Andrew DurbinFor the November / December issue of frieze, you wrote a personal essay on Bollywood, specifically the reading singer Asha Bhosle. You write very movingly about how her voice reminds you of your childhood in California, the current wildfires there, the Indian diaspora and, of course, the general precariousness of the world in 2020. Why Bhosle now?
Shiv KotechaI wanted to write about Asha Bhosle as someone whose role in the queer and feminist narratives of Bombay cinema – an industry that has always been embroiled in state-level corruption – betrays the workings of colorism and class. in India and its diasporic and neoliberal imagination. I find extreme solace in Asha Bhosle, and have spoken to queer, non-white, and non-cis friends about spending time rethinking the psychosexual reaction to growing up gorging on home country culture while I lived in a tense and incoherent environment. WE.
When you asked me to write, I was thinking about how traumas like drug addiction, disease are trafficked and distributed across generations, and how this can be linked to diasporic displacement. I tried to write on Bhosles’ voice as if it was moving like trauma does: slowly, in a dissonant configuration, and really only readable in transit between a generation of unrealized desires and other indulgences. The music speaks for itself.
A DWhen was the first time you felt the influence of his singing on your writing practice?
SKI spent my last year of high school adapting Bollywood plots into three act scripts and my first poems were bad translations of songs Bhosle sang in Tamil and Bengali. I left home to go to film school with treatment for what I remember thinking was an international crossover success, an adaptation of what I then thought was a good book, F. Scott Fitzgeralds Gatsby the magnificent (1925). He owns!
A DWhat happened to your scenarios?
SKFor years, I resisted the idea of thinking about Bollywood critically or not. It was partly the fault of Jean-Luc Godards. I watched Weekend (1967) and began to understand how cinema is not only a means of representation, but also a sedative and a weapon. Partly it was because I wanted to get along with weird young men and all of the weirdos were extremely in love with Godard. They weren’t, for example, invested in the recombinant narrative structures of populist melodramas about heteronormative Hindu families, as I was.
A DBhosle has become one of Modis’ best-known supporters in the Indian entertainment industry. Your essay addresses but never quite addresses the terror of seeing someone you love, even if it is someone you love but don’t know, fall to the far right.
SKTrump doesn’t know how to lose yet and Modi still reigns. The pus came to the surface. I remember the dysphoria and disbelief that we all felt on a daily basis from these two administrations is intense enough to remind me of one of the best feelings produced by a great book or a work of art, the one where you see that the state and the money is bad, that you must protect your friends. I have a flashback to a scene from the HBO series Six feet Under ground (200105), in which Lauren Ambroses character Claire gets high on DMT while listening to Death Cab for Cutie, and paints a line of text on her friends wall: The Terror Begins at Home.
A DSpeaking of Home Terror, you are currently in New York City, during what appears to be the end of the world. What else have you been listening to while locked out?
SKI’m revisiting other music that was in my periphery growing up, so maybe the general mood I’m aiming for is regression. I grew up in a house with ten adults (luckily, mostly women), who had strong but conflicting tastes in music. My uncle Rupesh is a tabla artist; my parents are ghazal nerds; I was named after the santoor artist Shiv Kumar Sharma; and my aunt Rupa, who looks a lot more like my big sister, introduced me to Hole when i was six.
On days when I’m hard to read or noticeably upset, my roommate likes to play Bhosle to trick me into singing songs and pull me out of the heartbreaking crisis-of-the-day that my cult of the death of a country has created. When she plays Bhosles collaborations with poet / songwriter / director Gulzar, it works. Here is a playlist of my favorite Bhosle bangers and deep cuts.
Listen to the Kotechas Bollywood playlist here and read his article on frieze number 215 here.
Main picture: Lekh Tandon, Agar tum na hote, 1983, detail of the film poster. Courtesy: Desimovies.biz
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