The Bollywood stars fighting the Snow White Syndrome

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The outcry over celebrities endorsing skin-fairness creams, known in India as the Snow White Syndrome, is growing.

The Dark is Beautiful campaign started by a Chennai-based group called Women of Worth, gained traction when actress Nandita Das joined it. Das has refused roles that require her to lighten her skin, and says the obsession with fair skin has robbed Indian men and women of their self-esteem.

With actor Hrithik Roshan joining superstar Shah Rukh Khan in endorsing Fair and Handsome fair-skin products, the group is pushing for the Advertising Standards Council of India to ban actors and public figures from endorsing advertisements that promote what it sees as colour bias.

Stars such as Kangana Ranaut, Randeep Hooda, Abhay Deol, Bipasha Bashu and Ranbir Kapoor have refused to endorse skin-fairness products.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have never understood the concept of fairness ... As a celebrity, what kind of an example would I be setting for younger people? As a public figure, I have responsibilities,” says Ranaut.

Some companies are showing greater social responsibility than many film stars. Last year, jewellery company Tanishq was applauded for using a dark-skinned female model, Priyanka Bose.

And a few weeks ago, actress Richa Chadha, whose film Masaan will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival this month, rejected an offer involving a huge amount of money to endorse a fairness cream.