Santhosh Narayanan's Sadhaiyai Meeri (Beyond Flesh), a beautifully composed and nuanced take on the lives of transgender persons, is part of the #StandByMe campaign for creating a more gender inclusive society.
The single, directed by Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi, tears into the gender binary to which society forces every individual to conform. From objects to public and private spaces, everything around is gendered and the visuals capture this violence which we have come to accept as "normal'.
Tracing how gender impacts a life right from gestation to adulthood, the album tells the difficult story of transgender persons who face rejection from their families as well as society.
A policeman and his wife rejoice when the doctor tells them that they're going to have a son, even as the camera pans to the poster on the wall which says sex determination tests are illegal.
Later, when the child applies makeup and dresses like a girl, the family is unable to come to terms with it. The running away from home, the loneliness and exploitation that follow is a depressingly common tale in the transgender community.
Trans men and gender fluid persons also find representation in the video. We see a young person decisively chopping off their long hair, rubbing away the bindhi on their forehead, and changing out of the clothes that their assigned sex had forced on them, striding out proudly, confident of their gender identity.
Even as the stories remain real, the video also incorporates the rare acceptance which comes from certain quarters of society without the narrative becoming condescending - the young woman who takes the trans woman by hand to the ladies' toilet, the father who is comfortable with his son's choice to buy a doll, the auto driver whose customers don't notice or are not bothered by his gender identity and so on.
While the video isn’t perfect - it confuses biology and gender identity in some places - it is made with sensitivity.
Vivek's beautiful lines capture the agony that transgender persons experience ,and the blame that society must take for foisting its narrow views on them.
The chorus "Avargal paalai avargal sollatum, naam sarkarai mattum kalappom" (Let them tell what their gender is - 'paal' in Tamil is 'gender' as well as 'milk' - let's only add sugar), sums it up. All that society needs to do is acknowledge and accept transgender persons with an open mind.
Responding to the video, writer Nadika Nadja says, "Unlike previous attempts at portraying the life of trans people, or other music videos which feature trans women as some kind of "goodwill" prop, this one is much more nuanced. The lyrics - although written by a cis-man - are mindful of the lives of trans people. It's a pity that the trans community members did not have more creative control but hopefully that will happen at some point?"