The Six Pack Band has been scoring millions of YouTube hits and fame ever since they debuted in January this year. Starting with Hum Hain Happy to Sab Rab De Bandeand their May release — Ae Raju, which features Hrithik Roshan — the Six Packers have had quite the journey.
The brainchild of Y-Films (the youth content wing of Yash Raj Films) and Shameer Tandon, the members of the band were brought together by extensive auditions, and with the intention of challenging social barriers. The transgender community was first skeptical, but finally did come to believe that the initiative was meant to genuinely support them.
Hijras find it impossible to get conventional jobs: begging and sex work are the two main ways to make money. When Jagtap told her friends about the auditions for 6 Pack Band, they were sceptical. “They said, ‘Nobody would make a band for hijras.’ Gradually, we realised Ashish just wanted to help us.”
“It has been a wonderful journey. So much has happened and so quickly. To be honest we never expected it. We still get a little surprised when people recognise us on trains or when walking by roads,” says Komal Jagtap. “When we recorded, I just imagined I was singing at a wedding,” Jagtap says.
“The best moment was undoubtedly when we first recorded the song Happy in the studio. We had never been inside a recording studio, and most of us haven’t been in front of the camera. And doing it with professionals, we had never even thought of it… But they were really supportive and showed us the right way,” says Bhavika.
The video, which portrays a tolerant society, a world in which hijras, too, can be happy, has had nearly 2m views on YouTube.
Their celebrity collaborations include Sonu Nigam, Arjun Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan. The Six-Packers are unanimous in saying that their best moment was when they met Sonu Nigam and got to perform with him (Nigam is the band’s mentor). They say his humility is endearing, and he’s wonderful to work with.
“From the outside, I was male,” says Jagtap, remembering when she was Bhavesh, the son of traditional 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.”
“The ones who used to ignore us, now often come and talk to us — neighbours, friends and family. They even say they are proud of what we do. We feel welcomed by society. It feels like the world has become more inclusive and accepting of us. It finally feels like we have accomplished something, not just for ourselves, but for our whole community. Something is changing, and it’s changing for the good,” Komal adds.
India has an estimated 1.9 million transgender people. Trans women in the country are known as hijras, and are stigmatised and alienated. As Jagtap’s parents struggled with her gender identity, they too faced rejection.
“Somehow our music has made our surroundings a warmer and welcoming place for our community,” says Fida. “For now we just hope we create history and will always be remembered as the world’s first transgender band from India!
The most important change, though, has come in how she is treated by those who once shunned her. “After years of silence, my brother invited me home. Now neighbours tell our family, ‘Look your son is on TV and sings so well.’ People on the streets don’t harass us any more, instead we hear compliments such as, ‘You guys are the real heroes.’