Indian films are more popular in the United States than ever. It is a rare week that at least one new Indian blockbuster isn’t playing at a local multiplex.
A term associated with Indian film is Bollywood, meaning the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai. But there is also Tollywood, the Telugu-language film industry, and Kollywood, the Tamil-language film industry.
Whether they are romances, dramas, or action films, most of these movies feature spates of singing and dancing that hearken back to the heyday of the Hollywood movie musical.
It is not at all unusual for a movie tough guy to vanquish four or five ruffians using his martial artistry and then launch into a big production number accompanied by colorfully accoutered dancers who appear out of nowhere.
It is this rich, cultural tradition that is celebrated in Mystic India: The World Tour — A Bollywood Dance Spectacular.
It’s a stage show coming to Auer Performance Hall at Purdue Fort Wayne on Nov. 9.
Mystic India is the brainchild of Amit Shah, an American dancer and choreographer with Indian roots.
It developed “organically,” Shah said.
“I was in a village in India with my mom when I realized that Indian-Americans (Indians who live in the U.S.) have done a great job maintaining our culture,” he told India.com. “I felt very much at home in a country that I had only visited a couple times, because my parents did a great job teaching us how to juggle the best of both the eastern and western worlds.
“We grew up listening to stories of Krishna and other gods, watching Bollywood films, and going to Indian events,” Shah told MyBindi.com. “At the same time, I realized that outside of my household, there was a melting pot of cultures called America that forced us all to adapt to one another. I was lucky enough to have the best of both worlds.”
He received a call from a European producer who wanted him to mount a stage show about India in Switzerland.
“In a very short period of time, my team auditioned dancers, wrote the script, created the music, produced the costumes, only to realize that we made something pretty spectacular,” he said. “Our intention was never to go on tour, but before the show in Europe, we decided that we should do a ‘rehearsal’ show in New Jersey. It was sold out and the response was unlike anything we would have imagined. That show changed my life.”
Mystic India: The World Tour — A Bollywood Dance Spectacular, which has been traveling the globe since 2012, starts a thousand years in the past. It leads audiences on an expedition through Indian culture that ends with that mix of east and west that one often sees in contemporary Indian cinema.
“It’s a two-hour show that takes audiences on a journey through India,” Shah told the Fayetteville Observer. “We kind of paint a picture of how India has changed and modernized over the last 1,000 years. The first half is a cultural journey. The second half is a huge dance display on the Bollywood movie industry.”
The show highlights various regions of India and their unique cultural traditions, he said.
“The style of dance and costumes change from region to region,” Shah told the Reno Gazette Journal. “Everyone who has seen the show says, ‘Wow, we got really great insight into what India is all about.”
There are 65 members in the troupe and 1,500 costumes in the show.
“I design all the costumes and my company, Andaz Costume Design, creates them in India and ships them to us,” Shah said. “We add new costumes to the show every few months, but it takes a huge team of workers to make them. Each one is hand dyed, embroidered, and sent through various links in the chain to complete one full garment.”
Bollywood all over the world
Indian culture has only become more mainstream in the states since the show started touring, he said.
“…the globalization of Bollywood cinema has become very big,” Shah said. “Many people are very open to seeing cultural elements and differences… . (The show) is for everyone to see, of all ages, of all ethnic backgrounds.”
Shah hopes the show is educational for audiences, but he also wants everyone to be entertained.
“I want them to appreciate both traditional and modern India and understand how many facets make up its beautiful culture,” he said. “Overall, I want audience members to forget their duties and worries for 90 minutes and have a great time.”
Tickets are $10 for the general public. Students with a valid school ID are admitted free.
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