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When fans showed up to catch the long awaited film Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, the light sabre wielding troopers and Yodas found themselves face to face with dandpatta sword weilding Mastanis, and nauvari sari wearing ranis. One warrior princess had painted the Star Trek trooper’s helmet silver and morphed it into a chain-link clad Peshwa armor.

The movie group organized by the dentist Sheetal Gokhale watch the latest Bollywood release, first-day-first-possible show at a theatre closest to Santa Clara. Today, however, they had driven an hour to Century 25 in Union City to catch the last 10 pm show of Bajirao Mastani, an Indian historical romance film produced and directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and released the same day as Star Wars.

Early in the fortnight Neha Joshi had wondered, “It would be interesting to see how many ‘Kashibais’ and ‘Mastanis’ we will see that day.” As the countdown began and the excitement built, the Facebook movie event snowballed from the usual twenty-five to nearly 300 women.

A movie hall that could accomodate the 300 strong group was not available in the South bay. Star Wars had booked up all large theaters.  A 418-seater theater in Union City was found.

The planning on what to wear started in earnest. Ladies dressed up in period attire, clicked selfies and posted them on the group’s Facebook page for feedback from fellow princess peers. Video tutorials on how to tie a nauvari sari were posted. Advice was exchanged on jewelry,how to function in a nauvari sari and recipes for Mastani drinks.

“I have a Marathi nath gifted by a friend but I am wearing a suite (not Anarkali) Am I dressing up confused? How can I fix the look”- Shweta Mehta.(sic)

“I have Mastani’s anarkali but not the jhoomar, Kashibai’s nuth but not thenauvari, Mastani’s nose ring but not the hair, Kashibai’s thushi but not the grace.
But I am not at all discouraged.
Your ‘MastBai’ is on her way, Bajirao!” -Savita Phatak.(sic)

Original marathi song and dance numbers were shared to enhance critical enjoyment of the music of the movie Bajirao Mastani.

The offer of a pre-bought ticket waiting at the door along with a cup of hot tea, the Indian burgerand the fruity creamy “Mastani” drink was too much to pass up.

Carpools were organized from various locations: Cupertino, San Ramon, Fremont. Ladies who had never met before, stepped into cars together, and drove off to meet their Bajirao.

By the time they rolled up swaying to the traditional Marathi dance tune “pinga- pinga,” they were virtually best friends. The princesses stepped out of the Facebook screen and entered the Century lobby.

“Chaahe zameen phat jaaye ya aasman gir jaaye! Mein mar bhi jaaoon to meri rouh aayegi, Mona darling.”- Alka Writes.

“Neha, bay area ki kasam late zhale tari aaongi…beena vaysh bhusshah key…lol”- Gangubai Gottale

“The excitement builds … well fortified for the wait with vada-pav and masala chai warming the stomach”- Jaya Gautam.

A flash mob choreographed by Lakshmi Subramanian broke out at the front of the theater, before the movie started.

Dubsmashed dialogues, that had been posted on the event’s Facebook page over the last few weeks were shouted out loud, along with the characters on the screen. “Ishq… Jo toofani dariya se baghawat kar de – woh ishq… Bhari darbaar mein jo duniya se ladd jaaye – woh ishq!!”

Whistles and cat-calls reverberated in the theater. The Mastanis were putting the next-door Star Wars fans to shame.

As the ladies emerged from the movie-hall members from a galaxy far far away requested for selfies with them.

Meanwhile the Ladies of the Valley were already making plans for their next meet, where they were going to morph into Bahubali’s women.

Ritu Marwah has pursued theater, writing, marketing, startup management, raising children, coaching debate and hiking. Ritu has a master’s degree in business and worked in London for the Tata group for ten years. Ritu is social media editor at India Currents.

Ritu Marwah

Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author ✍️ and a recognized Bay Area leader in the field of 🏛 art and literature. A California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health...