What does it basically mean to explore evolving identities and global dynamics? This question is one Sai Bhatawadekar often ponders. After all, she does hold a PhD in German-Indian Comparative Philosophy. In addition to that, she’s the director of the Center of South Asian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, a committee member for Doris Duke Theatre’s Bollywood Film Festival since 2010 and founder of local dance group Aaja Nachle.

You can see Bhatawadekar’s work in action at this year’s Bollywood Film Festival. She offered guidance on the film selection and is directing the live performance Dream(e)scapes, which is the culmination of the Shakespeare in Bollywood spotlight. The dynamic show is an East-West fusion presentation and also features two original compositions from A Midsummer Night’s Bollywood Dream, an upcoming Kennedy Theatre production at UH Mānoa. 

The HoMA blog caught up with Bhatawadekar to learn more about her upcoming DDT show and the current landscape of the world’s largest film industry, Bollywood.

How is working with our Bollywood Film Festival?

It’s really making a mark, I know that shows sell out these days. I feel that the film festival has had an impact on the diverse Honolulu community by bringing South Asian culture here, which is not usually accessible. In some ways, I feel it’s a unique place here because if you go to San Francisco or New York or somewhere, the audience is pretty different. South Asians and Bollywood generally speaking is becoming a global genre anyway. By definition, it’s become cross-cultural because it markets itself to a global audience. Specifically here because of the diverse community. They all get to enjoy South Asian culture through the Bollywood Film Festival and it’s not targeted specifically to South Asian diaspora here. I think that’s a really nice aspect.

How has the Bollywood Film Festival evolved since you joined the committee?

Bollywood has changed in many ways, the things that pop in my head is that it’s a combination and variety of feel-good comedies but comedies that are also unusual and not what people usually understand are Bollywood. Like the opening show [Badhaai Ho] is about an older woman becoming pregnant, which is not usually in Bollywood films. I think Bollywood is now bringing things that were not explored 20 years ago.


What should people expect during your performance?

[The name] Dream(e)scapes is because I’m bringing in the idea that Bollywood is this fantasy world that everybody loves to escape into. I think the theme is Bollywood in global dynamics. I’m showcasing different songs or genres that have gained prominence in global popular understanding like the [Holi] Color Festival for example or these … songs from a recent movie that has Sufi undertones. There will be a Japanese dancer who will be performing a very eastern classical Indian dance. And there’s an homage built in for a very prominent actress who died last year. Two sneak peek things are two original song and dances from the show A Midsummer Night’s Bollywood  Dream. The performers are theatre and dance students at UH and also community members.

Dream(e)scapes is on Friday, Jan. 18, at 7pm. $25 for museum members, $30 for general admission, $15 for students with valid ID.