Mitra Phukan lauds the latest venture of a talented singer.

For the past several years now, singer Abhishruti Bezbaruah has been giving us a series of top class music videos. Gifted with a lilting voice that she has honed through years of riyaz in the Shastriya Sangeetdiscipline, her songs, for eg., Kerumoni thuriya, have brought her laurels and awards, while enriching the storehouse  of the Asomiya Adhunik genre.

Abhishruti’s songs, and the picturisations thereof, always push the envelope as far as thematic content goes. Her latest offering, the recently released Ore Raati is no exception. Indeed, it has gone into territory into which few, if any, have so far ventured in the Assamese adhunik
genre. This is, therefore, a bold and certainly welcome step in the right direction.

The song itself deals with the travails and anguish of transgenders. Like all of us, the LGBTQIA+ community also needs understanding, support and affection, which are, tragically, often denied to them. Gender identity and sexual orientation, and the many rainbow coloured lives and orientations that exist within the entire spectrum, are very poorly understood in our part of the world. Our societies are ready to condemn, and cast out anybody who goes against prevailing norms, norms made by society itself, which often cruelly exclude and barricade those who are viewed as “outsiders” in some way. Many of our languages do not even have the words, the vocabulary to describe sexual preferences that can be alternate to what is viewed as the “norm”. In extremely conservative societies such as ours, the recognition of all the many sexual orientations that exist among people of all races and ethnicities is almost non-existent. As we know, it is only very recently that same sex relationships have been decriminalised in our country. But this is only one step, though an important one. What is also desperately needed is awareness, and also kindness and acceptance. There should be recognition that every individual should have, in all cultures, the right to define one’s own sexual orientation, that this orientation is a highly individual and personal experience.

The lyrics, by Kalpana Bhuyan, describe a person’s anguish and pain in the struggles she goes through, and the need for understanding, to usher in a new dawn. The picturisation shows a transwoman’s need to be accepted, particularly by her family, her mother. What makes it more moving is that a real transperson, Janvi Borkakoti, who has transitioned, features in the video. There is also veteran actress Moloya Goswami in the role of the mother, as well as a supporting cast of several other transpeople. Ultimately, the path to acceptance lies through understanding and love, through empathy and awareness. It also shows some of the dilemmas that a transperson faces as she moves around in a society that only accommodates the traditionally accepted gender norms. There is a need, for instance, for such things as gender neutral washrooms.

The song itself is beautifully sung, with Abhishruti’s malleable and flexible voice lending it the emotiveness required. Its peppy beat prevents the piece from becoming preachy, and instead shows reality, as it is. In the end, it asks people for acceptance, empowerment, education.

At the launch of the music video, held at the Racquet and Billiards Club at Guwahati on January 20, several transgender people spoke about their personal journeys. While all spoke of the need for understanding and acceptance, it was also stressed that economic independence, and the ability to stand on one’s own two feet, was an important component in giving them the confidence to face up to the many difficulties that they face. It was, indeed, interesting to listen to their life stories, their struggles and their achievements.

Music is, in a way, “Soft Power”. Through melody and words, rhythm and emotions, it explains in ways that just lecturing, or educating in more formal ways, do not. In this way, this video creates awareness, and is an important addition to the musical legacy of our land.