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TV Guide.

Anything desi/Bollywood/India-related in the media, and you'll hear about it here! My apologies for being a bit late on reporting this, but it's not too late to catch some of these desi-ppearances live or on youtube!

# 1 - NBC's Superstars of Dance. Airs on Mondays 8/7c. This show is an international dance competition bringing together a variety of dance forms from countries including India, China, Australia, Russia and the U.S. Admittedly, I have caught a few episodes solely to watch Team India. Team India consists of a a kathak soloist, Amrapali Ambegaokar, a bharatanatyam soloist, Mythili Prakash, a Bollywood duo and a group. Team India's coach is choreographer Nakul Mahajan. I promise I won't reveal who has been voted off the show or what the rankings are, but here are my thoughts thus far on Team India's performances.

Let's begin with the major disappointment: the group bhangra performance. It was awful. Formations were sloppy and unimaginative, the dancers lacked crispness and were not synchronized, and the choreography can best be described as some sort of bolly-bhangra mashup, which is neither here nor there. The song was from a movie, I think, and wasn't all that great for a bhangra item. Also, I know bhangra-philes will be raging about the women's costumes: since when is bhangra slutty?! I know, I know. That's harsh. But honestly, they could have gone to Bhangra Blowout and picked up a much better team! The group later did a Bollywood-inspired wedding sequence which was better than the bhangra, but could certainly have used more dancers to really amp up the formations. Their energy is high and expressions are great, but actual dancing and choreography ... was only ok. I'm guessing these dancers are from Nakul Mahajan's very Bollywood-oriented troupe. I'm sure they could have done better. It's almost like they didn't have time to put something together.

The only performance by the Bollywood duo (both of who I believe are in the group performance as well) that I've seen was their rendition of "Dola Re" from Devdas. Dancing to a song made famous by Madhuri and Aishwarya ... that's a lot of pressure! Both of the girls were excellent dancers. Their movements were sharp and fairly synchronized with each other. I understand the theme of two sisters fighting over the same guy that they were trying to convey, but I think they wasted excellent climax music at the end just running around the stage. Their ending was a disappointment as they just sort of clunked onto the ground.

Now we get to the soloists, both of whom were a-mazing!! Clearly, both of these women are at the height of their respective areas of dance, and it shows! After the first episode, I only watch this show to watch these two. I have no idea who's advanced and such, but I can tell you, they are well worth watching.

Here is where my gripe about this show's format comes up. The international judging panel really has no basis it seems for judging dance forms with which they are unfamiliar. I'm not just saying that as a Team India fan who is griping that the judges just don't get bharatanatyam or kathak. How were they supposed to judge the tribal dance from South Africa? Anyway, they were fine at judging group dances because at least they can focus on formations and synchronization. But a solo performance doesn't leave much besides technique to judge. Anyway, at various points, both Amrapali and Mythili picked artistically difficult pieces that focused on the storytelling aspect of bharatanatyam and kathak. As someone familiar with both styles, I could recognize for example when Amrapali was doing a piece about Krishna. I understood the story she was telling in her hand movements and facial expressions. I'm fairly certain the judges got zip out of that. Basically, the judges would be wowed by technically complex foot work accompanied by fast rhythm. In the case of kathak, they loved the amazing chakars more than any thing else that the artist did, which is a shame. I think pieces like a taraana or thilana which are footwork focused, would have impressed the judges. Unfortunately, these don't necessarily represent the most advanced pieces in an artist's repertoire.

Whew. Ok, that said, it's still fun to watch Mythili and Amrapali perform, and it's wonderful to see Indian dance forms before a national audience in the U.S.

#2 - PBS The Story of India. This is a six-part documentary on PBS by Michael Wood. I DVR'd all of them because they aired at precisely the same time as the Superstars of Dance. I'm just now watching the documentary, but fear not, it is available for purchase via PBS for a reasonable cost if you are so inclined. Wood begins the documentary in the beginning so to speak with the first human migration out of Africa. From there, he proceeds, to Mohenjo-Daro and Harrapa, the Mauryan empire, the Mughal empire, the British Raj, and modern day, increasingly global, India. It's a lot to pack in six hours, but I believe Wood does an admirable job. Keep in mind that he's certainly not setting out to tell us everything there is to tell about India. This documentary is much more than a chronicling of the rise and fall of empires in India. Wood picks up historical, cultural, linguistic, architectural, artistic, philosophic and religious points of interest along the way as the camera shows us breathtaking images of India.

#3 - TLC What Not To Wear: Mala. This episode aired way back in October 2008. However, it does count as a desippearance. Clinton and Stacy help transform Mala, a mother and Obama campaign lawyer from frump tee and jeans to stylin' lawyer/mom-on-the-go. Loved it! Desi girls, if you catch a rerun, pay attention to makeup tips from Carmindy for desi skin. Also loved how Carmindy showed Mala how to play up her eyes behind glasses. I've never been one to mess with eye makeup when it's a glasses day, but I'm rethinking that policy now.

#4 - Emergen-C Bollywood Ad. I almost fell off the sofa when I caught this ad on tv. It was tres-Bollywood, with actual desi dancers performing actual Bolly-moves rather than a weak attempt at Bollywood. I loved it ... so much so that I googled Emergen-C to find the ad. If you go to their web site and click on "Good Ads," you can view their Bollywood ad.

#5 - Aasif Mandvi on The Daily Show: Medicine Cabinet. Ok, I know, this guy's always up to some badmashi, but this clip is particularly appropriate for a desippearance though, yes, you are right, all of his appearances count. Here, Mandvi gives Sanjay Gupta a shabashki on behalf of the entire desi community - including you! He then channels put-upon Aunty ji when he learns that Surgeon General is not a cabinet position. I love that the sudden appearance of Dr. Mandvi's desi accent totally mystifies Jon Stewart.


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