‘Rishi Ritch’ pinpoints institutionalised language representations in English in the present day. BAME, a widely used acronym and umbrella term in the UK for ‘Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic’ is, like the time ‘POC’, repeated to the point of nonsensical mantra. Reiteration of the words ‘rich’ and ‘I’m so rich’ is, alongside the video title, a nod to the current British Chancellor of the Exchequer and Conservative British Indian MP Rishi Sunak, who holds great private wealth and whose ascendance in politics coincided with a hardening of rightwing policymaking in the pandemic era. The video references the first ruler of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who features in a number of Pandhal’s films as a headless, militaristic, sword-wielding figure:

‘The motif of a headless Sikh horseman is a conflation of Ranjit Singh and Baba Deep Singh, whose decapitated body, legend has it, continued to fight the Afghan army during the 1757 Battle of Amritsar. I envisaged my figure as a prototypical fantasy character, who I hope will one day find home in a dark, Sikh-inspired Sword and Sorcery universe created by me and some friends. Images of auto-decapitation and supernaturally displaced heads are open to multiple interpretations. I like to think of these motifs as conveying emasculation, ejaculation (speech-oral/orgasmic-sexual), but also an openness to inexplicable or beheaded forms of consciousness. Essentially, it’s about losing one’s head(s), becoming headless and more egalitarian in spirit.’

 

– Hardeep Pandhal 2021

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