Celebration of culture: Bringing Bollywood to America
When Moushmi Patil entered her freshman year of high school at the Charter School of Wilmington nearly four years ago, she was disappointed in the lack of an international dance team.
Determined to increase awareness of Indian culture at her school and create an outlet for Indian-Americans interested in Bollywood dancing, Patil and two friends started the International Fusion Dance Team. The group has since added its 36th member, an accomplishment in which Patil takes pride.
“For me, this is an important way to connect back to my roots in a country where the culture is completely different,” Patil, a senior at the Charter School of Wilmington, says. “And it’s a way to combine the two sides of my identity without having to choose either one.”
To promote stories like Patil’s and celebrate the Bollywood culture within Delaware’s community, university alumna Sanskriti Inamdar, founder of Ishanya Dance & Fitness, initiated a campaign to recognize a day in October as National Bollywood Day.
Under the name “Bollywood United,” Inamdar has sought community support in a grassroots effort to spread awareness about Bollywood, kick-starting the campaign through a Bollywood Day event Saturday evening at the George Wilson Community Center on New London Road.
The center was a sensory whirlwind: lively music, scents of steaming rice and samosas, a sea of vibrant saris (traditional Indian dresses), an array of ethnic clothing and jewelry for sale. The proceeds will be sent to Cafe Sheroes’ Hangout, an initiative through the Stop Acid Attacks campaign founded in New Delhi in 2013.
Sponsors included the Ishanya Dance Company of Delaware, Indo-American Association of Delaware, Pearl Enterprises Advertising Agency and Indian Graduate Student Association of Delaware. Inamdar says Roshni Patel of UrbanAsian and Miss Sohni of Cre8ive Arts have also been instrumental in steering the campaign.
There were also several Bollywood dance performances from groups such as the International Fusion Dance Team and Wanted Ashiqz, an all-male dance group that performed live on the season finale of “So You Think You Can Dance” in September 2014.
“I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like Bollywood, but I still meet people that don’t know a lot about Bollywood, and that is what the campaign is for,” Inamdar says. “It is to spread awareness about Bollywood, to promote it and to take one day to recognize what we love and what we want to share.”
Bollywood, a nickname given to the Indian film industry, began in 1899 in Mumbai, India. The industry produces up to 800 films a year—twice as many as Hollywood, and more than all other film industries in the world. Nearly 14 million people attend the movies each day in India.
Inamdar says Bollywood gives much more than just movies to the community.
“You have everything from the arts, such as dancing,” Inamdar says. “And Bollywood dancing can be anything because the music draws inspiration from all different music styles—classical, hip-hop and even Latin music.”
Inamdar also says Bollywood promotes physical fitness through exercise and dance classes, which she teaches in her own studios.
The industry is also philanthropic, she says.
“I enjoy the music, dance and movies,” Saritha Chekuru, mother of an International Fusion dancer, says. “But the people of Bollywood do fundraising, too. They take part in so many good causes for the welfare of people around the globe, not just for the people of India.”
The economic benefits that Bollywood generates through job creation and film tourism are sometimes overlooked in America, Inamdar says.
The International Indian Film Academy’s 15th Annual Weekend and Awards in Tampa Bay, FL attracted nearly 30,000 visitors in April 2014, generating an estimated $26.4 million in total visitor spending alone, according to a Visit Tampa Bay news release.
Last year, Gov. Jack Markell issued a proclamation stating that the Office of the Governor also recognizes the positive economic impact of the Bollywood industry on the state of Delaware, as well as its overall benefit on the community.
Inamdar says the governor’s support and success of Saturday’s event brings Bollywood United one step closer to persuading Congress to create a National Bollywood Day.
“Washington, D.C. would be more symbolic than New York City,” Inamdar says. “It’s hard to get a resolution passed by Congress, but maybe once they see the community coming together at such a level—the possibilities are endless.”