In India, a commercial for traditional Indian jewellery featuring a transgender model is gaining popularity.
The one-minute-40-second movie depicts a trans woman’s transformation from an awkward adolescent with facial hair and self-doubt to a stunning confident bride.
The film, which stars Meera Singhania Rehani, 22, illustrates the love and acceptance that the protagonist receives from her family, with each milestone in her life being commemorated by the gold jewellery that they gift her.
Since its premiere in April, the ad, titled Pure as Love, has been viewed over 900,000 times on YouTube and 1.4 million times on Instagram and has gotten positive feedback.
Meera, a part-time model and sociology student at Delhi University who came out to her family two years ago, says she was “extremely skeptical” when she first heard about the ad.
“I didn’t want my trans identity to be exploited for profit.” I was also terrified because the film dealt with transition, and I was shown as a pre-transition man with a beard.
“However, after reading the storey and conducting some research on the director, I decided to accept.” It’s a good thing I did, too. This has also assisted me in being more at ease with myself “She informed QBase.
There are an estimated two million transgender persons in India, and the Supreme Court decided in 2014 that they had the same legal rights as other genders.
Abuse and shame, however, persist. Many transgender persons are evicted from their houses by their families, and the majority of them survive by singing and dancing at weddings and childbirths, as well as begging and prostitution.
Kerala is India’s most trans-friendly state, having been the first to introduce a Transgender Policy in 2015 to combat stigma and prejudice towards sexual minorities. However, transphobia is as prevalent in Kerala as it is in India.
Navya Rao, the brains behind the ad and the internet marketing head of Bhima, told the QBase that her idea for the campaign was welcomed with “fears and apprehensions” from her coworkers.
“We had happy heterosexual brides in all of our previous advertising.” As a result, we were concerned about how people might react to it.
“The majority of our ad shooting locations are in rural areas of the state. We weren’t sure how much exposure these issues would have gotten to the folks there.”
However, the 96-year-old diamond firm, which has hundreds of stores throughout southern India and a branch in the United Arab Emirates, opted to run the advertisement in order to “send a social message” and “create a dialogue.”
Ms Rao admits that she was well aware that the effort might backfire. Fear was sparked by the recall of last year’s dispute over a Tanishq advertisement featuring an interfaith couple, which was dropped after a right-wing response on social media.
“I was anticipating a lot of conflicts,” Meera adds, “particularly since the ad depicts a Hindu wedding, which directly confronts the Hindu hetero-patriarchal system.”
However, Pure as Love has received little backlash, and the reception has been “incredible,” according to Ms Rao.
“The ad drew some criticism, and we were accused of giving voice to a cause that is abnormal and shouldn’t exist in society. Positive messages, on the other hand, have flooded our inboxes. Many members of the LGBTQI community contacted us to express how moved they were by the advertisement “she stated
The ad was regarded as “revolutionary” by Sudha Pillai, a writer and marketing strategist at Firework, a video platform.
“I saw it on a Malayalam news station and believed they weren’t going to sell any jewellery, but if the goal was to get people’s attention, they succeeded,” she added.
“I’ve never seen a classic brand take such a bold step. It was revolutionary for a conventional jeweller to take such a risk “she continued.
Many others on Instagram praised it as “amazing” and “beautiful,” admitting that they were “brought to tears” while viewing it.
One YouTube remark said, “Thank you for providing me someone I can aspire to be on TV.” “I’m brought to tears by the fact that you cast a trans person in this film… For the first time, I feel as if my tale counts… and that our lives deserve to be happy as well. This is incredible! ‘Bhima,’ says the narrator.”
Ms Pillai believes that ad campaigns like these can be game-changing in India, where transgender people are still seen as caricatures in media and popular culture.
“Advertisements and television shows have a considerably greater impact than movies. They are frequently played in homes and have the ability to influence people’s beliefs. They may face some pushback at first, but they have the potential to revolutionise the game.”
Ms Pillai says she anticipated conservative Indians and angry trolls to respond to her appreciation for the commercial on social media.
“There were some disagreements, but the number of those who felt endangered was insignificant. More than 95% of the replies were favourable, which was impressive in and of itself “I’m tensing,” she explained.