Actress and activist, former beauty queen Celina Jaitley, will star in United Nation’s ‘Bollywood style’ global human rights campaign launching on April 30
The United Nations (UN) is all set to release a ‘Bollywood style Human Rights campaign’ across the world on April 30. The campaign targets the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community even though it does not use the label LGBT specifically, but calls itself the Free & Equal campaign. It is a campaign that features a video focusing on a Free and Equal message and is promoted by the UN’s slew of Equality Champions such as Ricky Martin, Daniela Mercury, Grammy-winning band Fun and recent Grammy winners Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The Bollywood connection comes in the form of actor Celina Jaitley — who is also a UN Equality Champion. She has sung a track called Uthey Sab Ke Kadam, which has been remixed by Neeraj Sridhar of Bombay Vikings fame. The new version of the song also has English lyrics.
Speaking to sunday mid-day Celina said, “As UN Equality Champion I have to work towards creating awareness about violence and discrimination against the LGBT community worldwide.” Asked about her work, Celina said, “I have been a gay rights activist and have worked with the community on a number of occasions. Here, I have sung this very well-known track.”
So does she have singing experience? “No, but for this song, I received vocal support from Neeraj Sridhar who has sung the male part,” she smiled.
Campaigning from Mumbai to New York
Celina says post the launch in India, she will fly off to New York. “I will fly out of Mumbai on May 1, where I will meet other UN Equality Champions,” she said. While Celina had been part of a couple of gay parades, which start off from the August Kranti Maidan in South Mumbai, she was not seen this year. “I was not there at the parade as I am married and currently based in Austria. Living overseas and with time constraints (I am a mother of twin boys), I cannot be here every time there is an event, though I continue to be in touch with the community and their problems,” she replied.
When contacted, Charles Radcliffe, chief of global issues at the UN human rights office, said he was “excited,” to see the UN teaming up with Bollywood to promote human rights.
But as observers point out, while the UN talks with gusto about the “colour and sounds and talent,” of Bollywood, the film industry still needs some introspection about the message it sends out with some of its films that have gay characters. Bollywood has often been accused, with some justification, of not having enough seriousness or sensitivity to the LGBT community. There have been movies that have caricatured gay persons, to the point that they are almost dehumanised to become comic book cutouts, clinging on to the limp-wristed stereotypes that continue to confine gay men in stereotypical straitjackets. There was Rishi Kapoor (pink umbrella, drooling over a hunky sports coach) playing gay principal in Student of the Year. Dostana, much touted big budget commercial film with gay main roles, had a storyline that smacked of a loathing for the community. While there are films that are an exception, a ‘Bollywood style’ Human Rights campaign may also send a message to the very place it is taking its inspiration from - the film industry.
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