Closets are for hangers, not for people -- the gay community telling people to come out has been saying for a while now. These voices have found endorsement from the advertising world. In a path breaker or what one would commonly call game changer, Fastrack, a youth-centric brand of watches and eyewear may have just started to redefine the advertising paradigm with its lesbian themed advertisement running on TV since the beginning of April.
This ad film, often seen in the midst of the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) matches, begins with a shot of a pink closet. The closet opens and a girl emerges from the it, checking time on her Fastrack watch. Another girl follows her. They give each other the eye, adjust their attire (are you thinking what everybody is thinking?) and then walk off in opposite directions. Then comes the tag line: ‘Come Out of the Closet’. Move On.
If there are still any doubts that the ad revolves around the gay theme, the ‘Come Out of the Closet’ should banish those because coming out of the closet in gay lexicon simply means: come out as gay. Do not hide or couch your sexuality. The advertisement is buzzing on social media sites and has created a flutter because of the fresh, bold and direct message. It is also very upfront about this demographic in society. Has the ad world woken up to the power of what is called the pink rupee? (The pink rupee is the spending power of the gay community)
Arun Iyer, National Creative Director, Lowe-Lintas creative agency for this advertisement, said, “It is not aimed specifically at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community, what we were doing is looking at sending a ‘progressive’ message, since this is a youth brand. We did make a conscious decision to get this message across.” Iyer admits that the advertisement is creating a flutter on social media, “We have had a terrific response but of course, there have been a few brickbats too saying that with this ad, you have gone too far, yes, so some polarized views too there too.”
For Iyer, the ad spoke to simply everybody. “We were talking to everybody in fact and when you have a product with the philosophy 'move on' you have to encourage people to move on from the static even in their minds. What we are telling society, whatever your preferences so be it.” Iyer said that the pink colour of the closet was not deliberate (pink is a colour associated with the gay community) all we wanted is a stylized look as it is a fashion brand.
” When asked whether this ‘pridevertisement’ would in fact, be a trailblazer for Indian advertising, and whether the time has come for gay-themed advertising Iyer simply said, “It should be part of the business/industry. It does influence people’s thoughts and they can only get more progressive.”
There are plenty of comments on the Internet proving that the ad has caused raised eyebrows to disappear into hairlines altogether in surprise. Yet, it is astonishment with a dash of elation. One comment by a M Scindia read, “Finally, a queer ad in INDIA (comment makers capitals not ours) Am so happy I could cry.’ Those weeping copious tears of joy are certainly not hiding behind glares (Fastrack or otherwise), another comment reads, ‘This ad is too good! not offensive for first-timers yet passes the message on completely. for all those who shun the queer comm in this country’.
Says Sridhar Rangayan, filmmaker and festival director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) film fest, Kashish. “The ad is slick, stylish and immediately catches viewers attention. It is also deliciously in-your-face and makes a very bold statement. Such queer-friendly advertisements are surely welcome as it is an interesting way to normalise queer desires. I hope that such ads are not merely a marketing device to sensationalise and grab eyeballs, but also are followed up with long-term close engagement with the LGBT community.
LGBT initiatives and events like KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, in its fourth year now, and to be held in May 22 to 26 offer a close connect with the community so that the brands also understand the aspirations of the gay and lesbian community. Only then can their ads really work and build brand loyalty. There is a lot of potential in the ‘pink rupee’ that is yet to be exploited by brands and marketing agencies and for that they have to come to where we are!”
For some time now, Indian films have started including gay characters and with that, acknowledging that our films are ready to come out of the closet and unafraid to touch taboo issues. While ‘Dostana’ and ‘Student of the Year’ were homophobic in several ways, there were other movies like ‘Fire’, which ran into trouble with right wing groups and ‘My Brother Nikhil’ that proved that gay themes have become part of the celluloid landscape.
The huge industry, which is breaking ground regularly with contemporary themes had awakened to the fact that viewership was ready for its wake-up and-smell-the-queer-coffee moment which had come to Indian cinema. Now, while it may be premature to term just ‘one’ advertisement as a breakthrough kind of commercial, not to assess the importance, would also amount to the fact that it is small steps that pave the way for bigger inroads. Soon, there may be a great rattling in corporate closets as companies come of out of the closet though their commercials, though of course, one realises that this would happen slowly.
Art director Gita Simoes said reacting to the ad, “It was fresh and suggestive. Not at all obvious and in keeping with the times!” Gay rights activist Vikram Doctor stated, “It is great to have such an open advertisement. I first thought it was a scam ad because many scam ads have used LGBT themes but it does not count. So, it was great to learn it was a real ad! What’s interesting is that it does not mind dealing with the implication that the women have had sex and that is okay.
Most depictions in Indian ads and films stay way from the idea that they might have sex or show it as wrong in some way.” Doctor also thought it was utterly butterly creditable that. “After the Section 377 (see: box: What is Section 377?) verdict, Amul did an outdoor ad showing two attractive young women and that also went in print, and even to small towns but that was just one still ad and linked to a special occasion.”
It is not just the LGBT community that has noticed the ad though, the glamour world has a yeah gay! sentiment too. Rupal Gaggar, merchandiser/buyer for Creo Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd. brand said she loved the fact that queers are not caricatured here, “I love that for once, the gay community is not projected as buffoons or entertainers for the front row seaters. Very well conceptualised. It is to the point.”
Accessory designer and member of the Fashion Design Council of India Pinky Saraf went beyond this is just an advertisement calling it a, “Great initiative. It is time we as a society accept homosexuality and not treat is as a social stigma. Who you pick to be with is a very individual choice and no one has a right to judge you for it.”
Fashion designer and celebrity stylist, Sonam Modi’s voice was tempered with caution. She explained, “Homosexuality has always been treated as a taboo in India. Although, I think this advertisement is a great step towards progress, I am still apprehensive of how society is going to receive it.” Now showing between IPL matches, where sizzling shots earn thunderous applause, this ad proves that more than ever, people are applauding too for those who are brave enough to say they bat for the other team.
What is Section 377?
Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is a piece of legislation in India introduced during British rule of India that criminalises sexual activity “against the order of nature.” The section was read down to decriminalise same-sex behaviour among consenting adults in a historic judgement by the High Court of Delhi on July 2, 2009. Section 377 continues to apply in the case of sex involving minors and coercive sex.
Kashish crowd funding
Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2013 -- India’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) film fest is turning to the social media phenomenon of crowd funding to raise finances.
Aimed at keeping the festival free and accessible to audiences, organisers say crowd funding also gives audience a feeling of ownership. Crowd funding is where an individual or an organization pitches an idea/venture that requires funding and sources the funds by reaching out through social media.
“Crowd funding is not just a means to raise money, but also to connect to a diverse range of people and seek their engagement with the festival” says Sridhar Rangayan, festival director.
This effort has been buoyed by a similar one last year, when people came from all across India and overseas to contribute. Kashish has signed up with Internet portal Wishberry.in for the crowd-funding venture. The link to contribute is http://www.wishberry.in/Kashish-2013-16046
Kashish 2013 will be held from May 22-26, 2013 at Cinemax Versova, Andheri (W) and from May 23-25, 2013 at Alliance Française de Bombay, Marine Lines.