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Jai Ho is America's new fitness anthem

March 05, 2009 15:11 IST

Apparently, there's nothing Slumdog Millionaire cannot do. It can outperform heavyweight films at the box office, win eight Oscars out of nine nominations -- and even help Americans lose weight!

Dancing to the tunes of Slumdog Millionaire has become a craze at many fitness and dance schools -- as for example Kumud Mathur's Dance 2 Health in Potomac, Maryland, where students meet every Tuesday to dance to Jai Ho and O Saya.

Now that the song has an Oscar to its name, says student Jennifer Fry, more people are going to join in.

Fry's interest in Bollywood was first sparked by the Aishwarya Rai-starrer Bride and Prejudice. Dancing to Slumdog tunes makes for a fun and positive experience, she says, and is definitely a mood-lifter.

"It's a great way to exercise too. I also loved the movie. It was very provocative, but had a positive ending."

At Dance 2 Health, Mathur spends the first half of her class choreographing and teaching her students bhangra steps that are later applied to the songs of Slumdog.

"The songs have good meaning and are vibrant. I also require students to be happy and smile," says Mathur. Her class consists of people from different ethnicities like Afghanis, Asians and African Americans.

Dancer do the Jai Ho routineVeer Sain, another of her students, says he has been working out for 20 years but nothing is as fun as dancing to Bollywood music, especially the Slumdog soundtrack. "The songs are nice. You learn how to dance, and lose weight at the same time."

The movie itself, Sain says, portrays the true picture of India.

"It is about time we faced the reality about the country," says Sain, who along with his wife had joined Mathur's class this January.

The craze is not confined to just Dance 2 Health. As Bollywood becomes more popular in the US, more people are turning to Bollywood dancing as a form of exercise.

Renu Kansal started Bollywood West, a dance school in Denver, three years ago after moving out of New York City.  Initially, she was sceptical about the project, as the population of Indians in Denver is less compared to the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut Tristate region or the San Francisco Bay Area. But Kansal was pleasantly surprised when she had to double the number of classes, as hundreds of students expressed interest in lessons.

Even more surprising was the ethnicity of the students that enrolled for bhangra and Bollywood lessons -- "I would say 60 per cent, maybe even 65 per cent of the students are non-desis. Bollywood has become popular now, it is getting more exposure." The age group ranges from 16-65.

Each season, Kansal prepares different songs for her students to work out to, and in the season beginning in a few weeks, the Slumdog score is slated to dominate the course material. Like Mathur, Kansal too expects enrolments to go up now that the movie has won eight Oscars. 

Ayoti Mittra in New York