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By Eric Weld   Date: 1/14/11 Bookmark and Share

Taking Steps to Understand Bollywood


The term, a conflation of Bombay (the former name of Mumbai, where the Bollywood industry is based) and Hollywood, elicits images of melodrama on the big screen, juicy roles for India’s biggest stars and bigger-than-life song-and-dance sequences.

Rhea Kewalramani ’12 performs Indian dance with the Smith South Asian dance team, SC Masti.

For those enamored of the latter, an Interterm course this week is teaching the dance steps popularized in some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters.

Rhea Kewalramani ’12, who grew up in Mumbai, proposed the Interterm course to share her fondness for the Indian film genre.

“Bollywood has always been a big part of my life and culture,” says Kewalramani, a film major who has worked on the sets of Bollywood films. “I wanted to share my love for the culture. I thought the best way to help people understand the films would be to introduce them to the songs.”

Kewalramani is teaching her students some of the dance sequences to songs such as Sajnaji Vaari Vaari, Munni Badnaam and Ainvayi Ainvayi among others. She shows clips of the dances from the movies alongside her teaching to demonstrate the music’s importance in advancing the story.

“I’m hoping that the dances will help them understand the storytelling nature of the songs, as well as really help them engage with the movies more,” said Kewalramani.

As part of the course, Kewalramani is hosting optional movie screenings during the week, including a Bollywood documentary titled Larger Than Life, as well as influential films Om Shanti Om and Rang De Basanti.

Kewalramani has performed Indian dance on numerous occasions, she says, and is a member of the Smith South Asian dance team, SC Masti.

“I have always enjoyed dancing and because I never trained in any form of classical dance, popular Bollywood numbers have always been more my style,” she says.

Though, she admits, Bollywood film is not everyone’s taste, the Hindi film brand is enjoying rapidly spreading success, in the United States and around the world.

“Bollywood films are made in a style that is too loud and fantastical for some,” she explains, “but then again those are the factors that make it so different and appealing to many. Bollywood brings various art forms like dance, music, theatre, and film together in a way that make it very entertaining.”

This week, she attempts to impart a closer understanding of the grand art form to her students.

“Mostly, I want them to have fun while exploring Bollywood,” she says.

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