There is a growing number of Americans, who are quite taken in by Bollywood, especially its music. Adding to this list is the name of Sarina Jain.
For over a decade, Sarina has been leading fitness conscious Americans with just one word: Balle! Balle!
Her students, mostly Americans, thrust out their arms, stomp their feet and go through breathing exercises in sync with the bhangra music blasting out of the speakers.
Bollywood songs are part of the repertoire, and of late the Oscar-winning Jai Ho has begun featuring prominently in her classes.
Jain, who got into the fitness business mainly because of her father's sudden death at age 45, thought of getting Americans burn their calories in a sexy way. "Who can resist the Bhangra music and beat?" she says. "I love to reach people to lose their weight in a way where they have fun doing it."
Jain was recently invited by the world famous Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in New York to teach Bollywood and Bhangra inspired moves to the students. Besides the classes she conducts, her Masala Bhangra dance DVDs have sold by some recknoning half a million copies in the last five years. And now, with the astounding popularity of Slumdog Millionaire, she has been travelling across the country offering classes at some of the most prestigious health clubs.
'Right now, everything related to India is on top because of Slumdog Millionaire,' Mary Pirela, a fitness instructor in Minneapolis, mused recently in an interview with the local media. She has arranged for Jain, who has certified Masala Bhangra instructors from Maplewood, Minn., to Elk Grove, California., to give a master class in April and certify local instructors.
Also gaining visibility is last year's BYou2, the dance fitness DVD featuring Sabrina, one of the Cheetah girls. It offers exercises that combine hip-hop with Bollywood dance moves. Choreographer Rujuta Vaidya, who also worked on the film Cheetah Girls: One World, is featured in the hit DVD. Then there are the DVDs conceived by Los Angeles-based Himalayaa, with enticing titles such as Bollywood Burn and Bollywood Booty.
Renu Kansal, a dance instructor in Denver, said recently that she has added three new Bhangra classes last October. Colorado, she says, is 'not exactly the teeming hotbed of the Indian community,' but Caucasians and Latinos are driving the demand for additional classes.
One factor that pushes the new craze, say instructors like Jain and Kansal, is that while Bollywood dance classes demand discipline, the steps are easy to get the hang of, and the music is compelling. 'The music, combined with the sensuous, vigorous movements recreates the excitement that an occasion is being celebrated,' says Jain.
Besides, people have so much fun, they don't realise they are getting an incredible cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening workout.
Text: Arthur J Pais