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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

ANURAKTI Enriches NJIT with Indian Culture Showcase 

Yukthi Sangoi

During the early evening on March 31, Rutgers-Newark and NJIT students gathered in the backstage dressing rooms of the Jim Wise Theatre to adorn themselves with traditional clothing and piercing makeup. Anurakti, defined as “a passion that transcends time,” was the first event hosted by Thillana, NJIT’s first-ever Indian classical dance team.  

The showcase featured pieces by KOSHISH, a Raga Jazz group; Rajni Menon, who performed a Kathakali dance; Ehsaas, Rutgers-Newark’s Bollywood fusion dance team; and Thillana, who performed an original dance drama to end the night.  

Akshitha Singathi, third-year NJIT computer science major as well as director and founder of Thillana, expressed that “Anurakti is an initiative to make classical dance and music enjoyable to a modern audience while celebrating Indian culture.” The program showcased the power of storytelling through the realm of theatre.  

“I remember bringing this idea to the group at the beginning of January; most of the dancers on stage were new to the team at the start of this idea,” she explained. Geetika Padala — third-year Rutgers-Newark marketing and finance student, co-captain of Thillana, and captain of Ehsaas — helped Singathi plan the event and decide on a storyline for Thillana to perform.  

“Dance to us is not just a form of expression, but a passion that consumes you beautifully and a tool to join multiple communities together. This event to me is a representation of our vision of being a unique [form of] South Asian arts,” Padala said. “I remember how [Singathi and I] hopped on a call and quickly agreed on portraying the concept of love. I then suggested we portray a love story through a queer lens.” 

The final performance followed the hidden love story of a princess and a female warrior in a time of ill-acceptance. As the princess and warrior rekindle a childhood friendship after years of separation, the protagonists uncover their true feelings for each other, only to be faced with the harsh realities of their pre-destined circumstances. 

“We wanted to break through the taboo of people being queer in the South Asian community,” Padala commented. Singathi added that the drama was aimed to encompass the spirit of self-discovery and attachment through heroines that challenged societal norms while finding truth in love.  

“The group portrays the setbacks of society while celebrating love through a queer lens, while also highlighting that the challenges and difficulties of life are what make living all the more worthwhile,” Singathi stated.  

Shakthika Thevarajah, second-year NJIT mechanical engineering student, is a member of Thillana who appreciates the inviting atmosphere of the group. “I was surprised by how quickly I had become comfortable with the team — I was asking for help, making suggestions to improve our performance, and catching up with the pace of all the preparations,” she added.  

First-year NJIT interior design major Samita Pandit also performed as part of Thillana, as she has been training in Indian classical dance for many years. She mentioned, “Anurakti means a lot to me, as it was the first-ever event on the campus of this kind, and I am so proud that as a first year, I was able to participate and represent our rich Indian culture!”  

After the program’s intermission and before Thillana’s performance, second-year Rutgers-Newark and NJIT biomedical engineering graduate student Chirag Motwani showed the audience a presentation of Navaras, the nine forms of human expression according to the Natyashastra, a Sanskrit text on performing arts. 

“Initially, I had concerns about losing touch with classical dancing techniques since it had been nine years since I last performed,” he said. “Nonetheless, all the members of Thillana welcomed me heartily and treated me like family, making it a wonderful and memorable experience.” He also commented that this was his first live performance in the United States, making him more excited for future opportunities like this program.  

Some performers are children of parents who immigrated to the United States and saw Anurakti as a chance to reconnect with their cultural roots.  

“It is important to remember the heritage and traditions of the cultures that make up India and the beautiful community,” said Deepkamel Singh, third-year NJIT architecture major. “Our parents came to a different land away from the culture they were born in, and we all have the opportunity to build and nurture that culture in a different world.” 

Singathi emphasized that with artists trained in a plethora of classical styles, the team encourages freedom and innovation with the arts through personal works and collaboration. Thillana allows dancers to ignite their creativity through cultural immersion, while strengthening their technique and form.  

She concluded, “In the future, Thillana aspires to further nurture its dancers’ skills while continuing to educate the Newark community on the beauty of ancient Indian arts through performance and discussion.” 

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Yukthi Sangoi, Editor-in-Chief
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