Boshika Gupta speaks to the 6 Pack Band, a troupe made up of resilient fighters
Members of the 6 Pack Band dance with ease, belt out infectious tunes and love playing dress-up. Touted as India’s first transgender band, they’ve released severalvideos since the launch of their first song, “Hum Hain Happy” (based on Pharrell Williams’ hit, Happy) in January.
Post millions of views, scores of articles, recognition,winning the highly sought-after Cannes Grand Prix Glass Lion award and more, the group have catapulted to fame for tackling an important social message with a twist. Millions of people from the hijra community continue to battle stereotypes and prejudice in modern-day India with a clear divide separating them from other people.
Being teased, subjected to false beliefs about their people and shunned even by family isn’t new for most residents in the kinnar community. Once you sign up, you’re in for life. In a blurry landscape, an all-transgender band is like a breath of fresh air infused with the scents of rebellion and a new take on old norms.
The 6 Pack band has Komal Jagtap, Bhavika Patil, Ravina Jagtap, Asha Jagtap, Chandni Suvarnakar and Fida Khan, all in their twenties or thirties. Life has been mostly a path peppered with thorns with occasional roses thrown in. Komal, a determined rebel with deep eyes and a small frame, had to find solace among members of her community after her family cut off ties with her at an early age. She wasn’t ready to give up on her dreams and went on to find work in films and television, slowly working her way to greener pastures.
Things really picked up the day Komal got to know about auditions from her sources. Y-Films, the youth entertainment leg of Yash Raj films, were scouting in full earnest – and they were looking for transgender participants. She informed her friends about this. One of them was Ravina, graceful with an easy smile, who greeted the news with scepticism. She said she was doubtful about the vibes there, and thought to herself, “It won’t be comfortable for kinnars like us.”
However, she took a leap of faith and participated in the day-long event. One month after that fateful day, Ravina was called for the shoot along with other members of the band who were put through training sessions and were mentored by Sonu Nigam.
Everything changed for a while and the band spent the next few months working on music video after music video, even dancing with Hrithik Roshan for their song, Ae Raju. Ravina shared that the experience was extremely memorable for them. – “Aaj bhi humko lagta nahi ki sach mein hum unke saath the kya?” she said. (We look back and wonder whether that actually happened).
The music videos are quirky and fun, for the most part. But inSab Rab De Bande, the issue is dealt with directly and the fictionalized story follows Fida and her unexpected brush with an unfortunate event that breaks these stereotypes. Nigam plays the storyteller, appealing to the viewer that we’re created as equals.
Hum Hain Happy, on the other hand, begins with a voiceover from Anushka Sharma, who introduces the viewer to the problem at hand before letting the band membersexpress their brand of happiness; joining in the fun with other people as they urge the viewer to bajao tali (clap their hands).
The group was curated by Shameer Tandon while the concept was the brainchild of Ashish Patil who shared at the launch event back in January about wanting to inspire change without patronising. They wanted to give recognition to talent that never finds validation in society by entertaining viewers instead of delivering long-winded sermons. The pop band was thus an experiment of sorts in a bid to spark conversations.
Patil remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts. When asked about how life has changed post 6 Pack Band’s inception, Asha was brazen in her honest response, “Vaisi hi hain.”
She elaborated, adding that she absolutely didn’t deny the kind of recognition they had received after the collaboration, and its impact was hard-hitting. However, she still heads out with her dholak player, another friend and Komal on most days. They still make a living by showing up if there’s a wedding nearby or if there’s news about a new-born, relying on what is called badhai, the alms they receive at these events.
Asha hasn’t received any offers from other studios post her stint with the band. The last video from their campaign was calledRaula Paye Gaya and it came out a few months ago. She shared that there’s faith that they’ve managed to come this far thanks to this idea, and has hope that their mentors at the company will come up with more projects in the future.
But for now, the performer has a definite message to give to anyone who’s willing to listen. “Humari community ko apnaon aur izzat karo,” she said. (Embrace our community and spare some respect for us too).