Fuck yeah banksy
Yoga By Equinox
Prashant Bhargava passed away last night of a heart attack at age 42. On his birthday, we all roasted/toasted him. So he knew he was appreciated. I’m shocked. I was thinking about him last night while reading about creativity & psychology. These days we go to funerals of friends, and remember what they said at another friend’s funeral.
I met Prashant 12 years ago at Ajay Naidu’s first reading of Ashes at Bembe, under Williamsburg Bridge. In those days, Prashant wore a white dhoti and carried a stick. He was very serious and religious, didn’t drink or anything. At the tail end of Mutiny, many of us were uber-cool, ultra-brown kids. This was post-9/11, when South Asians in middle America were trying extra hard to assimilate, and Prashant was walking around looking like Gandhi. I thought it was some kind of anti-war thing, but he had taken a bunch of vows.
Around that time, I started going to India to work/shoot. His short Sangam had just played Sundance. We hung out in Bandra before New Year’s Eve at Zensi & Shoju with Shalini Kantayya and Shiva Soundsystem. India was embracing “New India”, with jaw-dropping cavernous futuristic spaces. We were finding our place in the cross-continental mix. Prashant was very sensitive, and uncomfortable with the urban party scene. He had just spent months in the Gandhi ashram in Ahmedabad, meditating and working on what would become Patang. Nerm & Co were super edgy, and literally hosting India’s New Year’s Eve on MTV. Total Opposites. Shalini was embarking to Rajasthan on her Drop shoot. I had just spent a week researching my great Uncle’s World War II paintings. There were just a handful of us at the time, who ran in the same circles in Mumbai and the West. We were all bringing something fresh to the scene, wanted to revolutionize Cinema, and the future was bright.
We hung out at Prashant’s studio in Chinatown back in New York a few times while he animated a trailer for 3rd i. He was a fan of dumplings. We talked about our scripts & characters & families. He considered me some kind of younger sister. He believed in my aesthetic, when a lot of guys in the industry didn’t take me seriously. And he wasn’t consumed by competition like a lot of people are. The rivalries were there, as with any creative community, and there was the occasional show-down. But he was still comfortable hanging out, introducing new people, etc. We screened Sangam at Kim’s 2 Boots in the East Village & his Kite music video teaser for Patang in a club on Sullivan with MIA’s 1st video. Places that don’t exist anymore. That was us, then. He was the only Shorts filmmaker I knew with groupies/ female fans chasing him at the Asia Society. But his game was awkward due to his Sadhu phase. So it was entertaining to observe.
Prashant had his dark side if he was off his meds. He was aware of this, and joked about it on his birthday. After India that year, he started drinking in New York. Once after a screening, Prashant, Tanuj, & I ran into my friends on East 5th St. It was hot out, and we sat down for a drink. Prashant started lashing out at my friends, and I didn’t know what to say. One of them was luckily a psychiatrist. “Hey, man, did you forget to take your meds today?” Prashant thought for a moment,“…Yeah, man.” He settled down and went home. That’s why I initially thought it was suicide, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Either way, I still can’t believe it. He seemed to be doing better and better each time I saw him.
He was critical of movies about manic depression or schizophrenia, because he was trying to achieve a certain kind of emotional honesty/verite in his own work. He wasn’t a stickler for structure or conventional arcs. It was creatively refreshing for me to debate all this, because being in film school at the time, that stuff was drilled into my head. We discussed Gun Van Sant’s movie about Kurt Cobain in particular. Which I loved for its realness, and others hated for its lack of glamour or storyline. Prashant came from the Acting perspective. So he prioritized improvising with actors. We played Russian Actor Games via Samrat at his birthday party.
Last night I was reading about Creatives, mental illness, and the spiritual/evolutionary need for schizophrenia/ manic depression in Tribal cultures. Or what skill that provided, that doesn’t fit into regimented modern society. So I was thinking about him & wanted him to read this book. His movie Patang was literally a transcendent higher experience for many of us. Knowing Prashant’s spiritual journey, I asked him about this - because editing or any creative endeavor can be spiritual when you’re “in the zone.” Particularly the repetition of frames & the hypnotic element of filmmaking.
Prashant had been back in the mix in New York for the last year or two. I saw him with Vijay Iyer after coming back from India. We commiserated about freelancing & such. We did the whole sublet here, sublet in India thing. I was telling him how I felt I could “leave” a lot of the South Asian work in India, and focus on broader stories here. I met his family at the Radhe Radhe screening. He would pop in at the South Asian Film Lab workshops and push people to explore the emotional truth of a scene, rather than the intellectual plot. He also shadowed on Boardwalk Empire and talked about being the only person of color on set that day, directing a sex scene. After Nirbhaya last month, we were all feeling very vulnerable and delicate. He told us that his mom started a domestic violence shelter in Chicago.
He was from the “South Side of Chicago” - something so specific I heard him say in his slow Chicago drawl so many times over the years. He was planning a movie about African-American golfers in Chicago. He was a former b-boy. His South Asian high school classmate said that he deliberately left him out of the yearbook, because he wanted to be the only Indian at their high school. Prashant confirmed this, and added that the other dude was too nerdy. We thought it was really funny, but it kind of shocked us, because he was now the big South Asian film Connector. I guess it was the 90′s.
Last Saturday night, Prashant texted that everyone was at the NYIFF afterparty. He was also planning a picnic for last Sunday. I was exhausted after my Reading, and had to go home to walk my dog. I had been running into Prashant every few days at something or the other, so I figured I’d just see him and everyone another night. Just goes to show how precious and unpredictable life is.
At his birthday, my toast was that - he was “Earth, Wind, & Fire” - not just because they are also from Chicago. Earth because his family, spirituality, & community keep him grounded. Wind - because I have seen him on many continents and found his notecards in a book in Ahmedabad - he left a trace everywhere. Once his flight in LA got cancelled, and we went to a hip-hop club. Fire - because he was a little unpredictable, and certainly a trailblazer.
Prashant, you will be missed.
Ghostbusters RIP Harold Ramis
“I looked at the trap, Ray…”
Everyone always says “the world is so small”, and yes it is.. in some ways; we now decide to travel across the Atlantic for the weekend, we can have a face-to-face conversation with a friend in Liberia and your sister’s new boyfriend from Slovakia actually studied in Germany with your best mate from school. People travel a lot and stay in touch more easily.
But people don’t seem to be emigrating nearly as much. In 2013, 3.2% of the world’s population were international migrants compared to 2.9% in 1990 (source) - a minuscule differences when compared to the 30% growth in international travellers between 2004 and 2011 (source). So clearly migration isn’t as easy as travel, an obvious point for those that have experienced it.
I’ve now done this twice; first from UK to India (and back) for the Indicorps fellowship and more recently from UK to USA for shoto, and would like to share some of the key items that should be on your list of things to pack.
Just uploaded WORLD MUSIC DAY SPECIAL - Sounds of the Indian Ocean to Mixcloud. Listen now!
NADA BRAHMA ((( d(^ ^)b )))
the world is sound..
the essence of sound is never evil.