They have, inarguably, been the most attractive entrants into India’s music scene this year. From not being accepted by their families (this has been the case for most of them) to getting global recognition by winning the coveted Cannes Grand Prix Glass Lion award – Six Pack Band, India’s first transgender band, is on a roll. Curated by Shameer Tandon, the outfit comprises six members -- Fida Khan, Ravina Jagtap, Asha Jagtap, Chandni Suvarnakar, Komal Jagtap and Bhavika Patil. The band has released five songs so far. Celebs such as Hrithik Roshan, Sonu Nigam, Arjun Kapoor and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan have featured on the videos.
When we caught up with the members of the outfit, a dream that resonated across all six of them was to do something for the betterment of the transgender community, and earn respect and equality in society. “When we started this project, our objective was to change the attitude of the people towards this community, which is misunderstood, ignored and neglected. We wanted to achieve that through entertainment. Today, after releasing five videos, we have reached over 25 million views on YouTube, and still counting. Our band members have become celebrities,” says Tandon, who has also scored the music for the songs.
Meet the members
I have always been a fighter: Ravina Jagtap (35)
“My journey has been great, as I am living with the community and helping them gain respect in society. I am very protective about my community. I have always been a fighter. There are problems, but it’s our job to handle them and be happy,” says Ravina, who wants to see her band “go beyond expectations and do a few Bollywood songs too”. “I want the world to know that we can do everything that others can do,” she adds. Talking about her association with music, Ravina says, “I have been associated with music since childhood. I love singing.”
My life has not been pleasant: Asha Jagtap (24)
Asha has been living with the transgender community since childhood. “My life has not been pleasant. The problems we face in our day-to-day life is different from the everyday issues that other people face. For us, acceptance is an issue. Not being accepted is a feeling we live with every day,” she says. Asha feels her community has always been associated with music. “We sing badhaais (songs that eunuch’s sing on festivals and special occasions). That is how most of us are attached to music. We have always been musicians, but it’s only now that people have started noticing [our skill],” says Asha, adding, “We want to be one of the topmost bands in the world.”
I want to bring about a change: Bhavika Patil (27)
“I was not accepted by my family and was left to fend for myself. I started working as a nurse in a clinic, but when I saw I was not treated equally, I was hurt. My colleagues, who had joined after me, got promotions. I never got an increment, so I had to quit,” says Bhavika, who was never inclined towards music. “But when I came to know that something like this (Six Pack Band) was coming up, I did not want to miss out on being part of it,” she says. Bhavika adds that her family never supported her. “It hurts when people you love the most are not with you when you need them,” she says, adding that she just wants to work hard and become a better musician. “I want to bring about a change in society through music. I want people to know what we, as a community, can do,” she adds.
I love singing: Chandni Suvarnakar (34)
Chandni considers herself “lucky”. Her parents have always supported her. “They were supportive of who I was and what I did. They have been happy in my happiness,” she says. Chandni enjoys singing. “I don’t know if I am good or bad, but I love singing,” she says. Talking of her aspirations as a musician, Chandni says, “I have not thought of anything yet. I will wait and see what comes my way. I will go with the flow.”
Want to become a soulful musician: Fida Khan (24)
Fida’s parents had always been supportive, and nothing changed for her after they learnt about her sexual orientation. “But they did not allow me to leave the house a lot because people in my locality didn’t want me to be there. I work with an NGO called Humsafar. I am currently fighting for an ashram in Mumbai for our community,” she says. She adds that music just happened to her. “I never took training. I used to watch TV and movies. That’s how I learnt singing,” says Fida, who wants to become a “soulful and melodious musician” and idolises Michael Jackson.
I still live with the community: Komal Jagtap (22)
Komal’s parents disowned her when she was young. “They stopped talking to me. But when the Six Pack Band came about, my family started talking to me again. I did what our community does for a living. I faced the same problems that the transgender community faces in this country. But the band changed my life,” says Komal. Talking about her experience of becoming a musician, she says, “Since we go to various houses around weddings and baby showers, music has been part of my life. But I never faced the camera or sang in a big studio earlier.” Komal says her family is still upset with her, but they talk to her now. “I still live with the community. I am happy with what I am doing. I love music,” she adds.
Six Pack Band’s works so far
‘Sab rab de bande’ was sung by band and Sonu Nigam
‘Hil pori hila’ features Arjun Kapoor
‘Hum hain happy’ is a cover of Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’
‘Raula paye gaya’ is the official song of Salman Khan’s latest release
The song ‘Ae Raju’ features actor Hrithik Roshan