‘The Archies’ in San Francisco: A Public Thank You Letter to Artist, Dancer and Activist Amit Patel

The Archies
'The Archies' Culture Creators screening in San Francisco — brought to you by Netflix and Brown Girl Magazine | Photos by Aditi Shastri

In celebration of Zoya Akhtar’s newest film, “The Archies.” the following Q&A is a part of Netflix and Brown Girl Magazine’s first-ever community-driven ‘Culture Creator’ screening series — featuring community leaders doing impactful work in New JerseyChicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The morning of Dec. 6—the day Brown Girl Magazine was coming to my hometown of San José to screen Netflix’s new movie, “The Archies,” I woke up to a text from my mom. It said, “I went to the Hindu temple and spoke about you to the priest. He said your homosexuality is only in your mind because your hormones are unstable. He said you should do meditation and take medicine to stabilize your hormones so you won’t be homosexual anymore.”

Reading my mom’s unprompted message felt disruptive to my nervous system and yet another thing 2023 sent my way with the sole purpose of making breathing even harder.

I screen-captured the message and thought about sending it to various group chats asking people to shower me in love. I thought about putting it on my Instagram story secretly hoping that someone would respond with Terri Joe’s infamous viral video to make me laugh. I thought about sending it to Aruna Auntie from Desi Rainbow Parents and Allies asking her if she could be my mom instead. But I’m 33, we’ve all been through a lot already, and I didn’t want to burden the masses with helping me feel whole.

[Read Related: Allies to Advocates: Desi Rainbow Parents and Allies Empower Transformation ]

So I sent it to one dear friend and asked her to call me. After our chat, I thought about responding to my mom. My first impulse was to send her statistics of how many trans people were killed this year alone. But I don’t want to measure LGBTQIA+ lives with our deaths. So, instead, I chose to block her. And I went about my day, busying myself with work.

The evening came and it was time to head to the theater for the film screening followed by a Q&A between Brown Girl Magazine CEO Trisha Sakhuja-Walia and well-known artist, dancer, and activist Amit Patel,  both of whom happen to be my friends. Excited to be surrounded by a semblance of joy and community at the event, I forgot about the pain my mom tried to implant in my chest. Let me be clear: the strong, independent, confident version of me doesn’t need anyone to prop me up. I’m good. I’m good because I’m me. My mom’s text did no damage to this version of me.


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But it wasn’t until the event had ended and I was home about to fall asleep that I started to contemplate what I experienced today and how it all came together. At night is when the masks come falling down. I felt the twang in my chest and then it struck me like an arrow. The part of me that my mom tried to wound by sending that vile message is the part of me that makes me so grateful for Amit and all he’s done for the queer South Asian community through his inclusive dance offerings of “Bollyheels” and his show productions. On the days where it’s hard for me to get out of bed, I’ll remember that Amit is not only able to get out of bed but he’s able to dance.

[Read Related: Amit Patel Advocates for LGBTQ Communities Through Dance (That too in 6-Inch Stilettos)]

Of course, I can talk about “The Archies” and more about the evening itself. And I will, in brief. The premise of “The Archies” is a group of kids ban together as grassroots organizers to save their community park from being demolished. It was good and I highly recommend it. A solid 10/10, or at worst, a 9/10. Watch it. The music, dancing, outfits, acting, and set design were all lovely. The cast is all conventionally attractive. As an insufferable ABCD who doesn’t speak Hindi, the script seemed great to me (as per the subtitles). The movie had many great one-liners that landed like timely and timeless philosophical nuggets of wisdom without feeling cheesy or cliché in a bad way.

One of these great one-liners that danced out at me was:

“In order to make art, you have to go inwards not outwards.”

That’s exactly what this article aims to do. The movie helped me make art in the form of this article. I went inwards to pull out a bloodied thorn that I put on the page, so that we can all look at the thorn and collectively discard it. In my eyes, when a movie transcends the actual screen and forces you to relate or understand or even emote, it’s a good movie.

In addition to the above one-liner, the next one that hit a note with me was:

“The grass is not greener on the other side; the grass is greener where you water it.”

Since 2020, Brown Girl Magazine has been a space that I’ve been able to water and pour into. And it feels lush as a result. The least I can do for our community is write from an artful and honest place, which in this case means sharing vulnerably with you. And I believe Amit does the same through the work of his dance companies and collectives.

For me, the most touching part of the movie was when a main character bows down to a tree he planted when he was a child. This tree has since grown. I cried during this scene because these days, I consider Mother Nature more my ancestor than my parents themselves. This is why I plant my feet in the grass first thing every morning. Trees don’t aim to make me small just because they are big. Grass doesn’t aim to cut me just because it’s sharp. Nothing in nature assumes I need to change to be worthy. Life loves us unconditionally. And unfortunately, our species is killing our one Earth.

Given all this, I do wonder: Why did the movie so aptly critique corporatization but not explicitly extend its critique to capitalism? Is Netflix a corporation? Is India too enmeshed with capitalism to ever recover? Is there a cost to diverse representation on the big screen? Can art really save us from impending environmental doom? Moreover, what does any of this mean considering there are multiple ongoing genocides taking place today? And how media sources are fiscally indebted to the oppressive forces that seek to control them.

As the main characters in “The Archies” are discussing existential dreads in a similar light, an older character taps his lap, gets up and walks away saying, “Welcome to adulthood.” And he’s right, adulthood is fucking weird. But we’re all doing it, the best we can. Even my mom. Who thinks she’s helping when she’s harming.

I could chose to list Amit’s accolades and achievements in this piece, but that feels like a disservice to him. We are more than what we accomplish. And that is enough for me to feel full gratitude. Amit reached the wounded child who cries inside when my mom hurts me with her words. So, yes, I am grateful to him.

Thank you, Amit, for being the Bay Area culture creator that we need and have yearned for. Your work in dance and community building will last for years to come.

By saahil mehta

saahil sees themself as a writer and intercultural educator who has learned the importance of storytelling in the classroom, first … Read more ›