South Asian Alliance takes centerstage

Created by Anila Fariab (12), this flier can be found on the South Asian Alliance Instagram @wshs_saa. The film that was being screened, “Jab We Met,” was one of the most popular Bollywood films in India during its original premiere and still is today. (ANILA FARIAB//USED WITH PERMISSION)

On a train, a talkative young girl meets a wealthy boy who is unhappy with his life. He aimlessly leaves the train, but she follows him out. This is the beginning of a love story and the plot of the Indian romantic comedy “Jab We Met.”

The 2007 film, starring Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor as the leads Aditya Kashyap and Geet Dhillon respectively, is well-known in India. So, on Feb.16, the South Asian Alliance Club decided to show the film for their Bollywood movie event.

“Indian movies are super different from American movies,” Neeraja Menon (12) said. “Indian movies are basically musicals. There will be songs basically in between the movie.”

Club president Menon, who joined the club last year, and the other members of the leadership team, decided to plan the movie day as the monthly event for February. The leadership team usually strives to plan events that follow holidays on the Indian calendar, but with a lack of options for February, the Bollywood rom-com was a chance to celebrate romance and share South Asian cinema.

“I think people really liked it,” Menon said. “It was really interesting to see [the] American perspective of the love story, because some things I didn’t notice because I’m from the culture … When they pointed it out, I was like, ‘Woah, that’s interesting. I didn’t look at it that way.’ So, it was really interesting to see an outside perspective of the movie.”

Anila Fariab (12), the Social Media Manager of SAA, was initially brought into the club by her friends. One of her favorite events was Ugadi, Telugu New Year’s, a celebration where members dressed in traditional outfits. The movie screening was a chance for Fariab to get to experience another aspect of South Asian culture.

“My personal favorite [part] was being able to enjoy the movie itself and [sing] along to the famous songs as they came up,” Fariab said. “[I] personally had never seen the movie before — [I] just knew two of the songs. So, it was nice to finally watch the timeless classic.”

The club is open to all students and usually has one event per month. While students that are not of South Asian descent can learn about the various cultures, for Fariab, who also helped establish the alliance, the club has a deeper meaning. 

“As a kid, growing up, I never really met with anyone who shared my cultural aspects or even looked the way I did who wasn’t outside like family, friends or children from the local mosque,” Fariab said. “I sometimes felt isolated as a result of this, constantly having to explain that India and Bangladesh weren’t in fact the ‘same country,’ or hide my Bangladeshi lunch when classmates made weird faces … I think it’s crucial to have a club like this, especially for those who might be feeling the way I felt, as though they could find no one to whom they could relate or no one who could understand them.”

Menon’s vision for the future of the club involves members connecting with other clubs such as the Asian American Pacific Islander Club and planning events to help people in India. Sharing her culture is something that makes Menon proud, and she desires to expand its reach. 

“[SAA] should be showcased more because it really shows the diversity of the school and how welcoming the school is,” Menon said. “It really educates people about cultures around the world … so it’s really nice. I feel like people should really look into other cultures. They should show up.”