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Varsha is a writer, filmmaker, multi-disciplinary artist from Mumbai, India. They are the co-founder of Star Hopper Studios, a queer-led, cross-disciplinary collective based in Mumbai/Delhi, focusing on experimental brand videos, curation, and intersectional narratives. They are also a BeFantastic Fellow supported by Goethe Institute (Mumbai/Germany). As a trans non-binary artist unpicking prejudices and politics from their own lived experience, they create with the aim of dismantling constructs and initiating conversations around south-Asian narratives that are under-respresentated and marginalised. Drawing inspiration from dreams, memories, and fantasy, they are interested in stories that are so personal that they become universal; the kind that riff on themes of identity, oppression, trauma, and the quest for discovery. Their latest visual poetry After So Long (बरसों बाद) premiered on Nowness.Asia in March 2022. The film has since been curated by GirlsInFilm, UK. and also nominated for One Earth Awards. Set in India, After So Long // बरसों बाद” is a walkabout through time and memories. You may catch the film here.

Bodies Of Desire, their award-winning visual poetry film, which they wrote, directed, co-produced and voiced, premiered on Nowness Asia and has been curated by GirlsInFilm, Nowness #LoveSick series, Otherness Archive and Directors Notes. The film was included as one of the #FiveFilmsForFreedom 2021, an initiative by British Film Institute's LGBTQIA++ festival - BFI Flare and British Council, that champions five films each year in support of LGBTIQIA+ and showcases the films in over 200 countries and principalities in various languages. Bodies Of Desire won Special Jury Award for The Best International Short at RIO Festival De Cinema LGBTQIA+ 2021. It also won Best Music Video at Global Indian Film Festival 2021. The film has been officially selected at 38 film festivals so far, including Fringe Fest (UK),  Outfest LA 2021(US), BFI Flare(UK), Berlin Commercials (Germany), Toronto Queer Film Festival, Zebra Poetry Festival (Germany), Queer Womxn Fest (London), Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (Australia) and many more. The film continues to be screened and curated at multiple events across the globe. You may visit the film's official page here.

False Promises, another spoken-word film, from their upcoming anthology The End Of The Line, which they lent their poetry and voice for released on 29th Oct 2020 and received a special mention and Certificate of Excellence at the 11th Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival 2021, and was shortlisted at New York City Independent Film Festival 2021. The film has also been curated by HomegrownThe Housemaids, a short film they collaborated on as an associate producer and stylist has had its official selection at Women make Waves, Taiwan 2018, Bangalore Queer Film Festival 2019, and IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival 2019. The Housemaids is streaming on Amazon Prime (USA/UK), Disney Hotstar (India) and Pocket Films (India).  Their debut music-video - Maya was listed in the top 10 Music Videos by Rolling Stones.

 

Originally a student of linguistics, Varsha's entry into the world of storytelling was more of a stumbling than a conscious decision. Varsha grew up in a middle-class household with their late mother, a painter and a librarian, who introduced them to the world of art and literature at a very young age. Consequently, they took up writing early on in their adolescence, and over time it became the conduit through which they continue to express and interact with the world. My Body Is A Prison, a photo-poetry zine from their ongoing series Origami Folds is available on Amazon Kindle and has also been curated by Zine Club Chicago (U.S), State University Of New York's Sojourner Truth Library (U.S), Queer Zine Library (UK), and Grrrl Zine (UK). 'The Diary of A. Nobody', a zine anthology and fan-fiction series based on Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty Four, has been curated by Zine Club Chicago (U.S) and Queer Zine Library (UK). Their work has also appeared in publications by Munich Zine, Nerve Zine, Forbidden Verses, The Rights Collective, South Asian Sisters Speak (SASS), One Future Collective, The Local Color Zine, Pinjratod, Ratio Auream Publishers. Their essay, "Labels, In a not-so-perfect world", reflecting on their experiences with labels in the discourse around gender and identity, is available on The Lipstick Politico. Their photo-poetry zine ‘Whispers To My Shadows’, was showcased at ‘Queer Futures Archives’, as a part of the ‘Burn All The Books That Call You The Unknown” exhibition 2021 Parramatta Riverside Theater, Sydney. Excerpts from ‘Bodies Of Desire’, their ongoing mixed-media anthology, were also showcased at the same exhibition. Their first anthology titled, The End of The Line, is currently in production for publication. You may read their blog and other published work here.

Varsha also moonlights as a voice-over artist apart from performing Spoken-Word. They recently curated and facilitated a creative corner on Cinema, Theatre, and Mental Health at the One Future Festival, titled, 'Dr. Bootlegger’s Bowl of Delightful Diversions'. It's an interactive workshop-based moving-image session. Varsha spends their free time moon-walking into existential questions and uncovering hypothetical flaws in the imagined queer oasis; that they might potentially inhabit; in the proverbial sky someday.

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For collaborations and inquiries, you can contact them on varshapanikar@gmail.com.

FESTIVALS & CURATION

 

Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest | OUTFEST Los Angeles | BFI FLARE London LGBTQ+ Film Festival | #FiveFilmsForFreedom | BERLIN COMMERCIAL | Toronto Queer Film Festival  | Fashion Film Festival Milano | Indian Film Festival Of Melbourne | Zebra Poetry Film Festival Berlin | Rio Festival De Cinema LGBTQIA+ | Prairie Pride Film Festival | Les Mains Gauches |Athens Fashion Film Festival | 4:3 Int'l Short Film Festival | Geelong Pride Film Festival | 9th Int'l Video Poetry Festival | Queerz Get Loud | Erotica Art & Film Festival | Reelout Queer Film Festival | Tag! Queer Shorts Festival | Lustreifen Film Festival | Global Indian Film Festival | Wench Film Festival | Pan Eros Film Festival | CLIT Film Festival | Provincetown International Film Festival | HKSF | Reel Desire Chennai International Queer Film Festival | Melanin Pride Festival | Thessaloniki Queer Arts Festival | Living Together Again | First Time Filmmaker Sessions | Lift-Off Global Networks | Flickfair | Last Frame Queer Womxn Fest | ICAN/HANNA International Film Festival | 10th International Video Poetry Festival | One Earth Awards | Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival | New York City Independent Film Festival | Bangalore Queer film Festival | Women Make Waves | IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival | GirlsInFilm | Otherness Archive | Directors Note | Nowness Asia | Nowness