KARACHI: The transgender community is often marginalised. While on paper, they may have equal rights but people still look upon them condescendingly. They, despite being part of the society, are not considered part of it. Sure, the perception is gradually changing with more ads and short films putting the spotlight on transgenders. A recent heart-warming Indian showed a transgender adopting a child and serving as a single parent.
In Pakistan, one of the latest efforts includes a dance number. Gohar Rasheed is set to perform a song with transgenders in upcoming film Rangreza. “It’s a celebration song shot in suburban Karachi,” Rasheed told The Express Tribune. “My character is a dholak player, who stumbles upon this celebration of a newborn baby where a hundred transgenders are dancing and participates in it.”
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The song titled Kallu is written by the film’s screenwriter Akhtar Qayoum and sung by Asrar. Rasheed described it as a fun item song but clarified that in no way does it objectify or disrespect the trans community. “It is an item song because of the elaborate and colourful set, mainly. The song is done in good fun and not meant to degrade them. In fact, you will find many transgenders dancing and celebrating with people on many occasions across Pakistan so it is not out of the ordinary.”
Speaking about whether presenting them in an item song would reinforce their perception as dancers instead of breaking them, he said, “When I was working on this song, I never thought about what the audience would perceive. The idea is to give transgender community an opportunity to be a part of the entertainment industry so they can be perceived as equals.” He added that people think transgenders can’t entertain an audience and have no talent. “But when we were working with them, I realised they were equally talented as anyone else, maybe even better. So, the purpose is to show that they can be good entertainers and deserve equal opportunities and equal rights.”
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While the team has been receiving positive reaction to this move, Rasheed was initially uncomfortable with the idea. “When we talk about trans community, it’s always a little uncomfortable. But working on the song made me realise that it’s okay to hang out, chill and dance with them. This song is a statement on its own way because we wanted to generate a certain thought.”
The musical-romance film Rangreza, directed by debutant director Aamir Mohiuddin, stars Bilal Ashraf, Urwa Hocane and Ghana Ali beside Rasheed, and revolves around Ashraf, a rockstar and Rasheed, a dholak player from an esteemed gharana, and their careers and love interests. Whether the song has any impact on the overall narrative, Rasheed said it didn’t have a direct connection. “But I would say it is thematically connected. The film is about injustice and how only the rich get the most opportunities. So, in that way, this song fits right into the narrative and conveys a strong message about providing equal opportunities to everyone.”
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Rangreza’s music is being composed by Hamza Akram Qawwal, marking the first time a qawwal is serving as a music composer since Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The film’s production has been completed in Karachi, except one song, which the team is planning to shoot abroad. Rangreza is planned for late-2017 release.
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