Kho Ja by Himonshu Parikh is a dive into the colorful little words of a young queer person. Parikh is well known as part of The Yellow Diary and recently ventured on his musical journey as a solo artist. In the music video, the story portrays the beautiful journey towards embracing and accepting one’s authentic self while finding liberation through self-expression. The world in the film is almost utopian in nature, where this monochromatic world of this boy gets a little colorful every time he explores and embraces these sides of himself that society doesn’t deem acceptable. Even though it’s not a story about acceptance in the wider sense which we typically see in movies through an emotional scene followed by a monologue on identity, it does deal with the glimmer of hope from his mother as he explores his true self.
The concept behind the music and the music video comes from a place of being sick and tired of LGBTQ trauma porn. It also weaves into the narrative of showcasing coming out stories in India with dire consequences or in general south asian queer narratives in a dreaded sense. While no one is contesting that precarity or the trauma that exists within queer experiences and queer lives, there’s also no denying that queer characters often fall into rigid stereotypes through media representation – be it the supportive best friend, the struggling artist or as a joke within a usually queerphobic setup. And this does impact what other queer people see. There’s a strong reason behind the idea of queer joy that shows like Heartstopper bring in.
The lead singer Himonshu also gave an interview with Mirchi Plus, where he performed a soulful solo of some bits of the song. When asked about what the song means to him, he said that it means about allowing someone you love to be who they are. Himonshu also beautifully adds that the song is about that feeling that tu kho ja (you get lost into your own world) and if you need the help or the support, I will be there for you. The story behind the song is also fascinating as it initially started with the word so ja (go to sleep) which gives it a lullaby form, and adds to the beauty of the narrative of the mother-son duo that we see in the music video. The lead singer also posted on the official music video (which also echoes the bond between parents and children across generations), “I’ve always strongly believed, that if you do care for someone, it’s important to let them be who they want to be, and do what they want to do, rather than trying to make them a version of what you think they should be. Kho Ja is a song that talks about just this. It means so much to me, and I’m thrilled to finally share it with you.”
Another peculiar aspect of the music video is the delicate way it touches upon the everydayness of queerness. For the larger society, queerness is seen as a taboo and often restricted only to the idea of sexual acts. The music video on the other hand tackles the boy putting on nail paint and trying on a saree and what sort of reaction it draws from his mother. At the same time, there is no moral judgment or a violent queerphobic element present in this narrative. Instead, there is the grief that is caused by the emotional distance between a mother and a child where the mother is unable to understand how to respond to her son’s engagement with nail paint or with sarees.
What begins as an argument over nail paint, leads to a moment of silence and grief where we see the distance between the mother and the son. But we also see how they do want to be there for each other as the distance is making them further sad. And then comes the beautiful end, where we see the mother placing a bunch of colorful sarees for her son. It is important that we don’t see her giving it to her son because there’s a certain complexity of dealing with emotions that comes with bonds between a parent and a child. At times, we show our love through hidden ways which we know will be noticed but won’t be overt in their expression. In this way, the emotion of Kho Ja is not merely limited to the son, it is also a call towards parents to support their children in becoming who they want to be and who they truly are at their heart.
The lyrics of the song also dive into the complex feelings of not knowing where we are headed, which is a universal experience for all queer people going through adolescence. On one end, we want to be the person that our family will appreciate us for and what they expect, which sits only along the cisgender heterosexual ideals. On the other hand, we also want to express ourselves and be our true self, which is at odds with the wider world. It also reminded me of this movie Daaravtha by Nishant Roy Bombarde which also follows a boy who’s interested in playing a female character in his school’s play and his mother helps him and is supportive throughout.
Ansika Vijayan, the Product Lead at Warner Music India also told Gaysi that they work with a lot of artists and many times, they go for creative, animated music videos that are rooted in fantasy. This not only elevates the music, its meaning, and the artists’ vision, it is also an amalgamation of a creative team effort. Some of the artists they work with are Himonshu Parikh, Diljit, KING, Harrdy Sandhu, Prateek Kuhad, Lisa Mishra, Sanjith Hegde, Aditya Bhardwaj, Karan Aujla, Srushti Tawde and more.