Organizers draw hundreds to dance nights centering on Indian music

On a warm summer night last August, music wafted down High Street from the open doors of Trism. Passersby, even as far as two miles away, wandered into the Campus bar. Though they weren't familiar with the songs, they were drawn by the unique melodies and rhythms.

“It's the universal language of music,” said Kailash Chughwani, co-host of the event that night. “It was an eye-opener for me.”

Since 2017, Kailash and his wife, Seema, have been organizing dance parties in Columbus and Cleveland through their company, BollywoodOhio. The events feature Indian songs popular in Bollywood films. The next event will take place once again at Trism on Friday, Nov. 30.

Bollywood, or the Hindi film industry in India, is a commercial force, producing more films than Hollywood each year. And there is a growing demand among Indian and non-Indian communities in the U.S. for the soundtracks in social settings.

Kailash and Seema were inspired to start the company after noticing a lack of Indian music at local clubs. They'd make requests of DJs, who only knew a few songs, Kailash recalled. “We kept talking to other people … and they were asking for the same thing,” he said.

The couple has tied BollywoodOhio parties to Indian holidays, hosting “Disco Diwali” at Park Street Saloon last year and “Rang Barse” in Cleveland in March. The latter is named for Hindi song “Rang Barse Bhige Chunar Wali” from the 1981 movie “Silsila.”

“It's played on every single Holi festival in India,” Kailash said of the spring celebration, also known as the Festival of Colors.

Independent of any holiday, the upcoming “Blackout '18” — attendees are required to wear black — will feature DJ Mavi and special guest DJ Sohbash from Chicago. “He actually found us,” Kailash said.

There will also be a live performance on dhol, a double-sided barrel drum. In the past, the dholi, who accompanies the DJ and plays solo, has been embraced by the crowd, with dancing patrons forming a circle around the musician.

To the couple's surprise and delight, BollywoodOhio has drawn hundreds of people per event since its inception. And like the people who wandered down High Street back in August, new audiences continue to discover the parties, and therefore the music and culture.

“The crowd has matured with us,” Kailash said. “The mix of community has just gone up.”