25 January, 2021

Zero Melanin

Cast-a-tourist? India now has a thriving 'white' channel.

Atul Loke
Zero Melanin
"Back home in Ukraine, I'm also a journalist," says Tamila with a sigh, "And whenever I see a journalist and photographer, I'm always homesick." In her red dress, heavy make-up and platinum-blonde hair blow-dried into a cloud around her face, she makes an unlikely looking reporter. But she's not in Mumbai as a journalist. Tamila and three other Ukrainian girls are extras on a film set, where they're required to do little more than stand on boxes and dance. After this assignment, there are plenty more lined up, because there's a huge new demand for foreign talent from casting agencies in Mumbai.

Back in Delhi, two European women hand out business cards to young filmmakers. They run an 'expat talent agency' supplying people from overseas for ad films, documentaries and even voiceovers. "It's the first of its kind in Delhi," says Penelope Spencer, one of the people who runs it. When we speak to her, she's on location in Rajasthan, with five foreign extras, doing a documentary for the BBC on the Raj. "Not everyone has acting experience," she...


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