A large crowd gathered at Pomona College’s
Bridges Auditorium as people eagerly awaited free samosas, “jalebi” (fried dough
with honey), and, most importantly, entertainment at this year’s annual
Sanskriti festival. Sanskriti, which means “culture” in Bengali, celebrates just
that. Vibrant outfits, colorful lights and backdrops, singing, dancing, music,
and a Bollywood drama were showcased on Saturday, April 12, giving
audience members a taste of South Asian culture and a performance to remember.
Sanskriti is organized by EKTA—a South Asian student organization named after the Hindi word for “unity”—along with the Claremont Bollywood
Dance Team and the Hindu Society. Impressively, the Bollywood Dance Team was only founded in the 2010-2011 school year; EKTA was revived in 2011. Over the past four years, these student-run organizations have continued to attract members and grow,
especially through their Sanskriti performances.
These performances consist of traditional South Asian
dances, along with hip-hop fusion pieces.
“What I love about Bollywood is that it’s an incredibly
inclusive community,” said Prachie Banthia PO ’14, who was one of the founders of Claremont Bollywood and co-directs the organization with Jessica Kaushal PO ’14. “You don’t have to have danced or know anything about
Bollywood to join. It’s a really nonjudgmental space for people to just dance,
learn about a culture, and have a great time.”
his lack of experience with traditional South Asian dances, Benjamin Kersten PO
’15 was encouraged by friends to participate in Sanskriti because of his
involvement with other forms of dance.
“Before I knew it, I was going to practices every weekend
and ended up being in quite a few pieces last year,” Kersten said. “In the
process, I met a lot of wonderful people and was able to be a part of some
really beautiful expressions of South Asian culture at the 5Cs. After the
experience last year, which of course includes the insane rush of performing on
a big stage like Bridges, I couldn’t wait for this semester.”
Bollywood Club began rehearsing, albeit casually, months before Sanskriti, in
mid-October 2013. After spring break, the club picked up and began
meeting 4-5 times per week in preparation for the event.
Sneha Deo SC ’17 planned on joining Bollywood Club and EKTA before starting her first year at Scripps, and her involvement with them led her to Sanskriti.
had the opportunity to be in six pieces this year, so I was quite busy with
rehearsals,” Deo said.
favorite part of the process was definitely the tech/dress rehearsal,” she added. “It was
hectic, chaotic, and tiring, but I think the work we put into that rehearsal
really set up the show for success. I also really enjoyed helping to advertise
for the show by putting up posters, flooding Facebook, and sharing Albert
Chang’s [PO ’14] amazing trailers.”
The trailers Deo is referring to were posted on and
shared through social media websites to gain exposure for the events.
“I wasn’t really sure what Sanskriti was, but the trailers were so well done and so professional,” Ariel Leavitt SC ’17 said. “They
genuinely made me want to see the show, and I’m really glad that they did because the show was incredible.”
The trailers all show couples who are interrupted by the
hilarious character “Aunty,” a nosy but loving character that most people—both those who are of South Asian descent and those who are not—have in their lives.
The comical story of Aunty was continued in the live show, which gave a lighthearted break between dance and singing performances, and also tied the entire
“The performance went amazing,” said Victor Bhattacharyya
HM ’15, the event’s emcee for the past two years. “Almost every group on
their way off stage was freaking out about how it was the best they have ever
Bhattacharyya, who wore an all-silver metallic ensemble
on Saturday, also stressed how Sanskriti has become a new Claremont
tradition. In terms of exposure and audience turnout, Sanskriti is comparable to the Southern California A Cappella Music Festival (SCAMFest). Further drawing together Sanskriti and a cappella, the 5C a cappella
group Midnight Echo performed a rendition of “Jai Ho” on Saturday.
However, the importance of EKTA and Claremont Bollywood’s Sanskriti stretches far beyond the annual event.
and Claremont Bollywood are family more than anything,” Bhattacharyya said. “We cheer for each other
in the wings and work together to put on an amazing show year after year. Three
years in, we had people standing in Big Bridges because there were no seats
left, which is incredible for an entirely student-run production. I’m so proud
of us, and there’s no community I’d rather be a part of.”