By a Staff Writer
SAO PAULO: It was a popular telenovela called Caminho das India (Passages to India), broadcast some eight years ago, that ordinary Brazilians came to know about India – its music, dance and culture. But last week, they actually saw India as men in long kurtas, turbans and scarves and women in colourful lahangas and salvar & kurtas danced on the streets. With bhangra music blaring from a mobile DJ unit, men and women were busy dancing in the typical Indian style.
This was the scene at the first-ever Indian street carnival party organized in Brazil. Called Bloco Bollywood, the party’s theme was India, and it was organized to introduce Indian music and dance into Brazilian carnival – the biggest party on this planet.
Supposed to be a gathering of 150-odd people, the crowds swelled to more than 500 even before the bloco began to move. With the MC Vijay Bavaskar, a pharma executive and owner of famous restaurant Samosa & Company, exhorting the crowds and Daler Mehndi’s “Ho jayegi balle balle…” blasting from the speakers, every feet on the street was moving, with Indian women swirling in their colourful dresses and Brazilian dancers keeping them company.
“We never expected that the event, themed on Bhangra and Bollywood, would create so much interest here. Bhangra and Sambha have much in common–the loud beats of the drums, the colourful clothes and glittering props, the energetic dance moves, and the zestful celebration of life. This Indo-Brazilian confluence through the first Bloco Bollywood this year was a historic moment for us,” said Shelly Bhoil Sood, an Indian poetess who divides her time between Sao Paulo and Chandigarh.
Though Carnival is known for its giant samba parades, the real fun is in the streets where hundreds of parties are organized by ordinary people. It’s the most democratic moment, when people cross race, class and national boundaries to mingle with each other. This year the Indian community of Sao Paulo – and from other cities like Rio and Curitiba — became part of the great Brazilian tradition of carnival. And the local Brazilians joined a party which was completely Indian – music, dance and colour.
Though Indian music and dances are not as well-known in Brazil as they are in North America or UK, but it says something about the popularity of Bollywood culture that the dancers at the bloco were led by a Brazilian. Iara Ananda, who is an accomplished classical Indian dancer and instructor kept the crowd engaged with her dance steps matching the songs being belted by the DJ. Another great example of the mixing of two cultures was Mark Datysgeld who played the role of DJ with perfection.
Though the Indians formed the core of the bloco, hundreds of Brazilian too joined the party. With the throbbing music and tapping feets, the bloco moved on the streets with numbers like beedi jalai le, Jai ho and Chak de India (which was the theme song of the bloco) blared from the speakers.
“Having an Indian bloco in Sao Paulo in such a new and amazing opportunity to share Desi culture with Brazilians. We are similar in so many way! Our sound beats (Samba and Bhangra) combined with our very high energy, we both like a good party as well,” said Juily Malani, an Indo-Brazilian student of cinema. “I’m truly happy to see this moment. It is such an important event for our community,” she added.
As the first Indian party came to an end in style, Shobhan Saxena, an Indian journalist and writer who curated the event with his wife Florencia Costa gave a vote of thanks to all participants for being part of this “open and free” event that put Indian music and dance on the cultural map of this vibrant city of 19 million people.
In a gathering that at its peak almost crossed the 700 mark, the guests included diplomats from the Indian consulate in Sao Paulo, including the consul (commercial) Jitendra S Rawat. The event became a success because of the participation of large number of members of the Indian community in Brazil. Those present at the venue included Biju K Nair and Ajay Vettackal, two prominent businessmen from the city of Curitiba who supported the event from the day it was conceived, Indian Association of Sao Paulo president Kaushik Roy with his wife Babita, vice-president Pinaki Trivedi with his wife Shilpa, Guchi and Bani Kukreja, Inder Singh, Manu and Monika Gambhir, Manik and Nitasha Jaspal, Vishal and Pallavi Mall, Anurag and Shikha Srivastava, Sameer and Mamta Savkur and Amitabh Ranjan Singh.