Mumbai is an absolute trip. It’s one of the fastest-paced, liveliest, loudest, and most vibrant cities. It swallows you whole and spits you out into what seems like a chaotic mass of noise, people, dogs, cats, smells (oh the smells), etc., but then you break Mumbai into its individual parts and you realize that everybody is just living their own lives, and even life itself is always a little chaotic.
I love it.
I love feeling the purest form of life—of people living their own individual lives in such close proximity to each other even if they never come into contact. Everybody’s story of their life is uniquely their own, but also fascinatedly similar to everybody else around them. Just like the band, They Might Be Giants, says in Malcolm in the Middle, Mumbai is a city that reminds you you’re “not so big.”
I think this is one of the reasons that cinema is such a powerful source of entertainment and culture here. Indian cinema strives to elicit navrasa or the nine human emotions or experiences in their films. These emotions include shringar (love, beauty), hasya (laughter, comedy), karuna (compassion, mercy), rauda (fury), vira (pride, heroism), bhayanaka (horror), bibhastsa (disgust), adbhuta (wonder), and shanta (tranquility, peace). In a culture as dense and diverse as India’s, these rasas act as a bridge for connection and reminds all of us that everyone, in the simplest form, is human.
I could keep writing for pages and pages about the beauty of human life and the power of cinema to suspend prejudice and inspire community, but it’s now time to talk about DANCE!
For the past two days, we have melted in an acting studio at Whistling Woods between classes about Indian culture and cinema taught by professors who are extremely relevant in the industry, to learn a choreographed dance to Lungi Dance, a song from the new Bollywood film, Chennai Express. Our choreographer Sanjeev can’t be taller than 5’7”, has the biggest, most mischievous smile, and the greatest energy and passion for dance. I am always amazed how he can make a simple side-to-side shimmy explode with power, attitude, and passion.
I think the reason I’m so amazed is because personally I do not consider myself a dancer. At parties, I’m the one doing Jimmy Fallon’s Evolution of Dad Dancing moves. At dance showcases, I’m the one in the audience with their mouth completely gaping in awe. Never, ever, did I expect to dance a choreographed dance and for it to be filmed. For all ETERNITY. On FILM. FOREVER.
But, you know, when in India, do as the Indians do. So here we are, dancing in an item number in just a number of hours. Even though my moves really do not compare to those of Sanjeev or the four professional dancers with us, it has been beyond fun absorbing the energy exuded by Bollywood dance. Today, we are being treated like stars with customized outfits for three different locations, jewelry, professional makeup and hair, and a highly talented production crew from Whistling Woods.
Now the word is out that this is happening and that there will be video proof of it, so I guess there’s no other option than to kill it today. Boom boom, Chalo!