5 pioneering Bollywood stars who have supported LGBT rights – Sonam Kapoor to Ayushmann Khurrana and former Miss India Celina Jaitly
Indian cinema is slowly embracing homosexuality on the big screen, but these five Bollywood stars have all lent their voices in support of the LGBTQ+ community long before it was widely accepted. These vocal celebrities spoke out through interviews and social media posts, and some even produced and starred in gay-themed films when it was still considered a risky career move.
Often mocked for having a career due to nepotism, Kapoor still remains one of the few Indian celebrities who has stood by the LGBTQ+ community for the past decade, be it in raising awareness on social media or supporting queer events like the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival.
She also starred as a closeted lesbian, Sweety, in the 2019 hit Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.
Khurrana undertook the role of a gay man in Bollywood’s first gay romcom Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2020) to make an “important film in the commercial mainstream space”. He believed that films will normalise same-sex relationship on the big screen and will help those to “realise how important it is to give gay people their rights.”
A long-time ally to the community, Das played the first lesbian role in 1998’s Fire. Since then, she has actively taken part in many panel discussions (Pride and Prejudice) and gay events (Hijra Habba) to raise awareness in society.
She also spoke out against the draconian Section 377 in India that criminalised homosexuality and was overturned in 2018.
Bajpayee agreed to played a wronged gay professor in Aligarh (2015) due to the lack of LGBTQ+ issues represented in Bollywood, believing that discussions regarding the issue “will stop some subjects being taboo”.
Taking this further, he penned an op-ed in 2016 targeting Section 377 and asking for “better treatment and sensitivity from the government and the judiciary” for the LGBTQ+ community.
Actress Celina Jaitly’s advocacy derived from real-life interactions with the LGBTQ+ community – from her teen boyfriend coming out as a gay man to her transgender make-up artist. “People don’t realise the importance of a straight ally,” she told Scroll.in.
The former Miss India has done extensive work: she financially supported the Mr Gay World nominee, appeared in the United Nations equality campaign and has worked for over two decades with the Indian trans community despite intense threats and ostracisation.
These Bollywood celebrities have used their star power to highlight and promote LGBT rights both on and off screen, despite the threat of ostracisation in socially conservative Indian society