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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Narika, Fremont

Ramya Harishankar, the award winning Artistic Director and Choreographer for the Irvine based Arpana Dance Company will present ‘Celluloid Classics 2’ on Saturday Sep 28th at the McAfee Center, Saratoga High School at 7pm. Along with guest choreographer and co-director Radhika Shurajit (first disciple of the renowned Dhananjayans) they will put classical Indian dance moves to film tunes. Over the last two decades, Harishankar has explored various themes in her productions – womanhood, the essence of dance and also cross-cultural work using Japanese Taiko drummers and a Flamenco ensemble. Shurajit with
a passion for films has been exploring and creating works that bring together classical arts, film and multimedia.

YouTube video

From the beginnings of ‘celluloid’ in India, song and dance was an integral part of movie magic. Legendary artistes like Vyjayanthimala (singer/actress), Gopi Krishna (dancer/choreographer) and M.S. Subbalakshmi (singer/actress) and several others were involved in films. With the advent of electronic music and western musical influences in the 60’s, the classical traditions parted ways with the new film or popular genre of music and dance now known as ‘Bollywood’.

A creative and sometimes crass mishmash of Indian classical and folk dances, belly dance, western pop, hip-hop, jazz etc., ‘Bollywood’ dancing has found a popular place in Western society. Ramya Harishankar believes that audiences miss out the subtleties and artistic elements of good classical or folk dance and thus kept only those elements in this unique exploration. Using popular film songs in different languages, Harishankar and Shurajit have adapted themes to fit into the classical and folk dance traditions without sacrificing the grammar.

‘Choreographing for the reel is quite different than for real (stage)’ says Shurajit. For Celluloid Classics they have chosen songs that adapt well to interpretation through dance. ‘It is a bold experiment for me but I believe it will make classical art more interesting to everybody’ said Harishankar. This is only the second time such a production is being presented in the LA area.

Selections include music from Viswaroopam (Tamil), Morning Raga (English/Tamil), Dasavatharam (Telugu) and Bride and Prejudice (Hindi). For movie, classical music or dance aficionados, this is an exciting blend that is sure to educate and entertain.

Ms. Harishankar has been recognized by several organizations for her contribution to the traditional arts and youth including the ‘Helene Modjeska Award’ for her legacy contribution to the arts by the county arts agency, Arts OC. Over the last 35 years she has produced over 15 full-length productions, most of them to benefit charities worldwide. Ms. Shurajit, has a strong grounding in classical dance and is the producer of the popular Indian TV dance game show ‘Taka dimi ta’. She has visualized and choreographed classical dance and song sequences in films such as ‘Indira’ and ‘Azaghi’, many of which have won awards.

Event details: Saturday Sep 28, 7pm: Dance performance at McAfee Auditorium, Saratoga High School, Saratoga, CA. $25 advance purchase and $30 at the door. For information go online at or call (949) 300-8912.