'Beyond Bollywood' Comes To Austin

Mar 2, 2018

"It was started a few years back, and it's basically highlighting the history of Indians in America and their immigrant journey over to the United States," says Pooja Sethi of the Smithsonian exhibition Beyond Bollywood.

"I actually went a few years ago, when I was at my husband's cousin's wedding," she continues. "And I came out really emotional, because ... it was our history for the very first time. And I realized that Indian-American is a whole separate culture. I mean, you have India and you have America, but this is the first time that an exhibit actually told me that I'm a culture."

After seeing Beyond Bollywood, Sethi made it her mission to bring the show to Austin, and she enlisted her fellow board members from the nonprofit group South Asian Austin Moms to help make that happen.

"It wasn't hard to convince us because ... you know, we have kids, and it's important to all of us that our kids learn about our history and our heritage," Ami Gandhi says. "And as of yet, they're not reading in the textbooks. They're not really learning it in their public or private schools yet."

"For South Asians, it's a place to come and self-reflect, because the history is long," Parul Mehta says. "And for the rest of the people of Austin, we would love for them to come and see what is beyond Bollywood, which is beyond the movies and beyond the set. Because Indians are everywhere, from doctors to lawyers to cab drivers."

It took about two years for South Asian Austin Moms to get the exhibit to Austin, where it's currently on display at the Asian American Resource Center. To supplement  the touring exhibition, they've also planned some locally produced content, including a "Movers and Shakers of Austin" event on March 10 and events focusing on film, dance, and children's literature. 

Though she's a big fan of Bollywood herself, Mehta is hoping that people coming to the exhibition will learn a little more about Indian-American culture.

"I want the non-Indians to look beyond the movies, and see the whole story about an Indian-American experience of living here and trying to balance two different cultures," she says. "So this gives you an insight which is not movies and not the big sets and not the lavish costumes. Even though I love all of them."

Beyond Bollywood will be on display at the Asian American Resource Center though April 8.