Earlier this week, indie musician Monica Dogra received a lot of flak when she asked fans to help her source Rs 50 lakh to crowdfund a video based on the LGBT community. Even though, at the time of going to press, the crowdfunding website (ketto.org/shiver) showed that Rs 2.56 lakh had been raised, the initiative is yet to get the support it was perhaps expecting. Here, Monica clarifies her stance, and defends her video. "A lot of people believe that Rs 50 lakh is a big amount for a music video. I am asking for funds for a music video art project that has expanding goals. The project has a double-fold agenda intending to make transgender representation in pop culture more mainstream. The greater intention is to chisel away at gender binaries that exist around us. Depending on the amount of funds we raise, we’ll either make a music video, or an installation documentary art piece."
What do you make of this backlash?
I just got into town. I was in California, USA, looking after my dad who hasn’t been keeping well for a month. I haven’t slept in three days. I think I have had too much time to process everything. Aside from just being tired and overwhelmed, I feel really good that so much attention has been given to my work before it’s even been made.
Have you received any positive responses?
The only positive responses have been from people who are coming forth to defend who I am, as a person. But I just want to reiterate that this work is not about me. I’m not even a subject in the music video. I am just using whatever powers I may have, which, until this point, I thought were meek. But now with the backlash, I am realising that people feel that I have enough power to hamper an entire movement, or to misrepresent an entire group of people, which was never my intention. This project is about inclusion.
What is the video about?
It’s a fictional narrative that follows our protagonist, a young boy, who chances upon this palace, this mirage… we are using magic, mysticism and metaphors to tell a story. He meets a sisterhood comprising lesbians, transgenders, women — short, fat, tall and skinny — all representations of the feminine across humanity.
You called the work a “high art project”. What did you mean?
Music video, documentary film, art installation and live performances — I don’t know of any one term that describes all of them. I am very sorry that I used a term like “high art”, because I had no idea that it would spark an instant image of western imperialist privilege, and that too, coming from my mouth — an NRI in India, God forbid! Now that I know, I will be extremely sensitive henceforth.
What is the status of the project as of now?
I have put a complete pause on the promotion of this campaign until my voice has been heard. I have been personally attacked. There is no point in me promoting something, when the only content out there is slanderous and misrepresenting the project. But this project will happen… I am more confident about it now. I am more certain of its positive impact. I need to reiterate that there is no part of me that needs to be doing this. It will not earn me any money. I’m doing this because I want to. I believe in it. I want to do it even more now, even if I have to self-fund it, which I know won’t happen. I actually can’t self-fund it (laughs). But it is happening. I can’t even feel the jet lag anymore; I only feel an insane amount of determination.