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Indian jewelers pull ‘racist’ ad with Bollywood star

The advertisement featured Aishwarya Rai bejeweled and reclining under a parasol held by dark-skinned child

Published: Updated:

A top Indian jeweler company has withdrawn an advert featuring Bollywood star and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan after activists slammed it as racist and for promoting child slavery.

A national English newspaper published the Kalyan Jewellers' advertisement last week that showed a fair Bachchan bejewelled and decked in Indian regal attire, reclining under a parasol held by dark-skinned child.

The jewelers apologized, saying the ad was "intended to present the royalty, timeless beauty and elegance".

"We have started the process of withdrawing this creative from our campaign," the company said in a statement on its Facebook page late Wednesday.

The move came after a group of activists criticized the 41-year-old for her involvement in the ad that resembled "17th and 18th century colonial European portraits of white aristocracy, depicting women being waited upon by their black "servants"."

"In the advertisement you appear to be representing aristocracy from a bygone era - bejeweled, poised and relaxing while an obviously underage slave-child, very dark and emaciated, struggles to hold an oversize umbrella over your head," they said in an open letter.

"The extremely fair color of your skin contrasted with the black skin of the slave-boy is obviously a deliberate 'creative' juxtaposition by the advertising agency, and insidiously racist."
Bachchan's publicist Archana Sadanand indicated that the actress was not involved in the final image and shared a picture of the shoot that showed her leaning against a velvet couch with a blank background.

"The final layout of the ad is entirely the prerogative of the creative team for a brand," she said in a statement.

Social media went abuzz over the ad, with some users accusing Bachchan, a U.N. goodwill ambassador, of perpetuating India's obsession with fair skin.