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Mona Khan spotlights Bollywood in America



Photo courtesy of Mona Khan Dance Company

Photo courtesy of Mona Khan Dance Company


HAYWARD, Calif. (Diya TV) — Mona Khan Company, which bills itself as “the Bay Area’s renowned Bollywood Dance & Fitness Company,” presented their annual showing of “America’s got Bollywood,” on May 2nd and 3rd—1,500 dancers and students came out in full force to display their talents, and celebrate the explosion of Bollywood’s culture in the United States.

The dancers varied in age—from age 3 to 60—and came from 10 cities throughout the Bay Area.

“We have about 1,500 dancers on the stage across all the shows, not just today, but over the weekend,” said Mona Khan Master Trainer Janani Chalaka. “It’s just a huge affair,” she added.

The performances were featured by the company’s highly acclaimed professional dance troupe, which landed a Top-50 spot on season five of NBC’s hit television show, “America’s Got Talent.” Also showcased were students from Mona Khan’s specialty program, such as the “Emerging Performers,” “Jollywood,” Khan’s senior citizen class, and “Jeena,” which is made up entirely of the company’s rockstar students with special needs.

Bollywood’s growing presence, and popularity, shares a connection in the community which draws folks from all over—participants in the performance ranged from software engineers, attorneys, and homemakers. They all united for Mona Khan’s fall showcase, which took eight weeks of planning, practice, and engagement. The scope of the Bollywood movement’s growth is important Anisha Babbar, who serves as a choreographer and instructor for the Mona Khan Company. Her intent is to form a marriage between the classic and modern forms of Bollywood, to make it enjoyable for all ages.

“We try to get a variety of content in our shows,” Babbar said. “Whether it be from Bollywood, to contemporary, classical, jazz, afro… We are always trying to push the envelope with our shows and bring something brand new.”

A dance is performed at Mona Khan's Fall showcase. Photo courtesy of Mona Khan Dance Company.

A dance is performed at Mona Khan’s Fall showcase. Photo courtesy of Mona Khan Dance Company.


The show lasts the entire weekend, with four performances, and as mentioned previously, it features dancers of all ages and skill levels. Parents and other observers appreciate the confidence and growth the event provides for those whom are just getting started in Bollywood, and even those who are served veterans.

“One of the things I like about [Mona Khan’s] this program in general is the confidence they get from going on stage and how it strengthens it,” said Rakhi Israni, whose four young children danced in the performance. Her children have been members of the program for four years, and she opined the lessons they’ve learned since joining will stay with them for years to come. Israni’s husband, Nitesh Singh, concurs, but also thinks it’s great for their children’s physical fitness. “It’s a great way for them to connect with their culture and keep in touch with Indian dance forms, and also stay fit and enjoy themselves.”

The Bollywood fever undoubtedly continues to spread within the Indian-American community, and throughout the rest of the American community, and this event fosters that growth for the further development.

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Arts & Culture

IFFLA celebrates 20 years with a focus to mentor the next generation



IFFLA celebrates 20 years with a trip down memory lane

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — IFFLA celebrated their 20th anniversary with familiar faces, overwhelming excitement and new additions to Southern California’s largest Indian and South Asian focused film festival.

Pan Nalin opened the festival with his film Last Film Show, a love letter to cinema and loosely based on his childhood.

“I think IFFLA over the years, it has been like a home in Hollywood. So I was always able to come here and invite people from the industry to see these movies,” said Nalin. “There are producers who usually don’t go to see Indian cinema. So I feel that it’s really important.”

Director Anurag Kashyap returned to host a MasterClass — a way to give back to the festival and fellow filmmakers.

“It is always good to be back here because for me this is where it all started from. And it’s amazing to see that this festival has grown so much and has been sustaining for so long,” said Kashyap.

New filmmakers were honored to be part of the lineup this year, especially after no in-person IFFLA for the last two years.

Hena Asraf, Director of The Return, shares “it feels a little unreal. It feels great! I think especially to be at a festival in person, after over two years.” 

“The community is amazing. The welcome is very warm. It feels just so honoring to be a part of this festival and amongst these filmmakers. I can’t wait to see all the other films,” said The Return Editor Esther Shubinski.

It’s that family feeling that makes IFFLA special and keeps filmmakers, attendees, and staff keep coming back.

Actor and director Ravi Kapoor is “just so grateful for this festival. It has been such a supporter of me. And they’ve helped bring the South Asian diasporic community here in LA together as well. Thank god they’ve lasted 20 years.”

Actor & musician Monica Dogra points out “what’s wonderful about IFFLA [is] it’s super niche, South Asians in LA of all places. [And] it’s small enough so you actually see people anyway.”

Actor Pooja Batra added, “I think they’ve always been eclectic with their mix of selection that they bring around here — smaller budget, smaller sort of productions also need a shout out.”

One of the new additions this year is the Spotlight on South Asia.

Festival founder Christina Marouda added this vertical to present films from different countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. “We’re putting a spotlight on projects we want to support,” said Marouda.

The other major new change this year was a live table read of IFFLA alum Kahlil Maskati’s feature script, Alim Uncle, rather than a closing night film. Fawzia Mirza directed the piece.

These changes reflect IFFLA’s commitment to supporting filmmakers while giving audiences more than a viewing experience. In fact, they are able to be part of the filmmaking process.

Marouda says after 20 years, this is IFFLA’s direction moving forward — a full effort to mentor budding filmmakers, while showcasing new films.

Ravi Kapur and Deepti Dawar contributed to this report.

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Garcetti’s ambassadorship to India in limbo



Garcetti's ambassadorship to India in limbo | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON DC (Diya TV) — Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has lifted the “hold” on the Senate confirmation of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been nominated by US President Joe Biden as the country’s next ambassador to India. Initially, Grassley planned to object to the nomination, saying Garcetti failed to properly investigate sexual assault allegations and harassment by a close advisor.

Protesters in Sri Lanka have burned down homes belonging to 38 politicians as the crisis-hit country plunged further into chaos, with the government ordering troops to shoot anyone caught destroying property. Even the former Prime Minister had to be evacuated from his home. Angry Sri Lankans continue to defy a nationwide curfew to protest against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the country’s worst economic crisis since 1948.

Internationally recognized Indian American energy expert Arun Majumdar will head the new Stanford University Doerr School of Sustainability, which aims to tackle urgent climate and sustainability challenges,

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Arts & Culture

LA Kings host first Indian cultural night



LA Kings host first ever Indian Cultural Night

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The Los Angeles Kings hosted their first Indian Cultural Night at the Arena, a new initiative intended to broaden their appeal to a growing demographic. Many of the guests in attendance and the special invitees on hand talked about what the representation of the evening means to them.

Robin Bawa, the first South Asian NHL Player, said “this is great. This is a good idea that the Kings are doing. The first Indian Cultural Night here in the US, and they did a good job – coming down here to be part of this was also a great honor. You know it is all about spreading the word and getting the Indian community involved in these types of things and bringing them out to games.”

“We are here to grow the game, and this allows other people to understand the game and really get embraced by it,” said Dampy Brar, APNA Hockey Co-Founder. “So there’s a lot of South Asian families and population here. When they have nights like this, more will come, more will get introduced to hockey, educate themselves. So to be part of this night and to be able to do what I did today was special.”

Amrit Gill, host of Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition, concurred. “If you can see it, you can be it, as cliche as it sounds. It is one of the most powerful tools in helping create more inclusion not only in sports, but in society as well. So I am over the moon to be here, but this is just the beginning.”

Indian American TikTok stars Kiran and Nivi sang the National Anthem. Kiran explained that this is their “first time attending a game and performing the national anthem.” Nivi added she was “just so grateful to be part of this.”

Indian American actress Sway Bhatia says representation matters in sports and media. Bhatia portrays a hockey player on Disney’s brand new Mighty Ducks TV show.

“Seeing so many people with faces of color, and to be one of those people, is just so empowering,” said Bhatia. And you know, other people in the stadium are able to see who we are and see what we do. I mean we had two amazing brown people of color sing the national anthem, which was so beautiful.”

Organizers are calling the evening a success after a larger than expected turnout and hope this continues to expand the popularity of the game.

Randip Janda, Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition Host, points out that “this is a moment where not only hockey fans are able to celebrate what’s going on tonight but this is a community coming together and celebrating those common bonds whether you’re Indian, whether South Asian or not. A celebration like this, it shows you something. That the rink, where you go and you might be having a bad day but you’re going to celebrate. Win, lose or draw, it should be a party every single time. I think this helps us understand people around us and our communities and hockey can be a vessel of that.”

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