With one of the largest estimated populations of gay people in the world, it’s about time that the first ever Bollywood music video for gay rights is released.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Human Rights Office launched the colourful video at a press conference in Mumbai to promote its Free & Equal campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
The two-and-a-half minute video, called The Welcome, stars actress and former Miss India Celina Jaitly. Jaitly, who was last year nominated by the High Commissioner as a “UN equality champion” in recognition of her support for LGBT equality, makes her musical debut in the video, singing a new version of the 1979 Bollywood classic, Uthe Sab Ke Kadam.
The clip shows an Indian family eagerly preparing for the arrival of their son. When he appears holding hands with another man they are at first taken aback. But after listening to Jaitly singing, “But who is worried about who likes what, when as long as in the world of love two people want to be with each other,” they soon happily welcome the couple.
The dance moves in the video were choreographed by Longi – the choreographer for Slumdog Millionaire – who worked on the project pro bono, as did the entire cast. The concept for the video was developed by creative agency Curry Nation.
“It is an honour to partner with the United Nations on the incredibly timely and important Free & Equal campaign,” said Jaitly. “I have been working for LGBT rights for many years, and I am honoured to contribute my musical debut to such a good cause. Music is a universal language. It can engage people’s passion, and that’s when good things happen.”
Commenting on the launch, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was delighted to see the Free & Equal campaign extended to India.
“LGBT people have historically been marginalised and subjected to discrimination and violence in India, as elsewhere. But change is coming. In the past few months we have seen an unprecedented level of public debate relating to the rights of LGBT people. As awareness grows, attitudes will change. We need to do all we can to hasten change by challenging the myths and misinformation that get in the way of understanding. That is what this campaign is all about.”
The video comes on the heels of ongoing efforts to petition the Indian Supreme Court to reverse its shocking December 2013 ruling to reinstate the colonial-era ban on gay sex, which had been overturned in 2009 by the Delhi High Court.