A night in Bollywood: The South Asian Society celebrates Indian culture

David Matos, Associate Arts & Life Editor

Seniors Pratibha Thippa (left) and Ashna Patel (right) perform a choreographed dance routine for the audience. (David Matos)

As Bollywood music flooded the walls of the Mount Carmel auditorium, students entering this year’s Bollywood Fest were met with the smell of the Indian feast that sat across the room and a miniature cardboard cutout of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan.

Quinnipiac University’s South Asian Society held its annual Bollywood Fest on March 4, in CCE 101.

Bollywood is the biggest film industry in India, releasing upwards of 2,000 films of every genre each year, making binge-watching movies from the industry quite the challenge. The festival aimed to bring a crucial part of Indian culture to Quinnipiac for students from every background to bond and celebrate through traditional cuisine, dance and music.

“(Bollywood Fest) is important because it just celebrates our culture,” said Kripa Patel, president of the SAS. “I know we do have a presence of South Asian people here on campus. So I think with all the events that South Asian Society does, our main goal is to have a way for our members to celebrate their culture as well as have other people come to our events and then celebrate our culture with us.”

The night began with everyone’s favorite childhood pastime, arts and crafts. After students rushed down the faux red carpet that decorated the stairs, they were met with a wonderfully decorated table full of art supplies.

The table had various materials, ranging from acrylic paint, wood tags, gem stickers, glitter, coloring pages and markers. Among the supplies were stickers of iconic Bollywood figures to take home as a souvenir. Students were encouraged to make whatever they pleased using the provided materials.

As part of Quinnipiac’s mask mandate ruling, which limits required mask wearing to classrooms and health care service areas, this year’s Bollywood Fest marked one of the first on-campus events where guests could participate mask-free.

David Matos

SAS couldn’t host its annual Bollywood Fest during spring 2020 due to students being sent home for the remainder of the semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year marked the first in-person Bollywood Fest since the beginning of the pandemic when masks were still mandatory.

“I do think that an event like Bollywood Fest is crucial to have in-person … I think that being together and experiencing the event all together is necessary to create a meaningful experience,” said Corey Windham, a senior graphic and interactive design major.

The brilliant array of traditional Indian dishes, provided buffet-style, was a major draw to the event. The first entree in the lineup was paneer makhani, a staple in many Indian restaurants. It consists of doughy paneer cubes cooked in a spicy mughlai gravy of milk, cream, butter, tomato and cashew. Gobi — which translates to cauliflower in Hindi — Manchurian was next in the alignment. As the name suggests, the dish includes cauliflower florets mixed in Manchurian sauce.

Boneless chunks of chicken soaked in spiced curry sauce, better known as chicken tikka masala, was another option included in the muster of flavorful platters. Many guests then finished off their plates with a heap of basmati white rice and naan bread.

The creamy and sweet mango lassi drink was a refreshing choice made available to enjoy with the Indian-style dinner. For dessert, beautifully decorated cupcakes from Sugar Bakery and an array of cookies from Insomnia cookies was another sweet addition to the savory feast.

“I may be biased, but my favorite part of Bollywood Fest was the food,” Windham said. “I am a firm believer that food is an expression of cultural identity; what better way to express your culture but by sharing a meal and talking?”

When all guests were seated with their hefty plates of food, the night concluded with four Bollywood-style dances choreographed and performed by members of SAS. Members prepared two weeks prior to the event. Patel described it as “another way that we have our members get involved.”

Each member effortlessly danced the night away to a traditional Bollywood soundtrack handpicked by members of SAS while sporting lehenga cholis, saris and sherwanis commonly seen in Bollywood cinema. The performance portion ended with a big group number.

“Bollywood is definitely a very prevalent source of entertainment and music,” Patel said. “I know a lot of us have grown up watching Bollywood movies and listening to Bollywood music so all of us really do have a connection to that. And even if you don’t have a connection, you know Bollywood is very popular in (Indian) culture. So we definitely try to utilize that in our event.”

Before guests left, raffle participants were handed a ticket with a number on them. The lucky second-place winner, Julianna Allen, a sophomore applied business major, won the miniature cardboard cutout of the star actor Khan. Sophomore health science studies major Ibaleze Garcia won the first-place prize, earning a life-size cardboard cutout of the Bollywood actor.

“I always like to say that, don’t be afraid to come to our events,” Patel said. “We would love to have you. I know every single multicultural cultural org gets excited when we have a great attendance … We are a loving community at Quinnipiac.”