Introducing the next podcast for your download list

Two men sitting either side of a woman in a plain room.

Founded by a trio of London members – brothers Reuben and Aaron Christian, and Almass Badat – What Is This Behaviour? unpacks the South Asian experience in creative industries

By Aleah Aberdeen    Images courtesy of Whats Is This Behaviour?   Wednesday 19 August, 2020   Long read

Between them, the three hosts of new podcast, What Is This Behaviour?, have in some way touched on almost every aspect of today’s creative industries. Aaron and Reuben Christian, brothers of Malaysian-Indian descent who are based in London’s Newham, have worked as a film-maker in luxury, lifestyle and fashion, and as a presenter, director and stand-up respectively. 

Almass Badat, meanwhile, who grew up in Zambia and Hackney, has been freelancing for eight years as an artist and educator. On 8 June, the trio came together to start their podcast, which explores the experience of South Asian people going ‘against the grain’ in their communities by pursuing non-traditional careers. It also examines how they’ve navigated the micro-cultures and family traditions that may have influenced their ideas of the ‘norm’. Here, the co-hosts explain the origins of the podcast, the importance of representation and where we go from here. 

Has the creative field been a hard career path to navigate, particularly in the South Asian community? 

Aaron: ‘Convincing my parents that studying film was a viable option at university received quite a push back. When I graduated, I didn’t know how to get into the industry – there were no South Asians in the film and TV space, no connectors. There was never a blueprint for us to follow but, if anything, that’s made me be a trailblazer.’

Almass: ‘My family didn’t make me subscribe to any particular profession, there was just some confusion. When I said to my wider family that I was a film-maker and artist, they couldn’t make sense of it. How do you navigate a granddaughter who has tattoos, piercings and blue hair, but also wants to go to the mosque and pray while campaigning for LGBTQ+ visibility?’

Reuben: ‘I felt, as someone working in entertainment, that I’ve worked really hard but not always reached my targets. I’d question my work ethic and talent, and thought I was going a bit mad. But when you take a look at the wider industry, you realise how much systemic oppression is at play. It’s been experimental, emergent and – without a shadow of a doubt – chaotic.’

How did the podcast come about? 

Reuben: ‘It started with collective consciousness, and shared frustrations with feeling ignored and under-celebrated. There are deeply ingrained stereotypes we can’t ignore, so we thought, let’s speak to people who have taken an alternative journey and in essence redefine what it means to be South Asian.’

Aaron: ‘When I was casting for a film I made called The Internship, I needed someone from a South Asian background. I realised we are not represented, we have bad PR and there’s not enough stories. Initially, I wanted a podcast based around South Asians in fashion, but it expanded.’ 

Almass: ‘At the beginning of lockdown, we just started recording. We wanted to create a space of value for our listeners and be creatively vulnerable in the process. As a trio, we can centre our experiences in a safe space that listeners might not have anywhere else. It’s a platform to share South Asian talent with everyone.’
A man in a white t-shirt.
A woman with blue highlights in her hair.
A man laughing.

Your title What Is This Behaviour? came from a meme. What made you choose it? 

Almass: ‘It came from a funny YouTube clip of an Indian woman. It’s iconic and people know it, but we can bring it back into discourse and ask ourselves the question. Meme culture is the uncensored voice of the people, they are similes for how we feel about things.’

Aaron: ‘We are constantly figuring out what it means to be South Asian. We are growing and evolving, so we are asking more questions rather than making bold statements, which this title fits.’

What challenges have you encountered with the podcast? 

Almass: ‘Learning new working patterns and holding space for each other’s emotions. It’s the first time I’ve been in a male-heavy situation. Because we are all South Asian, sometimes other identifiers fall to the side. I’m a woman, but I have fairer skin, so it’s important to acknowledge these differences.’

Reuben: ‘We all have varied working dynamics – Aaron is quite structured, and myself and Almass are more fluid. We are starting to understand our working ethics and are co-existing as three different artists.’

What are your future goals for the podcast? 

Aaron: ‘I want to help drive conversations, using the podcast as a vehicle for other people’s lived experiences and to grow a wider community.’
Almass: ‘Same. I have a massive drive to build real communities. This is a megaphone and spotlight for all South Asian culture, skills and talents. It would be amazing to broadcast this on a wider level and use it as a creative hub to develop ideas. Although it’s a personal journey to unpack South Asian-ness, it’s not limited to South Asian people.’ 

Reuben: ‘I have a rough idea, but I want to stay present. I want to make each episode more valuable for all involved and try to continuously add to the progressive culture that we’re helping to shape.’
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