MARGARET MEETS : RYAN LANJI

27.04.20

Curator, producer, club nights, Dj, the list continues…  – how do you describe what you do? Oh my, this question haunts me on the regular. As much as I don’t like to admit it I am a total unicorn… I remember when I first moved to London and met a career advisor he looked me […]

Curator, producer, club nights, Dj, the list continues…  – how do you describe what you do?

Oh my, this question haunts me on the regular. As much as I don’t like to admit it I am a total unicorn… I remember when I first moved to London and met a career advisor he looked me straight in the eyes and said: you have a problem.. you’re too creative and finding a job will be one of the hardest things you will do, why? because you are a lone gunslinger.

Ever since I landed in London ten years ago, I have found myself constantly meeting people, networking, listening to people and making ideas happen, I find out what the missing link or gap in the path of an artists or designers dream is and mould myself or find the people to help fill that gap and produce that idea that is relevant to culture and art.

By my own free-flowing definition, I am a Fashion & Art Curator, Cultural Producer, and more recently (and proudly) the man behind HUNGAMA: East London’s Queer Bollywood Hip Hop Night.

How did you end up doing this?

When I moved to London I had nothing but a few month’s rent saved up and a dream of being a part of its creative culture. I remember getting a job at a pizza space (Story Deli) and after my first shift (on my way home) I got mugged by five guys… I called in sick to work the next day (beaten and bruised) and ended up going to my then boyfriend’s gallery internship interview. For some reason, we both got the job that day and I started working with said gallery…within a couple of months, I’d come up with a show idea to compliment London fashion week and curated NAILPHILIA (the world’s first nail art exhibition) and grabbed the attention of the fashion world. Some of my most recent shows have been with the London Film Museum (Enamoured: 80 years of Revlon) and The Victoria and Albert Museum (Conservation Couture: The Animal Ball) which featured over 40 fashion houses designing masks to raise awareness for endangered animals.

Aside from Curation, I realised that I felt a heavy sense of displacement in London (I find fashion and art to be quite vacuous and fake.. especially amplified by Instagram).. so I decided to start a Bollywood Hip Hop night (my two favourite genres) and create a space for Queer (and creative) Asians… The night is called HUNGAMA (which means chaos and celebration.. one of my mom’s favourite words). I knew there were more of me out there somewhere.. fast forward two years and we have created what i-D and GQ India call London’s ‘Indian Studio 54’ – a party that celebrates two things our culture doesn’t allow us to be Creative and Queer.

The party has reconnected me to Bollywood, Asian Culture, Queer Asian brothers and sisters I never knew I had and the night has been invited to Soho House, The Tate, V&A, Love Box Festival as well as Diesel and even Vogue. It’s allowed me to truly reconnect culture to a community who has been yearning for it for so long.

If you weren’t doing what you do, are there any other careers you’ve considered? (not that it’s too late…) eg. dancer, brain surgeon, pilot etc

I would love to work in Advertising, When I was a kid (before Mad Men) I would always want to be one of the guys sitting around a boardroom trying to come up with the perfect strapline for a mustard or face cream. I also went to school for film production and dreamed of being a Bollywood Filmmaker, creating EPIC romances and dramatic sagas on screen.. but who knows.. with Hungama it could very well still be on the cards.

As well as doing what you do, do you have any other unexpected talents? (might be a bit linked to the above..)

I am really good at orientation, my memory never fails me. I learnt this skill when I was a kid and would memorise shopping malls so my mom could shop more economically.

What are the 3 things you can’t do without during this lockdown period, for example, a book, piece of music, film?

As it stands, I can’t do without my work out routine, I use Freelectics (have been for years) and it’s an amazing way to have your own personal trainer in your phone… I’m not a fan of too many Instagram live workouts. I currently can’t do without my phone AND not because I need it to be on social media but it is keeping me connected to my special someone who is isolating away from me. In terms of books and films, I am reading Gods & Kings which is a parallel look at the rise and fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano in their respective houses written by Dana Thomas – such a great read for fashion lovers ALSO I recently saw Margiela: In his words and it’s INCREDIBLE (available for streaming on Dogwoof).

What was the last cultural outing you did or plan to do?

The last cultural outing I had before the COVID-19 lockdown was attending the press preview for the Andy Warhol exhibition and it was amazing to see the work of a cultural icon that I admire so much, he informs a lot of my work and it was nice of the TATE to invite me along. I believe you can see it online from the comfort of your own couch.

What next for you?

I’ve quickly turned @hungama_ldn into a live channel interviewing Queer South Asian Creatives to give our followers and those who come to the night a chance to meet and get to know some of the more established names in Art and Culture. Amongst others we have interviewed Manish Malhotra (Bollywood’s legendary costume designer), Kumari Suraj (LA’s Queen of Bollywaacking), Rahmer Rahman (Bangladeshi Menswear Designer), Nikkita Chadha (Model/Actress), Babbu the Painter (artist) and many more of the fabulous eccentrics who come to Hungama – we go live at 6 pm almost every night! I am also excited to announce that Alphabet radio has given HUNGAMA a club night slot on the third Wednesday of every month and Neil Radio has asked me to start a Bollywood show (A DOSA BOLLYWOOD with @mslanji) on April 29th – so Bollywood and Community is still thriving and very much alive!

Any significant Margarets in your life?

I am realising how important everyone who supports my night and work is to me. During lockdown, I’ve realised how important a community HUNGAMA has made and brought into my life… I am so pleased and consider each and every one of them to be my dear family and significant Margarets. I am also excited to be COVID-Dating which is an unreal experience, I’m not sure if it’s utopian or dystopian.

Photo Credits: Santiago Joaquin

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