On Saturday, the Indian International Student Union (IISU) brought excitement and energy to Binghamton University with its annual South Asian cultural showcase, Tamasha. Students and family members packed the Chamber Hall from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., filling the Anderson Center with cheers and laughs.
The evening featured a variety of acts, ranging from classical dance to a performance by South Asian a cappella group Bollywood Beats. The show also invited cultural dance teams such as Binghamton Bhangra, Quimbamba, the Black Dance Repertoire and St. John’s University’s South Asian dance team, RAAZ. Nithya Vishwanathan, president of IISU and a senior majoring in chemistry, said Tamasha allows the club to share its culture with the local community.
“Our organization is a South Asian organization, but of course we are very inclusive,” Vishwanathan said. “We tend to showcase our culture to other people and invite them to be a part of it. Within the show, we try to do a lot of traditional performances, as well as pop culture performances that are actually done by our general body members. We like to also invite an off-campus team from another university to come perform as well because we like to go to their events, so it’s a way to invite them to our[s].”
In past years, IISU has done spin-offs on pop culture themes such as “Harry Potter” and “How I Met Your Mother” for its showcases. This year’s Tamasha theme was “The Bachelor,” with Jonathan Cheru, a junior majoring in economics, as the leading man in search of love.
“What we try to do with Tamasha to make it more receptive to the audience is to pick a certain theme that is very popular among the culture right now, especially college students,” she said. “We did it just because somehow ‘The Bachelor’ has been becoming popular within the last few seasons, and right now the [actual ‘Bachelor’] season has started, so it’s a nice segue to do a sort of parallel. We put a little twist to ourselves by deciding to make the women, who are meeting the bachelor, represent the dances that are in Tamasha.”
The dance performances were intercut with skit scenes that were pre-filmed by IISU, mimicking the format of the actual “Bachelor” where the man gets to meet the women. Throughout the showcase, Cheru was introduced to various girls who each represented a performance or aspect of what IISU had to offer. The personalities of the women hoping to woo the bachelor reflected the traits of the dances. While the contestant representing freshman dance was shy and ditzy, Bollywood film dance was shown through a dramatic, celebrity-like girl.
One new feature IISU has added to its annual showcase is senior dance, which came as one of the last acts of the show as a way to send off the graduating members. Vishwanathan said the idea aimed to unite members.
“Our vice president actually decided to incorporate [senior dance] this year,” she said. “He decided that we should have some sort of closing performance that brings everyone together to show them what IISU is really about. Once they see it, they’re like, ‘Wow, this is the end product of IISU, throughout the four years.’”
Tamasha engaged the audience and got them on their feet through interactive games with the cast, such as “Dress the Bachelor” and a relay race, inviting audience members onto the stage. Preparation for IISU’s biggest blockbuster event of the year, including planning activities for the night, starts almost an entire year in advance.
“We tend to start practicing for the dances from the start of the [fall] semester, and we are promoting the show all the way up to the day of the show,” she said. “Scheduling is very hectic. We have two practices every week, and that’s [for] seven dances. So we have 14 practices in a week [and the members] really put their heart into it.”
Vishwanathan noted there was a larger share of responsibilities among each executive board member this year.
“One of the biggest challenges this year is we had to get rid of the co-cultural chair position on our e-board,” she said. “They are the ones who would be planning the event in majority. We had to divide all the responsibilities of the co-cultural chair among the rest of our executive board members.”
Despite the change in organization, audience members said they enjoyed the show. Vanessa Farrell, a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, expressed enthusiasm for Tamasha.
“My favorite part of Tamasha was the skit performed by [Bollywood Film],” she said. “This was my favorite part because of how comedic and relatable it was. Overall, the entire show was just amazing.”
The climax of the night came when Cheru hosted the final rose ceremony, where the bachelor traditionally chooses the girl who will become his fiancee. However, Cheru shocked audience members by pursuing his true love, who was not one of the eight contestants.
Cheru, in his role as the bachelor, proclaimed his true love for something completely different.
“IISU has always been there for me,” he said.
Vishwanathan agreed and reflected on the role that IISU has played through her college career.
“This year, a lot of our seniors are graduating, and it’s a part of us that we are taking away with us,” she said. “IISU has been family for us. Especially as college students when you’re going away from home, you’re trying to find that family … This is just our way of saying that exists. In a college campus you can find where you belong … It will probably take some time to find it, but you will eventually find it because [BU] gives you those opportunities. Performing for the last time onstage, a lot of us will definitely be crying at the end. I would say I’m definitely emotional when it comes to this.”