TASA’s annual culture show builds community, celebrates for good cause

Performers dance at the Tufts Association for South Asians' annual culture show on Feb. 25, 2017. Courtesy Sofie Hecht for TASA

Tufts Association of South Asians (TASA) held FilmFare: Desi Night Live,” their annual culture show in Cohen Auditorium this past Friday and Saturday nights, Feb. 23 and 24. Directed by TASA sophomores Tashwita Pruthi and Simran Lala, this year the show’s format was modeled after the annual Hindi language film awards show, the Filmfare Awards.

Interspersed with witty “awards” recognizing performers in each dance, the experience showcased performances from Bollywood Fusion dance team Tamasha, competitive Raas and Garba team JumboRaas, Tufts Bhangra, Pulse and members of TASA. Performers in each group worked tirelessly to put together a show that demonstrated many aspects of South Asian culture.

First-year TASA co-representative Hritik Bhansali expressed his enthusiasm for the fun rehearsal that the “Freshman Dance” provided. Co-choreographing the dance with fellow TASA first-year representative Saachi Pai, Bhansali reflected on the joy of the process.

Yes, we’re coming for rehearsals but we’re having fun,” Bhansali said. “If someone doesn’t get a step it’s not like, ‘How can you not get that step?’ It’s like, ‘How do you make this step more fun to do?’ You do it in your own fun way.”

Pai agreed preparation for the culture show was fun this year, expressing her surprise at the many new faces the Freshman Dance rehearsal brought to TASA.

“At first we kind of forced our immediate friend groups to do it,” she said. “But then we realized that a lot more people wanted to do it so that way the first practice times 40 or so people showed up. We did this game where everyone had to memorize each other’s names … That little icebreaker helped us laugh about each other and have fun right in the beginning. After every practice, we would hang out, talk and chill. We just became friends through that.”

While the stage was set for fun, this year’s show also brought to light serious issues. In the spirit of previous years’ culture shows, philanthropy was a key aspect of the event’s success. At intermission, samosas were sold to benefit The Banyan, a non-governmental organization whose mission is to provide support for homeless women with mental health issues in South India.

For Bhansali, philanthropy is not just an act of goodness but also recognizably part of his South Asian identity. 

“I think that’s something you can really relate to as a South Asian, because philanthropy is really big in South Asia,” he said. “It’s just another aspect we’re emulating from back home over here. We’re just trying just continue what we’ve always been doing.”

Arriving at Tufts as a first-year after living in India all her life, Lala wanted to remain connected to her culture. In TASA, she found a way to retain a piece of home. Choreographing the Freshman Dance as a first-year, Lala was inspired by upperclassmen who took leadership on TASA to direct and choreograph the show. Now, leading the show’s production as a sophomore, Lala sees the value the culture show has toward building community outside of the immediate TASA community.

“I think community-building is one of the biggest aspects as to why people are doing this,” Lala said. “And it’s just surely great to see people who are not from the South Asian culture coming to be a part of this show. As a freshman, I tried to get a lot of my international friends to get on board. Everyone was a little bit nervous because they’d never done that sort of dance before, but after seeing how lively and fun the show was, now they’ve all come back around this year to be a part of it.”

In his fourth year involved with the culture show, senior and TASA president Rushabh Sanghvi reflected on the broadening reach that the event has taken. 

“I feel like [participation in the culture show] has definitely grown in numbers as well as in diversity because we do have a lot non-South Asians who are coming and celebrating the culture with us,” Sanghvi said. “Especially in today’s world where you have so many stereotypes being propagated everywhere, we have a chance to break those stereotypes and welcome other people into our culture.”

While the community he has discovered in working on the culture show has changed throughout his four years, Sanghvi has found one constant in this work.

“It’s the same feeling you live each time you get on stage and you see your friends perform,” he said. “It’s amazing. I’m really sad to be doing this for the last time.”