Hooray for Bollywood!

A Slice of Britain: One thousand competitors, crammed into a London hotel, prove that Indian dance has never been more popular

With thick make-up, dyed aubergine hair, a bright turquoise shalwar kameez and bindi sparkling on her forehead, Karina Gniazdowska blends into the crowd of Asian girls around her. That, she tells me, is the point.

"No one believes me when I say I'm Polish," says the 18-year-old, who has lived in Reading for the past three years. "I wear these clothes when I'm not performing, too: I love them. I love everything about Bollywood: the music, the storylines..."

She is in her element. Traditional Indian music blares down a corridor of the London St Giles Hotel yesterday, now filled with women sporting saris, jangling gold bangles, bare feet and heavily kohled eyes. Karina is one of around 1,000 people competing in the first round of the UK Bollywood Dance Championships, the winner of which will bag a role in a Bollywood film.

As the worldwide market for Bollywood films has grown – boosted by the phenomenal success of the British director Danny Boyle's runaway hit Slumdog Millionaire in 2009 – so too have the opportunities in the Indian film industry for non-Asian stars, with Kylie Minogue, Denise Richards and Sylvester Stallone all appearing in Bollywood films in recent years.

The hopefuls here today will have to jump through several hoops to secure their own big-screen role. Three hundred people will go through to the second round of the competition in May, before the numbers are whittled down to 50 for the final at the O2 Arena in July.

With slicked-back hair and all-black outfit, Rahul Velani, 11, looks the complete professional. Or he would, were he not sitting cross-legged on the floor hunched over his Nintendo DS.

His mother, Sara, 42, is taking a bit more interest in proceedings. "I do quite enjoy it," she says, smoothing her pink kurta, a traditional Indian top. "He got through to the third round of Britain's Got Talent. The downside is the travelling."

If the glamorous professional dancers of Bollywood Vibes, who make a living performing at weddings and corporate events, are less than impressed with the sticky carpet underfoot and the flashing neon lights, they certainly aren't showing it.

Rictus grins in place, the six girls shimmy through their performance, coin belts jangling in time with the music, hands twirling elegantly into a prayer position to finish. It goes well, but Olivia Heiser, 32, admits they may struggle with the singing required in most Bollywood films. "We're all professional dancers, but we don't sing at all. Only one of us has a good voice."

Members of the all-girl dance troupe Storm, meanwhile, sport sheer red trousers slashed from thigh to ankle and tiny cropped corsets. All around there is more than enough pale flesh. Indeed, Western performers' willingness to peel off their clothes for roles has been cited as one of the reasons behind what may be a growing backlash in some sections of the Indian community. Last month an Indian nationalist politician called for white actresses to be banned from Bollywood.

But not everyone is convinced Brits have got what it takes to cut it in Indian cinema. A Brit herself, dance teacher Daisy Potter, who runs Bollywood classes in schools in London, says: "They don't really have a natural aptitude. Bollywood is about rhythm, hip movements, and the flow of the body, which a lot of people don't have."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before