“Sing to Me, Mr. Shuffle!”

A project which emerged during the pandemic, this is my first collaboration with an App and an Algorithm, with roots reaching back 5 decades and 13,000 miles.

When I saw the call for stories by Towson University’s Asian Arts & Culture Center, I was really excited. It was not the usual call for art which I usually don’t answer, but a call for stories “told through our art, and our work.” It was right up my alley! So I entered their Our Stories Festival. I entered my story, “Sing to Me, Mr. Shuffle!” which I will present on Oct 15, 2020.

The story is about the founder of a community space for art and stories and what she does when the community cannot join her as the building is closed to the public because of the pandemic. As a community-based artist, who can she collaborate with now? The story revolves around four paintings, all of which she created on one Friday afternoon, inspired by Bollywood songs which played from her iPhone, thanks to the ever present, Mr. Shuffle. As the songs he picked “spoke” to her, she pulled up the materials and played, and sang, and danced. She painted using brushes, pebbles, and sticks. Who was there to see? Who was there to critique? She even felt guilty of the absolute joy even as everybody else was isolating at home and worried.

As I detailed out the story I found myself pulling from many old memories and finding some wonderful new realizations:
1. I found that my love of languages and scripts went back to growing up in cosmopolitan Bombay, India, as I learned English, Hindi, and Sanskrit in school; Bengali at home; Marathi in college; and Russian at the House of Soviet Culture.
2. My celebration of the delicious wet canvas and creating spirals in puddles of paint reflects my growing up along the Arabian Sea and loving the four-month long monsoons which always came after harsh summers.
3. And how a new friend changed my relationship to the Bollywood music I loved listening to and changed the station I listened to as well, introducing me to new poets, new songs, and new idea!

A photo taken by PAUSEr Mary Louise Marino, during the virtual story festival. It’s a photo of me presenting a film with a picture of me!

She was so drawn to the texture of the artworks when they were wet! 
She wrote:
Wet paint is the right now, 
This moment, 
Before it dries, hardens  to become
So, what can paint be now? 
How can I alter, add, mix, blend?
Aah, gold!
Ooooo, my darling spiral!
Come! Make a puddle!

– Sushmita Mazumdar, from Sing to Me, Mr. Shuffle, Oct 2020

The songs/artworks in the photos above are:

1. Aye Dile Nadaan/O Innocent Heart
 Movie: Razia Sultan, 1983. Lyrics: Khayyam/Jan Nisar Akhtar

2. Hawa Hawa/Like the Wind 
Movie: Rockstar, 2011 Lyrics: Irshad Kamil

3. Albela Sajan/Charming Beloved
 Movie: Bajirao Mastani, 2015 Song: Traditional

4. Qaafirana/Blasphemous 
Movie: Kedarnath, 2018 Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya

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