Scottish songwriter Kapil Seshasayee’s track ‘The Pink Mirror’ critiques LGBTQ representation and censorship in Indian films
For the past year, Tamil-native Scottish art rocker Kapil Seshasayee has taken it upon himself to critique representation in Bollywood cinema, through his album Laal. After speaking up about hyped-up nationalism in ‘The Gharial’, and objectification in ‘The Item Girl’, Kapil is set to release his third single, ‘The Pink Mirror’, in support of better, nuanced LGBTQ narratives in Indian films.
In 2003, a camp-comedy Hindi film by queer filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan, titled The Pink Mirror, was banned by the Indian censor board, deemed ‘vulgar’. The film had portrayed transsexual persons as protagonists. It is after this movie that Kapil’s latest song is named after. The proceeds from this song will go to Humsafar Trust, the NGO co-founded by Sridhar to advocate for sexual and medical rights of LGBTQ+ people in India, and to his production company, Solaris Pictures, which supports Indian queer cinema.
“You don’t forget the first movie of a certain genre that you see, and for me, The Pink Mirror was my gateway to LGBTQ representation on film,” says Kapil, over a call from Glasgow, adding that he started reading up and watching more queer cinema. “We see cis-het actors portraying queer characters as caricatures, or trans characters as antagonists who try to seduce the hero away from the heroine, to comedic effect, and these movies are still green-lit. Yet, you don’t allow queer filmmakers to tell their own stories!”
As a bystander — as someone who does not belong to the queer community, he confirms that these portrayals heavily influence our society’s behaviour towards the community, even among the Indian diaspora. “Bollywood has a massive audience in us Indians here; we swear by this stuff.”
The album’s first track ‘The Gharial’, released on May 22, is also a critique of Bollywood profiteering off of nationalism at a time of political unrest in India. The title is a reference to Ajay Devgn’s Tanjhaji, which featured a cartoonishly ‘evil’ antagonist roasting and eating a crocodile. While his signature has been experimental guitar, ‘The Pink Mirror’, with its electronica vibes, relies heavily on production. Varying sounds aside, in almost every song, Kapil tries to bring in advocacy, addressing topics relevant to Indians, such as casteism.
He is also founder of Desifuturism, where he interviews brown artistes. “If you grew up in the West, there is such a narrow identity of who an Indian can be,” he says, “My own Indian identity interests me a lot, and I try to learn from other activists to give visibility to issues without making it about myself.”
‘The Pink Mirror’ is releasing on Bandcamp on June 5