Aditya Panikker Moves With Purpose: The Unquenchable Inquisitiveness Of A Storyteller

Aditya's work is a window into the mind of a creator who, rather refreshingly, seems to revel in the fact that he does not have all the answers.
Aditya's work is a window into the mind of a creator who, rather refreshingly, seems to revel in the fact that he does not have all the answers. Aditya Panikker

While there are plenty of creatives, homegrown or otherwise, who strive to capture the melancholic depth of the human experience, very few do it as profoundly or as authentically as Aditya Panikker. As a photographer, filmmaker, writer and storyteller, his photographic vignettes and digital shorts zoom into the chaos of the lives we lead and implore us to question the motives that fuel our actions. 

There’s an unquenchable inquisitiveness that fuels his creativity and we see this in every word he writes and every moment he captures. But despite what’s on his Instagram, Aditya says that he’s not particularly drawn to either photography or filmmaking and that they’re merely the most convenient ways for him to bring his ideas to life. “Over time, my preferred medium has shifted from poetry to dance to music to photography to filmmaking,” he says. “The only consistent thing about my ‘art’ is that I love telling stories. The method has always been secondary.”

The lens that he uses to capture the world allows his audience to connect his imagery and his narratives with their own lived experiences. Whether it’s a man staring longingly at the land of his people, a lone woman on her commute home, or a couple in a loving embrace, his art acts as a conduit for us to explore our own questions, emotions and connections to the people, places and memories we hold dear.  

Nonetheless, he’s somewhat bashful about the work he’s put out so far and maintains that his greatest achievements come from the way he tries to live his life and his curiosity to experience new things. “Once you start paying attention to the little mundane things around you, you'll see how beautiful life is and how there is always a brilliant idea that only you could have conceived.” 

Aditya puts the unique visual and narrative aesthetic of his work down to instinct and maintains that none of it is a truly ‘conscious’ choice. He’s recently had the opportunity to photograph some creative powerhouses in Anoushka Shankar and Micheal Kiwanuka and while he tried to plan out shoots for both of them, he tells us that he quickly abandoned his ‘processes’ and just went with what felt right. 

“It’s a lot like riding a bike or playing the guitar; you move with the most elegance when you quit overthinking,” he says, and the results are plain to see. For Aditya, the aesthetic of his work is less important than the message that he’s trying to relay. “I hope the person viewing it gets the slightest sense of hope or at least some form of reassurance that the world is alright. I want that feeling to stay with them more than the look or aesthetic of the work itself.”

He’s largely risen to prominence as a creative thanks to a handful of emotionally wrought shorts that each attempt to unravel the complexity of concepts such as love, home, and creativity. These shorts are a window into the mind of a creator who, rather refreshingly, seems to revel in the fact that he does not have all the answers. 

“I don't think I've been around long enough to know my place in this universe,” he explains. “I don't believe you can go looking for your purpose; it will show up when the time is right and when you're ready.”

Aditya’s work is not an attempt to find some illusive ‘answer’ but rather an invitation to embark on a journey of sights, sounds, and feelings that could allow you to better understand a world that’s constantly in motion. “I think our job is to live this life as if it’s the only one we have; to be decent, curious, flawed, and in love. That in itself is a rebellious act, and I believe it will eventually help us understand what we truly stand for.”

What allows Aditya to stand out amongst a fairly saturated landscape of creators is his sense of responsibility. He believes that all art is inherently political and aims to use his talent as a creator as an act of resistance; something that can shine a light on injustice and tyranny and potentially influence change in pursuit of a better world. 

His February short on the ongoing genocide that’s taking place in Palestine, while lacking the pretty imagery of picturesque European cities (that we’ve been conditioned to instantly heart react to), was a powerful statement of solidarity and outrage; one that spoke out against the atrocities that the Palestinian people are currently facing as a direct result of settler colonialism. 

“I believe everyone has a moral responsibility to speak up against injustice, not just artists,” he says. “However, as artists, we have a unique ability to explain what's happening in the world and inspire others to learn about important issues. 

He does believe that there’s still room and even a necessity for art that focuses on love, kindness and beauty and that such art acts as a form of resistance that gives us something to hold on to. “My art is inherently political and will always address the issues I believe are important. However, I don't think it's right to look down on someone who spends hours creating a short reel about their day and finding the courage to share it with the world.” 

Over the last few months particularly, I’ve felt a sense of guilt about creating ‘art’ that doesn’t necessarily speak out directly against the horrible things that happen in the world. I’ve often asked myself: in the wake of so much death and destruction, is it fair to create things that don’t definitively take a stand? Should I be writing about music festivals, ‘rat boyfriends’, or the opening of a slightly pretentious new speakeasy in Mumbai when there are more important things to draw people’s attention to?

To conclude our conversation, I asked Aditya the very same question. 

“Two years ago, I would have said that art without purpose is pointless. Now, I believe that ‘art for art's sake’ is a myth; it doesn't exist. Every piece of art has a purpose and is political, even if it tries not to be. In many ways, trying to intentionally ‘strike a balance’ between creating art that takes a definitive stand and art that focuses on love and beauty can often seem disingenuous and dishonest. People will always see through the facade.”

You can follow Aditya here.