In its sixth year, the Indian community event in São Paulo featured a special tribute to Indian women
Bloco Bollywood returned to Sao Paulo’s Rua Augusta on Saturday, with an explosion of colors, drum rhythms, dances and music, turning it into the biggest celebration of Indian culture in the entire Latin America.
Under an overcast sky, people – Indians and Brazilians – began to gather at the corner of the iconic street. They came dressed in the most colorful costumes.
Read: Bhangra, Samba & Bollywood: Indian street carnival becomes big attraction in Brazil (March 5, 2017)
While some were dressed as maharajas, a few came as sadhus and the women came in dresses representing different parts of India – from Punjabi salwar-kurta to South Indian sarees to lehanga-cholis from Gujarat.
While the street began to rock with Bhangra beats, Bollywood music and rythmic steps of dancers as early as 11 am, the bloco was formally declared open by MC Vijay Bavaskar with the playing of “Deva Shri Ganesha” from the sound truck.
As the popular song bounced from the buildings on both sides of the street, a group of drum players joined in as they played the Indian beats on their Brazilian instruments.
With thousands of people walking behind the float, which was adorned with beautiful banners, the Consul General of India in Sao Paulo, Manisha Swami, joined the event climbing up the float to address the gathering.
“It is a matter of pride for us that so many of you have joined the celebration of Indian culture, which is all about including all. It is also a very special occasion as we are paying a tribute to Indian women at this year’s street carnival of Indian community in Brazil,” Swami said to amid loud applause.
The carnival began with a special presentation called “Amrita,” a sequence of specially-choreographed dances on six iconic songs as a homage to Indian women.
“Amrita celebrates the spirit of women’s empowerment and their contribution to the development of emerging India,” said Dr. Jyoti Kiran Shukla, director of the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre (SVCC), who had ideated and put together the presentation.
While the music and dance were all Indian, the dancers were all Brazilians who are associated with SVCC.
If there’s one thing Bloco Bollywood has for certain, it’s diversity. India is a country of various dances and songs. In addition to the most successful songs from Bollywood films, the bloco also played rhythms from various regions of India, such as Bhangra, from Punjab, and Garba, from Gujarat.
Read: Bhangra brings Indian flavor to Brazilian carnival (February 4, 2016)
As Bhangra is played by Brazilian drums, the creators of the block named this rhythm “Sambra”, a mixture of samba and bhangra.
Around mid-day, the street party turned to its biggest attraction – Bollywood dances, led by Lara Ananda and Disha Malani guiding the crowd from the top of the float.
Ananda, a pioneer of Bollywood dancing in Brazil, made the party sway with her mesmerizing performance on songs like ‘Jai Ho’ and ‘Indian wale.’
Since the first year of the bloco in 2016, Ananda has been called by the Indian community the “Bollywood Queen” for her dancing talent and involvement with the street carnival.
Between such popular numbers, Malani, the creator of the brand Feels Like India who teaches Bollywood and Bhangra dances to Brazilians, led the crowd with some peppy numbers, especially Punjabi songs.
Prior to the bloco, both Ananda and Malani organised free workshops on Indian dance at the SVCC. It was a great warm-up for anyone wanting to dance at Rua Augusta, which turned into a huge gathering of Indians and lovers of Indian culture.
“Since the beginning of the bloco, the biggest attraction for the Brazilian public has been the Indian dances, which are so different and so attractive,” said Bavaskar.
“The bloco is a great example of a cultural confluence of two emerging countries with vibrant and colorful cultures,” added the owner of an Indian restaurant in São Paulo who has been hosting the party since 2016.
Created in 2016 by an Indo-Brazilian couple, Shobhan Saxena and Florencia Costa, Bloco Bollywood has now become the biggest Indian event in Latin America.
Read: Brazil’s glitzy Carnival returns in full form after Covid-19 pandemic (February 18, 2023)
“We started this bloco to encourage the Indian community to participate in the street carnival in Brazil and to show the richness of our culture to Brazilian friends,” explained Shobhan Saxena. “But with the enthusiastic participation of Brazilians, the bloco has become a mixture of two cultures.”
Since 2017, the bloco has a group of Brazilian drummers, named Cherateria and formed by USP students. This year Cherateria participate with 25 members and played Indian rhythms with Brazilian instruments, in addition to a wonderful samba performance.
After more than three hours of non-stop music and dance, the party reached its finale with music reaching a crescendo as Bavaskar and Cherataria held the the show together with their brilliant performances.