Queer artistes from India and the US collaborate on a Mumbai-based visual-poetry film that explores identity and belonging
Moments from After So Long//Barson Baad
As a queer BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) artiste who was born in India and raised in the US, Simha, a musician and audio engineer, remembers feeling a sense of disconnect from their ancestry, while coming to terms with their identity. This indignant detachment, even fear, was perhaps a reaction to coping with the possibility of being cast out by one’s community. “I think this is an experience that many people within the queer community go through. As I grew older and met others like me, I learned to embrace my South Asian culture in a new way, while also being part of the queer community,” the artiste looks back. This journey — of belongingness, self-discovery and connecting with one’s roots — took the form of a poem, After So Long//Barson Baad, co-written by Simha and their comrade, Jae. Conceived as part of an eponymous EP that is set to drop in April, the verses have also found life in a visual-poetry film based in Mumbai, which released last week.
For the three-and-a-half-minute piece, Simha collaborated with Varsha Panikar, an independent trans non-binary writer and filmmaker based in the Maximum City and co-founder of Star Hopper Studios, a queer-led, cross-disciplinary collective. The intimate, warm visual-poetry film unfolds like a flipbook of memories and scenes from Mumbai’s beaches, stations and streets, accompanied by an evocative exchange in English and Hindi between two generations — voiced by Simha and their parents. The artiste reveals that for the past few years, they’ve been working on their mental health and anxiety. “Then, of course, the pandemic happened, which was very debilitating. During this time, I connected with Jae through an online queer South Asian community. We had taken the time to talk about things that we experienced and how we had this mutual feeling of having to relearn to be ourselves again. This prompted us to write After So Long,” Simha shares.
When they first read the poem, Panikar, who directed the piece that premiered on an international film platform, recalls being reminded of “the doubt, the uncertainty, the search for the self, belongingness and home that most of us felt during the pandemic.” Simha’s decision to have their parents recite the Hindi verses makes it a homage to their roots in India, shares the director, adding, “The film is an artiste’s spiritual journey out of darkness and into the light, and so I wanted to give the viewers a sense of flipping through a photo album, which would spark nostalgia and a moment of contemplation.” Panikar and Asawari Jagushte, editor, Star Hopper Studios, reason that as queer artistes, they’re keen on showcasing stories of queer and marginalised art-makers from a gaze that captures the complexity of their lives. “While this isn’t, strictly speaking, a queer film, it is a story of and by queer artistes, and we need to see more and more of that in the public discource,” they sign off.
Simha and Varsha Panikar
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