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Love fearlessly

A passionate campaign to celebrate a landmark judgement in India

On a warm summer day in 2009, Ajay Yadav, Associate Creative Director at Star India attended a queer pride march for the very first time, in Delhi. Among the rainbow flags and colourful outfits, one banner stood out for him. “Pyaar kiya toh darna kya,” it said proudly, quoting the lyrics of the box office-record shattering film Mughal-e-Azam, which was released back in 1960.

Pyaar kiya toh darna kya

9 years later, on September 6, 2018, a historic day when the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment that decriminalized homosexuality, Star Gold ran a campaign celebrating love of all kinds that transcends boundaries – of gender, age, religion and race. In the video, real-life couples faced the camera in defiance of what society might think as the background score swelled around them: “Pyaar kiya toh darna kya”. The message struck home for viewers and the video went viral overnight.

While the video’s championing of love was perfectly timed with the Supreme Court’s verdict, the campaign had been originally conceptualized by Yadav to launch the classic film Mughal-e-Azam in colour. “There is a whole generation that has not seen the movie, they have only heard about it,” Yadav says. “The only thing they draw from the movie is the song.” It’s when Yadav and his team realised that the main theme of the movie – two people who are in love and not allowed to be together – is strikingly relevant even today. “Everybody is not free to love whosoever they want to. That’s how we reached the theme ‘Love is love’,” he explains.

Meant for bigger things

Pallabi Pal, who handles content strategy at Star Gold Select thinks that while the video may have been made for a movie premiere there was no better time than the night of September 6 to air the campaign.

Ajay Yadav and Harsh Sheth
Ajay with Pallabi Pal and Akash Chandni

“It was meant for bigger things,” she laughs. There was no better time to communicate the video’s message of facing the world with the power of love. But the team had decided to not just feature same-sex couples. Shot mostly at a fort in Worli Koliwada and partly in Mumbai, the video also features, among others, an inter-faith couple, an elderly couple who found love again in their old age, and an acid attack survivor and her partner. Mostly in black and white, select bold blue details stand out in the video, reflecting the colourisation of Mughal-e-Azam. There was one central unifying factor in the choice of whom to feature, Yadav says. “We asked ourselves who are the people whose love society frowns upon yet they go ahead and face that.” The team was also very clear that they did not want celebrities or actors but real couples with real stories. “These were people who were really in love and that came across,” Yadav explains.

The shoot and post-production took a little over a month to complete, but the most challenging step for the team was the first one – finding couples that would be the ideal participants. Shot during a time when homosexuality was still illegal, several same-sex couples dropped out at the last minute out of fear of repercussions. With others, since they weren’t actors, their daily schedules had to be kept in mind. “Everyone who worked on this project felt for it and believed in it,” Yadav says. And that’s what eventually helped in the search for couples, with everyone on the team going above and beyond to find the perfect people to feature. “We knew it needs to be very stark and simple because the song itself has a lot of grandeur,” Yadav says. “We got exactly what we wanted.”

Most passionate project

After a frantic round of internal approvals to launch the video as soon as possible, the video went on air at 10 pm on Thursday, September 6. By the morning it had organically reached 70,000 views. Later the following night, it had reached 2 million views and people were posting it on their own YouTube channels and forwarding it on WhatsApp.

“Somebody I hadn’t spoken to in months forwarded the video to me,” Yadav laughs. “He didn’t even know I had made it. He just loved it.” The campaign also caught the eye of several media outlets. “Our belief in the video was always there,” says Akash Chandni, part of the marketing team at Star Gold. “But a lot more people were accepting of it when it released, there were barely any negative comments on social media.”

It was the crowning glory for a team that describes it as the most passionate project they’ve worked on at Star but it’s far from the end for the campaign. A movie festival that draws on the same theme of “Love is Love” is in the works. They’re tight-lipped for now but if the past is anything to go by, magic awaits us.

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