Los Angeles-Based Artist, Actor and Writer Karan Batta on Cheating Death and Writing his New Song ‘Golden Lions’
A rare auto-immune disease required the Indian-origin artist to get a liver transplant, which came through just in time. Now, he’s back to making music and writing scripts
There’s a distinct marker of time for Los Angeles rapper, actor and screenwriter Karan Batta when he talks about his journey as an artist so far. There were the years when he was releasing music as The Asoka, acting and just generally hustling to make it in Hollywood. And now, there’s his life after receiving a last resort organ transplant that turned his life around from being numbered.
“I actually had it [the liver transplant] on the very last day that I was expected to live,” Batta says over the phone from the U.S.. He describes his fight against a “rare auto-immune disease” starting March of 2019 which had destroyed his liver and the desperate search for a donor that finally appeared and led to the transplant “on the very last day that I was expected to live” in December that year in Detroit.
Even with a new lease on life, recovery has taken more than two years. “I was barely able to move. I was stuck in the house after my transplant. I started working out and because of the pandemic, I was just contained to a room in my house since I was high risk at that point,” Batta says. His artistic creativity remained with him, though. Batta – a self-taught rapper and screenwriter – set himself a goal to write one short comedy script and one song for each week. “After a while I was like, this is not enough. I need to do more. I can write this too easily. I’m going to create a show. So I created a show called Stop Calling Me Karen,” he adds.
The songs have borne fruit as well, with the first one that’s come out under his own name (as opposed to his long-sustained rap moniker The Asoka) called “Golden Lions,” produced by Jimi Cravity. It’s a fierce call to fight off all the challenges and rise above and for Batta, it’s ever-relevant given his comeback. “It doesn’t feel like a new chapter, it just feels like a new book,” he says.
It’s not lost on Batta that despite all the changes he’s been through and the renewed fuel that has him raring to go, the systemic problems a creative individual faces in Hollywood are still at large. “The opportunities are still so scarce. When I came out here, I met with a manager – and it’s 2022 – and they were still like, ‘Hey, if you want to go off for acting roles, will you speak in an Indian accent? And are you willing to do terrorist roles?’ I was like, ‘What are what are we doing?’” In his experience, even as times change and a new generation of talent hold more progressive outlooks, “the gatekeepers are still older people who don’t get that.”
That’s where “Golden Lions” sounds even more emphatic, especially now that he wants to use his own name and be his most authentic self. Through this single, he’s taking aim at those who said he may never make music or act again. “I had to relearn to walk and there were 300 stitches in me, 60 staples… they were like, ‘Your creative life is all over even if you make it [alive after the transplant]. So for me, it was like, ‘No. Watch me. I will be better than I’ve ever been before.’ I just had to have this mentality for myself to survive,” Batta says. Also on his agenda is a visit back to India. “As soon as my transplant team gives me the green light, I’ll be there again [in India]. I want to do some music which takes American hip-hop beats with Indian instruments. I’ve recorded a few songs like that.” And one of them is called ‘Bombae Girls,’ it’s a fun record,” he adds.
In the midst of all the hustle that he’s dived back into in Los Angeles, Batta remains a beam of positivity who also wants to pass on advice, knowledge and learnings from his experiences in the showbiz world to anyone who’d seek counsel. He really admires and appreciates the advice he’s gotten from screenwriter Tripper Clancy (known for the action-comedy Stuber starring Kumail Nanjiani), Lilly Singh, director and writer Nisha Ganatra and actor Richard Lewis (from Curb Your Enthusiasm). Batta adds, “Being creative and making your dreams a reality is like the most wonderful feeling in the world.”
Listen to “Golden Lions” below.