get tan)’. They have this mentality. But, as a person, what I feel about myself is much more important than what others think.”
“When I read the script, what I liked about the character is that she is very much confident in her own skin and colour. In the movie, Laxmi says ‘black is back’. She is someone who loves her color and is very much happy with herself. Uske liye who Kareena Kapoor hai (she considers herself Kareena Kapoor),” she added.
Does racism exist in the entertainment industry, especially for newcomers? She said, “At times in audition, they do category you based on your skin complexion. At certain places, you will find things like ‘we only want fair complexion’ mentioned during auditions. But then I also understand that it must be a demand of the character.”
“But I remember once I felt very bad while working on a modeling project. There were some events for a brand. I auditioned for it and got selected. There were like two parts to the project and I was taken for both. Unlike me, the rest of the girls were shortlisted for only one project. Hence, I asked them to increase my pay. But, what I got from them was sad. They reverted by saying that ‘they (the unnamed brand) do not hire dusky girls. But they hired you. If you want to be a part of the project then they will pay you less’. They basically preferred fairer girls. I literally felt bad that day, although it was some 5-6 years ago,” she recollected.