Brown Queers (2016, ongoing)


2016 | HDV | Colour | Sound | English

A docufiction that follows the lives of three individuals, Krishna Istha, Katy Jalili and Natasha Lal who identify as queer. The work details their feelings and personal expressions as they navigate home and professional lives, and the establishment of non-binary self-definition without apology.

Leela Ojala

Coming Soon

Casting Kanchi


To cast Kanchi, Powell & Pressburger conducted a nationwide search. In all, almost 1000 hopefuls applied, with over 200 girls tested and interviewed. The coveted role went to seventeen-year-old Jean Simmons, who had won worldwide acclaim for her performance as Estella in Great Expectations (1946). To fulfil the role, she had to wear dark Panstick make-up and a jewel in her nose to become the “exotic temptress” of Rumer Godden’s novel.

In late 2014, I recast the role auditioning Indian ex-pat or first-generation British Asian women living in London. Shot on 16mm film, candidates had to introduce themselves to an anonymous reader, recite a personalised alphabet, which include references to the history of photography and gender politics and read lines from a script whilst seated and standing. During the recital, a digital image of the Himalayas appears within a masked out rectangle. It signals the modern medium to which Kanchi will enter in other works in the show.

5 Seconds of Summer

Elephant Boy (2016)

Single-channel video

2016 | HDV | B+W | Sound | 3:15 | English

Krishna Istha re-enacts the introductory sequence of the 1937 Robert Flaherty and Zoltan Korda film Elephant Boy, in which child actor Sabu recites lines by rote in English despite not being conversant with the language.

The work explores how colonial violence is imposed on individuals as they take on a new language. The introduction is testament to this: the words and grammar don’t always make sense, just as language evolves, erodes and changes over time. The delivery of the lines also draws upon the uncomfortable nature of miming, and miming other people, in particular by those who wish to ridicule and differentiate based on the cuts and timing of the source material.

To be released soon