Looking at the number of artists who have publicly refused to play at the “The Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration,” concert, an event preceding President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony Jan. 20, some are calling it an unprecedented reaction.
But, for the Indian American community, what is truly historic is that the pre-inauguration event Jan. 19, for the first time, will be marked by a performance featuring a Bollywood contingent.
The dance extravaganza titled, “Hindu and Indian American Voices to Make America Strong Again,” led by former Miss India-turned-Bollywood starlet Manasvi Mamgai, will commence with A.R. Rahman’s Oscar-winning composition, “Jai Ho.”
“We are trying to get different styles of Indian dances into one act,” Mamgai told India-West. “We are starting with ‘Jai Ho’ and doing a little intro performance on that. Then we are going to do Bhangra, after which we will be doing very modern Bollywood dancing to a bit of South Indian dancing styles.”
Mamgai underscored that the purpose was to “showcase a lot of Indian elements in the performance.”
Indian American businessman Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, head of the Republican Hindu Coalition, credited Mamgai, his god-daughter, for conceptualizing the entire act, which he said would be performed at 2:00 p.m.
Not revealing any details of the line-up, Kumar told India-West: “The whole program is her creation. She is not only the star organizer of the whole event but also the lead performer.” But he added: “This will be the most exhilarating, the best act of about 30 acts.”
Pointing out that there were roughly 50,000 organizations in the country that applied to be selected as one of the acts at the pre-inauguration event, Kumar said that “Manasvi and Bollywood were very interesting and attractive to Trump’s transition team.”
Since the dancers will present varied genres of dances of India, giving everyone a glimpse into the country’s opulence, grandeur and its rich culture, Kumar stressed that this was the best way to share cultures.
“This is really meant for the 320 million Americans, not particularly catering to the four million Hindu Americans or 3.7 million Indian Americans,” he said. “This is Hindu and American voices to make America great again.”
Among the mix of entertainers lined up for the day’s “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a troupe of 30 Indian performers, mostly from Bollywood, who are being trained by Suresh Mukund, a young choreographer from Nalasopara in Mumbai, according to a report in PTI.
The 29-year-old choreographer, who has been camping in Washington for the past few days preparing for the performance, is super excited to have grabbed this once-in-a-lifetime chance.
“This is nothing like a dream come true for me. It’s a lifetime chance. I, along with my assistant Karthik Priyadarshan are working hard to train Indian performers, to match their steps with American performers since a few days,” Mukund was quoted as saying.
Mukund told PTI that he has conceptualized a seven-minute medley of Indian classical and Bollywood dance that is scheduled to be played during the swearing-in extravaganza.
Mukund, a member of the dance group Kings United India, which won the bronze at the World Hip-hop Dance Championship held in San Diego, Calif., in 2015, added that Mamgai played a crucial role in his selection.
Referring to the Oct. 15 “Humanity United Against Terrorism” rally that the Republican Hindu Coalition had organized in Edison, New Jersey, and which featured Bollywood stars, including Malaika Arora and Mamgai, Kumar stated that there has been a spike in interest in Bollywood following that event.
“With the Bollywood charity concert where President-elect Trump was the chief guest, there is lot more interest in Bollywood in Americans now than before. Everyone wants to know Bollywood. In fact, President-elect Donald Trump called Manasvi ‘Bollywood,’” he recalled to India-West.
There have been numerous reports of Mamgai shifting careers but the Republican Hindu Coalition India ambassador, who had been an ardent Trump supporter during the presidential elections, said, “At this point, I want to be everywhere. I don’t think there should be a limit to what one should do. I could expand my horizons to anywhere that I want to. It could be here, in Bollywood, Hollywood or the U.S. Congress. The world is my oyster right now.”
But as far as Bollywood was concerned, Mamgai, who made her debut with “Action Jackson,” alongside Ajay Devgn, said she is now keen to do more “serious and content-driven roles.”
“My father has hijacked my life right now, but once I get it back, I would want to go back to movies,” she said.
Kumar opined that since Mamgai is “intelligent, a great orator, she can talk head-to-head and toe-to-toe with some serious policy makers,” she would be a good fit for politics.
“She started taking more and more interest in the last six months,” he said.
Dismissing rumors about him being in the race for the U.S. ambassadorship to India, Kumar said that rather than the post, he is more focused on trade between the two countries.
“We have already reached a significant milestone in getting the Hindu American community converted to our party, that’s the Republican Party,” Kumar told India-West. “We’ve got 64.9 percent of Hindu American voters, who voted for Republicans this time around. Also, clearly having President-elect Trump and soon-to-be president declare that we will be best friends with Hindus, Indian American community and India.”
“Our goal is to increase the trade between the two countries from a $100 billion a year to $300 billion a year in the first four-year term of his presidency,” said the Chicago, Ill.-based entrepreneur.