United Nations (UN) launches Bollywood style music video called, ‘The Welcome’, as part of Free & Equal campaign for gay rights
The Golconda Ballroom of the Trident hotel at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) had its rainbow moment yesterday. The rainbow is a symbol of the gay rights movement, the different colours stand for diversity.
Laxmi Tripathi, Imran Khan, Celina Jaitly and Cyrus Broacha at the launch of the music video called The Welcome. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
The venue played host to the launch of the first Bollywood-style United Nations (UN) video for gay rights, and, the announcement of a global campaign called Free & Equal.
The campaign is for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality. The campaign aims to raise awareness about homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination and encourage greater respect for rights of the LGBT people.
The campaign actually revolves around a 2.5 minute video to be accessible on social media, which is called `The Welcome'. This is the Bollywood style video, featuring gay rights activist Celina Jaitly singing the well-known, `Uthe sabke kadam' which has been remixed by Neeraj Sridhar of the Bombay Vikings band and produced with the music company Saregama, India.
The event began yesterday afternoon, with TV personality Cyrus Broacha anchoring the proceedings, addressing the audience with: "Ladies and Gentlemen and everybody else, please come in to the business class, only the economy seats are filled up."
This was Cyrus-speak to tell everybody move up in front, into chairs that were empty, since only the back seats were occupied. The press cameras were focused on actor Celina Jaitly, looking girlie in dress and hair tied up in pony tail and actor Imran Khan in a natty suit.
Broacha began by saying in lighter vein, "I have been heterosexual for the first 40 years of my life, now, I am thinking of changing though." (some laughs followed). He then introduced 'Free & Equal' stating, "It is not a sugar brand but a campaign."
Jaitly spoke about how she has espoused the gay cause for years now and how it was important, "to combat discrimination not only through laws and policies but also through winning hearts and minds."
Imran was succinct, saying he was a, "believer in equality." Also on the panel was Charles Radcliffe, chief of global issues, United Nations Human Rights office New York, who first read out a message from the UN's secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon.
A part of this message was: "Everywhere I go, I have called for the immediate repeal of all laws criminalizing consensual, adult same-sex relationships.
These laws violate basic rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. Whether enforced or not, they actively encourage intolerant attitudes. giving homophobia a state seal of approval."
There was also Ashok Row Kavi, India's best known face and voice for gay rights and Laxmi Tripathi, a well known transgender activist on stage.
Jyoti Sanghera, Geneva-based chief of social and economic issues had also left the much cooler climes of the Swiss city to be in Mumbai, the city of the merciless mercury yesterday.
Actor Imran Khan who used measured words, stated that he did acknowledge that there were problems at times, with some of the portrayals of gay characters in our movies.
The conference moved on to playing the video, 'The Welcome'. The 2.5 minute video begins with what looks like a big Indian family preparing for a wedding.
There is a burst of shouting colour, with flowers, bright clothes, decorations and people scurrying everywhere in the hurly-burly of activity. Soon, a car draws up with a young man, dressed sharp in all-black.
The family expectantly waits for him to emerge with a young woman. Instead, he is holding a young man by the hand, his partner. Both look uncertain about the reaction of the family.
The family matriarch or `daadima' approaches the couple. One expects rejection but instead she smiles in acceptance. Both men smile with joy and relief bending down to touch her feet and receive her blessings.
There is much whooping and dancing for happiness in the background. Throughout this video, Celina Jaitly is doing dance-like movements and singing, "uthe sab ke kadam" with some modified lyrics.
While the video is zany, maybe it could have had a dash of some humour. Nevertheless 'The Welcome' video, with the UN stamp, to be shown on YouTube will surely break some ground in creating awareness about a free and more equal society not just in India, but the world too.
A quick discussion followed the video with Broacha stating that it was not a wedding but a traditional welcome, which was what the family was preparing for. He also joked that the "daadimaa" was not upset at the young man's choice of partner who was another man, but because the partner's haircut was "terrible."
After some laughs, questions flew thick and fast. Radcliffe stated in response to a question about why the UN had launched the campaign in India that, "It is a global campaign, not an India-centric one. However, India is going through a fascinating transition and the recent Supreme Court judgement has mobilized a lot of public debate.
It is a fascinating time, and the straight community too has come out in support of the LGBT community." Kavi stated that, "May 2 we will see a historic event where a curative petition with reference to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) will be heard in an open court."
Laxmi Tripathi added that the recent SC judgement of transgenders was one to be proud of, adding, "I am a hijara but we come under the transgender umbrella. Still, we have our battles. I was once thrown out of the elite Bombay Gymkhana Club.
Doctors do not want to touch us, they do not want to take our blood pressure, perhaps the sharpest of all human grief is to be denied one's humanity by society." Sanghera claimed that they were very happy in the UN, "To amplify those voices (of the LGBT community) in society, which are very loud now."
When asked if more Bollywood celebrities should espouse the cause, Imran said, "I think it is not fair to expect an entire industry to support a cause. It is a personal choice." Imran's choice of words were hailed as "skilful" and it was said that, "you could have been a lawyer."
Some more questions followed with Broacha juggling the session. One particular journalist simply peppered Jaitly with questions, trying to control the discussion, till Broacha had to ask him half in jest: are you the emcee or am I?"
After all that, the company broke for lunch. There was no respite for the panellists though who were last spotted drowned in a sea of television cameras and wires, from journalists who crowded around them for answers.
By the time Jaitly and Imran emerged from that deluge of mikes, they looked suitably war-torn. Whew. Wars and cause, it was all happening at the BKC Golconda room yesterday, as all those cricket commentators would say.
Acceptance and violence
Tokyo, Japan: Akie Abe (white dress), wife of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, takes part in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade for the anti AIDS campaign in Tokyo. Supporters of the LGBT community came out in costume to march in Tokyo's Shibuya and Harajuku shopping district. Pic/AFP
Lahore, Pakistan: A Pakistani police officer speaks to a suspect in connection with the murders of three homosexual men at a police station in Lahore. This Pak paramedic killed gay men he met online to send out a message about the 'evils' of homosexuality. Pic/AFP