Bright lights and loud beats fill a stage as performers in colorful costumes arrive right on cue. Together, they dance to the entrancing rhythm of the upbeat music ““ bouncing, swaying, spinning and waving.
This drama serves as the central theme for the annual UCLA Indian Student Union’s Culture Show.
Past shows have always featured skits, most of which deal with some of the issues Indian students will face throughout their college careers.
“The thing that mainly changes from year to year is our theme … and with that comes the change in skit,” said Ashie Kapoor, a fourth-year psychology student and culture chair for the Indian Student Union. “The biggest thing that we’re doing this year is talking about values and heritage that are close to Indian culture in our skit.”
This year’s skit focuses on a group of seniors who will soon graduate from UCLA but find themselves in a struggle over independence and beliefs.
For example, one character must cope with being gay in a culture that is unfriendly, if not hostile, toward those of his sexual orientation.
Another must choose between obeying her parents’ wishes to go to medical school or following her dream to pursue a career in teaching.
The move toward drama is a decidedly different shift for the culture show, since the last skit from the previous show took a more comedic approach toward the Indian college experience, said Gayatri Karandikar, a third-year economics student and internal vice president of the Indian Student Union.
By working with other members of the UCLA Indian community such as Raja Bhattar, the director of the UCLA Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Campus Resource Center, Karandikar said she hopes this shift into seriousness will reveal a lesser-known side of her culture.
“We’re taking a bigger risk with the skit because we’re talking about issues that are a little more sensitive,” Karandikar said. “They’re issues which are there within the Indian student community, but they’re not necessarily out in the open as much, and so we wanted to bring that out this year.”
Along with the performance, the show will also present a large selection of dances shown in between breaks of the skit, ranging from the traditional to the modern.
The dances come from all across various regions of India: Some are classical and modern Hindi film-style dances from western India, Bhangra from northern India and Bharatanatyam from southern India.
Most of the musical numbers will be directed by dance groups in the UCLA Indian community such as UCLA Nashaa, an award-winning Bollywood-fusion dance team.
But the show will be organized in a way that encourages individual students to participate, according to Karandikar.
“Culture Show is an opportunity for people who don’t necessarily dance or have the chance to perform to (join in), so we don’t have dance teams exhibit in the show,” Karandikar said. “A lot of the students who are (on) these teams do participate in separate dances, but not as a whole team.”
Sandhya Ashokkumar, a second-year biology student who also serves as the other culture chair for the Indian Student Union, said she has great expectations for the show, which she believes to be highly important for the Indian community of California.
While Ashokkumar will not be directly participating in this year’s Culture Show, she said the performance will leave an impression on the minds of the audience.
“(Culture Show) is the largest South Asian culture show in Southern California, so … when people leave our Culture Show this year, we want them to leave with a message. We want them to leave with something valuable,” Ashokkumar said.