After a successful decade of competitions, Buckeye Mela XI came back with a bang for its 11th annual show in February 2018. As always, the biggest competition in the Midwest was hosted by Ohio State University’s Indian Students Association (ISA) and Indian-American Association (IAA). Buckeye Mela’s beneficiary charity this year was Pratham USA, a non-profit organization that has focused on addressing the gaps in the Indian educational system since 1995.
Since this was my fourth year attending Mela and my second year formally reviewing the competition, I was pleased to see so many improvements made by the organization in regards to hospitality, space, timeliness and the after party venue.
All fifteen teams were served, much to the delight of the dancers, a lavish dinner just a short walk from the upgraded mixer venue in the Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC). The larger space allowed for mixer co-chairs, Sneha Rajagopal and Johnson Thomas, to easily organize over 180 dancers into the games that would determine the groups’ performance order.
Though the mixer had a slow start, all dancers were excited to play the classic Buckeye Mela game, in which fusion dance teams choreograph short routines to a bhangra song and bhangra teams choreograph to a Bollywood song. The teams participated in anonymously judging each other, giving everyone a taste of what performing and deliberation would feel like the following day at the show. The team with the highest points picked their show order by throwing a dart at a balloon wall.
The game resulted in the following line-up:
Khirre Phul Gulab De
UNC Bhangra Elite
Duniya De Rang
Raakhe Virse De
Present at the mixer was Prathibha Srikantan, a senior at Ohio State and an Odissi dancer who has competed with OSU Nashaa and OSU Inaayat. She served as a liaison for Mela in February for the second year in a row.
“I enjoy making connections with people who I otherwise would’ve never met,” Srikantan said. “[Mela is] this intense weekend where you’re constantly with your team, so you get to know them better than if you met them separately on a different occasion.”
Srikantan also added that being a liaison for Duniya De Rang (DDR) was “one of the best ways at OSU to exercise my social skills. The DDR dancers are from North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, New York, etc. The circuit gets more and more diverse every year. We connect on cities and places we’ve all been to.”
Another example of circuit diversity is UC Dhadak, a team composed of almost all non-Desis who compete in a circuit saturated with dancers from almost exclusively South Asian countries, like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Rhea Dhamija, a former dancer and acting manager of UC Dhadak, said she ironically experienced culture shock upon joining UC Dhadak.
“I used to think, ‘I’m sure none of these people have ever seen or heard of Bollywood. How in the world are they gonna do this?’” she stated. “I obviously was completely wrong about that.”
Being apart of a team of nearly all non-desi dancers has its advantages, as well as its disadvantages, according to Dhamija. She said the team faces negative stereotypes and sometimes struggles to find the right songs because of the language barrier. However, she highlighted that the dancers are so open-minded when it comes to dancing and South Asian culture. Once the team got into Bollywood choreography, Dhamija said, there was never an “I can’t” or “I won’t.”
Buckeye Mela’s official co-director Sanjana Naidu also weighed in on not being traditionally a part of the circuit as a dancer.
“Before coming to OSU, I had no idea what Bollywood-fusion dance was or the fact that it even existed. Immediately being immersed in a community where all my friends and peers are actively involved in dance teams left me feeling a little bereft at times, so I joined in the ways that I could. I went to other competitions to support my friends, became a liaison for a bhangra team and eventually joined the Buckeye Mela board. As someone who isn’t actually part of the desi dance circuit, having the position of director meant a lot to me in that it was my chance to be involved and understand why people loved this circuit.”
After a night of 15 Bollywood fusion and bhangra performances, the audience enjoyed an exhibition performance by Ohio State’s premier acapella team, OSU Dhadkan.
After much deliberation, the judges came to the following rankings:
Duniya De Rang
UNC Bhangra Elite
Mela came. Mela conquered. Mela left. With so many memories and exciting performances, I will truly miss attending this competition once I graduate. As always, the official after party at a larger, upgraded venue was just the cherry on top to a great weekend of entertainment and charity.
Once again, here’s to Buckeye Mela, the best damn competition in the land at the best damn school.
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.