“The third gender. Ignored by most. Tolerated by some. Misunderstood by all. In India, the Hijras are a community almost in exile. Standing out at traffic signals after failing to blend in, knocking at our windows, in the hope of some kindness and perhaps a smile. And when they don’t get either, they keep their chin up and find a way to simply be happy.”
Thus begins the debut music video with a calm yet powerful voice over by Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma, of 6 Pack Band which is also the first ever all transgender musical band in the history of India as well as the whole world.
The uber-talented 6 Pack Band formed with Bhavika Patil, Fida Khan, Komal Jagtap, Chandrika Suvarnakar, Asha Jagtap and Ravina Jagtap came into existence in 2016, January with their debut single, Hum Hain Happy, which is a cover of Pharrell William’s 2013 hit number Happy. The production supported by Yash Raj Fims’ Youth Films Wing has hit 1.9 million views on Youtube within a few months; the song is thoroughly made desi with its harmonization, with the bilingual (English and Hindi) attempt regarding lyrics, but what mostly affects the viewer is the sheer boisterous and buoyant attitude of the performers. They know what they are doing even in their first public production and it makes them insanely attractive. They invite you in their extravaganza – “Nacho, gao, ao bajao taali”, and they are absolutely not ashamed of being who they are despite the social stigma trying to hold them down.
(Hum Hain Happy – 6 Pack Band)
Fida Khan, the lead singer of the band says in the Press Conference for the launch of 6 Pack,
“Happy is not a song for us, it is life, it is more than life, and I cannot define life for it is very beautiful. Whatever happens, how much ever the problem is big, life is beautiful to live.”
Soon, the likes of Sonu Nigam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Zanai Bhosle came forward to collaborate original music videos with the band.
Their best exhibited music video so far is arguably “Sab Rabb de Bande” with Sonu Nigam. It starts with the lyrics,
“Awal allah noor upaya
Kudrat ke sab bande, Ek noor te sab jag upjeya
Ek noor te sab jag upjeya, Kaun bhale ko mande
Kaun bhale ko mande, Sab rabb de bande.”,
which if translated in English, means, “God created light from which all beings are born. Who is good? Who is bad? We are all the children of God.”
The tearjerker music video captures on screen the struggle of a biologically male child who idolizes Madhuri Dixit as their fashion guru, who discreetly puts on make-up and sari, and looks at their reflection in the mirror, happy and proud until their father comes up and rebukes them for cross dressing and effeminacy. This initially relates to the struggle and shame hundreds of young boys face in this world every day, failing to look manly enough, to act manly enough, and then generates into the hardships of being a transgender in a country that does not even try to understand or be educated about the issue, the simple longing of a transgender person for being accepted as a person.
“From the outside, I was male,” says Jagtap, remembering when she was Bhavesh, the son of traditional Indian parents. “Inside, I felt like a girl. The way I talked and walked, everyone could see I was different. I used to feel this isn’t my family. I don’t belong here.”
(Sab Rab De Bande | 6 Pack Band feat. Sonu Nigam)
From the quite emotional stance of Sab Rab de Bande, 6 Pack Band deviates into “Ae Raju” with Hrittick Roshan, which simultaneously showcases a social satire on the mass treatment of the transgender community, their lack of tolerance and inclusiveness as well as the growing confidence of the musicians. They are perfectly comfortable in their own skin and refuse to be put down by the society, “DJ ka music flop hai. Humra taali hit ho gaya” (The DJ’s music is flop. Our Taali is a hit), they say.
(Ae Raju | 6 Pack Band feat. Hrithik Roshan)
Their fearless performance makes India confront her prejudices about the transgender community. It puts the neon light upon the elitist, ignorant people who will shut the windows of their cars at the traffic to avoid even looking in the eyes of the Hijras who come to beg. The Society fails to understand how it is a lose-lose situation for them, they hardly get employed to normal jobs, and when they beg, people will not even look at them.
India has an estimated 1.9 million transgender people and we are still pretending they do not exist. People do not have to be either male or female, gender dysphoria is normal among human beings, if not common.
“Hil Pori Hila”, a Marathi song featuring Zanai Bhosle is perhaps the best original song performed by 6 Pack Band. The tune is immensely catchy even if you do not understand the lyrics, the performers in the music video are beautifully dressed and oozing glamour, and why wouldn’t they be? The song celebrates the beauty of a trans-female after all!
(Hil Pori Hila (Stomp Mix) | 6 Pack Band feat. Zanai Bhosle)
However, the aim of this fledgling musical band is not just of carving a niche for themselves in the entertainment industry, it goes beyond that.
‘This aims to bring forth the respect and acceptance of our progeny towards this particular community as our previous generation has always treated them as an object of ridicule.’, says Shamir Tandon, the creative head for 6 Pack. It creates a platform for the transgender community to express themselves and their creative ideas to the rest of the world, and there is perhaps no other way of expression better and more compelling than music and dance.
Written by: Sushrita Acharjee