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Ghungroo 2019 Aims to Convey Diversity Within South Asia

By Meimei J. Weston, Contributing Writer

Leading up to Ghungroo 2019, parts of Agassiz Theatre transformed temporarily into a vibrant art space, reflecting months of preparation by the South Asian Association and the production’s student artists, actors, dancers, and musicians. Paint-splattered cloth and intricate pieces of the hand-made set, ranging from paintings of flowers to wooden sculptures of trains, covered the floor. Laughter and the smell of pizza floated across the space. The work culminates in a performance run starting Feb. 28, and this year’s producers aim to create better representations of diversity within South Asia than they have seen in previous years of Ghungroo.

Raahul A. Acharya ’20, SAA Co-President and Ghungroo Co-Producer, recounted the original intentions of the annual production, which a group of friends started in the ‘80s. “They were having one of those late night sessions in the Kong and were like, ‘We should make an organization or some kind of production that actually mirrors the South Asian culture here on campus,’” Acharya said.

This year, the producers are working to expand that vision. Rameen Rana ’20, Acharya’s Co-President and Co-Producer, reflected on changes to Ghungroo’s plot structure and set for 2019. While previous editions of Ghungroo have featured a single skit plotline with a fixed set of characters, this year’s Ghungroo is made up of around 30 short skits that take the audience through places such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India, highlighting the different languages and traditions from all across South Asia.

“This is the South Asian Association, which encompasses so many different cultures and so many backgrounds,” Rana said. “That's something that we're really trying to stress with our set, which is this beautiful transfer that takes you through a journey throughout South Asia. We really want to show that it’s not an Indocentric show.”

Arjun J. Prasad ’22, SAA frosh representative and Ghungroo dancer, actor and treasurer, shared one example of the tradition and culture that the production highlights. The dance in which he performs brings together approaches from multiple eras.

“It’s a mix between traditional and more modern dance. The traditional parts of the dance are called Dandiya, which is when you dance with sticks,” Prasad said, referring to a traditional Indian dance which is used to commemorate the goddess Durga’s fight against the buffalo demon, Mahishasura. “The more modern part includes more modern songs and and dance moves.”

Acharya describes Ghungroo as “ecstatic,” “creative,” and “familial.”

“It brings everyone together and it just makes a really close family out of people that I haven't met or even known before,” Acharya said.

Some moments are characterized by playful competitiveness among Ghungroo members. “My proudest moment in dancing, personally, is when I was told by the choreographers that I have the best body roll out there,” Acharya said, laughing. “I hit that body roll well.”

Rana was captivated by Ghungroo before even coming to Harvard. She was enticed to join the production right away as an SAA freshman representative, as well as an actor and dancer.

“Ever since I remember coming to Visitas as a pre-frosh, I was like, ‘I need to do Ghungroo,’” Rana said. “This is one of those things that I know I'm going to tell my kids about and just be so proud of.”

Ghungroo runs Feb. 28, March 1, and March 2 at 7 p.m., as well as March 2 at 12 p.m., in the Agassiz Theatre on 5 James Street.

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