Choreographer Mahesh Mahbubani has created a high energy night of the best of Bollywood, mixing in hip-hop, belly dancing and traditional dance.
Choreographer Mahesh Mahbubani has created a high energy night of the best of Bollywood, mixing in hip-hop, belly dancing and traditional dance.
Photo by Navin Mediwala

From Mumbai to Miller Outdoor Theatre, Houston's Got Bollywood

Bollywood insider Mahesh Mahbubani knows about those big dance finishes that make Hindi cinema so much fun to watch. Having logged a dozen years choreographing commercials and movies — including dancing with former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the film Taal — Mahbubani was ready for his next step.

The choreographer has been busy putting more than 60 professional dancers through their paces with his latest extravaganza, Houston's Got Bollywood, set to take over Miller Outdoor Theatre for one night only.

It's a four-act show, beginning with a radio sequence that takes audience members through different stations and eras and followed by Around the World, mixing in some hip-hop and belly dancing.

"Act three is a completely contemporary dance but using Bollywood music. There's a very strong Indian Bollywood essence to the entire work but we play around with different styles. What’s beautiful about Bollywood is that it’s a style that’s evolving, borrows from different styles around the world but the essence is very Indian," says Mahbubani.

About a third of Houston's Got Bollywood is devoted to Indian wedding traditions, including the henna ritual, the music night, and the vows witnessed by fire.
About a third of Houston's Got Bollywood is devoted to Indian wedding traditions, including the henna ritual, the music night, and the vows witnessed by fire.

But it's the last act — The Great Indian Wedding — that brings together tradition, pageantry, symbolism and even fire to immerse the audience in this rite of passage. "We take three very strong aspects of the wedding. The girl applies henna to the hands (that's arranged by the girl's side of the family), and how everybody dances. Then there's bachelorette night in American world; they have Sangeet which is a music night."

The dancers will finish the show with the Saptapadi, where the bride and groom exchange vows. "The final one is the wedding itself so we’re taking a small ritual. Over there we have seven vows, they use the fire as the witness and they go around the fire seven times to symbolize the different aspects of the union together," says Mahbubani. "We’ve taken that and created a performance format where we want the audience to enter the world. It’s a cross where the everyday and the extraordinary come together."

And Mahbubani is counting on his Bollywood connections when it comes to costuming the dancers. "A lot of our costumes actually come from Bollywood. Growing up my parents knew a lot of people. One of my family’s best friends has done all the costumes for Bollywood.

"There’s a theme for every act. And it’s 90 minutes nonstop with no interval. It’s going to be a lot of fun. In Houston, Bollywood is fun," says Mahbubani. "I think the music is so infectious."

The performance is presented by MOKSH Community Arts Inc. (Mahbubani serves on the board) in tandem with Naach Houston (Mahbubani is artistic director).

A performance of Houston's Got Bollywood is at 8:15 p.m. April 14, Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive, For information, call 281-373-3386, or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com, free.

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