“Cheesy Bollywood”

Ok, I just have to do this, even though the person to whom this is directed will probably never hear it …

Back off buddy!

The rest of you are wondering what the hell I’m talking about (or perhaps are wondering what the hell happened to the rest of the play I was posting … sorry wee snag in the script that I can’t make up my mind on, it will be back this week, promise). It’s not of too much importance other than I know who this person is, and the publicity material he has been using around his last show has been somewhat denigrating of the Bollywood Dance Competition that is run as part of the Diwali Festival of Lights in Wellington (Saturday and Sunday, Labour Weekend and the old Queens Wharf Events Centre – go!).

During my time on Diwali, I had a lots of vigorous discussion surrounding food stalls, Bollywood dance competitions and the representation of South Asians in New Zealand. Mostly the conversation would go something like this:

Random Asian: But we’re not just Bollywood and food.

Me: Yes, I know, but it draws the punters in.

Random Asian: But that’s how you’re representing us.

Me: No, I’m not, I’m just saying that it’s a lure, it brings in the people who may only know about South Asians by their limited experience of food and films and then they stick around and see what else we are about.

Random Asian: But you shouldn’t be doing that, they should be coming to learn about the culture.

Me: But they won’t, or they might but they won’t stick around!

Random Asian: But all people think we are about is Bollywood. And Bollywood is, frankly, vulgar.

Me: The Bollywood Dance Competition always sells out a week in advance and the only non-South Asians in the audience are those who won tickets! Sheesh!

Cue Sonal banging her head against the desk, yet again, while Cathy points and laughs … (although I think Cathy is now feeling my pain)

Look, I’m sure that there are many of you out there who agree with Random Asian, good for you, I’m happy, I honestly do not believe that you will get the same audience numbers as you would normally without the food and Bollywood. Who cares? You may say – They’re seeing quality. I care. A lot. As far as I’m concerned, you’re preaching to the converted, those who are genuinely interested in all things South Asian, are very much down with their whole Madhubani painting, kathak styling ways, and that’s fine, they’re a brilliant crowd but they are going to come anyway, they are the people who saw the date on the WCC or Asia:NZ calendar, noted it in their diary and will bring the whanau down to groove out with their Desi brothers and sisters.

The crowd I’m interested in, rightly or wrongly, are those who only know South Asia from food or Bollywood. The sounds and smells waft through the streets of Wellington and bring them into our lair. Then we show them the painters and the other dancers, we tell them what this event is all about, we showcase some of our best homegrown Desi talent and they go away, a little bit more educated and knowing that next year, they will be back. They’ll plan for it. They’ll learn a little bit more about their Desi neighbours over the fence, or at their work, or at the corner shop; their kids will start taking part in the Bollywood competition (hooray for Upper Hutt College who had a team of 20 girls and only one of them was South Asian). The best way to get someone to learn about another culture is for them to participate in it, not just observe. Start low, make it as easy as possible for them to want to be involved and then help them get move further if they want to.

It works, we’ve got the ever increasing audience numbers to prove it too. Aside from the DJs who are doing very well for themselves, I don’t think any one else’s Festivals or showcases would be half as successful if it weren’t for Diwali and our lowest common denominator food stalls and Bollywood Dance Competition.

It may not be my event any more but I am as damned as hell proud of it!


2 Responses to ““Cheesy Bollywood””

  1. So you know how you invited me to Singapore for your 30th? How about I come to Wellington before that?

  2. Um, yeah, PS, you found my new venture. That was by accident. You’ll know who I am, I think.

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