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Varsha is an independent non-binary/qpoc writer, filmmaker, artist (mixed-media&voice) based in 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 also work remotely with Girls In Film (UK) and are a BeFantastic Fellow supported by Goethe Institute (Mumbai/Germany) - working towards building an immersive and generative VR World using open source and machine learning. Drawing inspiration from dreams, memories, and fantasy they create with the aim to dismantle constructs through film, photography, performance, documentation, and text. 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. Unpicking prejudices and politics from their own lived experience, they seek to initiate conversations and visibility around narratives that have been erased or misrepresented. Their stylized narrative involves multidisciplinary practices where they like mixing various mediums of art, film and performance together. Regardless of the medium, they like to do a bit of everything from branded work, independent audio-visual projects, writing fiction and non-fiction, to art, poetry, photography, and performance. 

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 and Nowness #LoveSick series. The film has also been archived by Otherness Archive, UK. Bodies of Desire was also 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 32 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 has been 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 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 HomegrownTheir debut Music Video - Maya featuring the India Prog-Rock band, Coshish was listed in the top 10 Music Videos by Rolling Stones. The Housemaids, a short film they collaborated on as an associate producer, stylist and 1st AD 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) and Disney Hotstar (India). They have worked with brands like Kellogg’s, Snapchat, SignEasy, and Universal Studios.

Originally a student of linguistics, Varsha's entry into the field of storytelling was more of stumbling than a conscious choice. 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. Varsha's latest zine, My Body Is A Prison, 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) in their zine collection. Their work has also appeared  in zines by Forbidden Verses, The Rights Collective and South Asian Sisters Speak (SASS), 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 for brands and enjoys collaborating their voice in-and-with art, photos, or videos, 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', 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. 

For collaborations and enquiries, contact me on varshapanikar@gmail.com.

PRESS & FEATURES

FESTIVALS

Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest | OUTFEST Los Angeles | BFI FLARE London LGBTQ+ Film Festival | #FiveFilmsForFreedom | BERLIN COMMERCIAL | Toronto Queer Film Festival  | Indian Film Festival Of Melbourne |

Zebra Poetry Film Festival | 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 | Provincetown International Film Festival |

Reel Desire Chennai International Queer Film Festival | Melanin Pride Festival | HKSF | 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 |

Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival | New York City Independent Film Festival | Bangalore Queer film Festival |

Women Make Waves | IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival |