A crowd packed into Levin ballroom on Saturday night to see “MELA 2015: Nazrana.” Presented by the South Asian Students’ Association, MELA is an annual celebration of South Asian culture and heritage. The show featured a varied line-up of acts including several dance performances, singing acts and even a fashion show, exhibiting richly-decorated Indian apparel. 

      This year’s theme, “Nazrana,” according to the program, is a word of Arabic origin that means “a gift given to a stranger.” In an email to the Justice, co-president Nikhil Pallikonda ’16 explained that each year, the Executive Board decides on the theme for the show by choosing a word that incorporates what “MELA” means to them. From “Nazrana” came the show’s slogan: “celebrate the gift.” The program further explained, “To us [the E-Board] this gift is each student’s unique culture, heritage and backstory, and the experience of being on a campus that encourages us to share those things with one another.”

  Cultural sharing and festivity filled the night. Brandeis’s Bollywood-fusion dance team Chak De! gave one of the more memorable performances by incorporating other mediums into the dance piece. Choreographed by Pooja Gupta ’16 and Urann Chan ’16, the piece began with a video of Chak De! members dancing around campus — particularly by Chris Burden’s “Light of Reason” installation — and telling the story of two lovers. The dance onstage picked up right where the video left off and continued telling an emotional and moving love story, complete with pre-recorded dialogue interjected into the dance. 

  In a powerful performance addressing social issues, Dean of Students Jamele Adams performed a slam poem while Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16 interjected with pieces of Adele’s “Hello.” In one of the singing performances of the evening, Radhika Jangi ’18 and Shobhik Chakraborty ’17 beautifully performed a duet of a classic love song called “Khuda Jaane.” 

  Brandeis Bhangra had a vibrant performance that fused traditional music, such as eastern Dhol rhythms, with more modern music, such as songs by rapper Drake. Members of each class year were able to showcase their year’s talents and pride in dances dedicated to each class year. Some of the most notable performances of the night came from groups from other schools in the greater Boston area. Boston College’s goup Masti presented a dance that incorporated acrobatic elements, the Bently University Bizraas masterfully twirled sticks, and Boston University Khatarnak incorporated traditional and modern music and dance moves into their performance in one of the most notable dance routines of the night. Pallikonda commented that  “collaborating with them this year was a phenomenal idea and we hope the [South Asian Student Association] continues to involve teams from off campus in our show, as there is an abundance of talent in the Boston area that we feel deserves to be seen!”

   MELA serves not only as a celebration of culture filled with song and dance but also as a night dedicated to charity. This year’s sponsored charity was the Aarti Home, a foundation that fights female abandonment, mistreatment and infanticide in India. A representative from the Aarti Home, Jenny Chen, gave a presentation on the charity’s efforts to provide shelter and education to mistreated women and girls, and she urged the audience to donate. Pallikonda commented that the E-Board chooses the charity for MELA by researching causes that they believe are especially important.  

     Overall, MELA was a vibrantly colorful display of dance and cultural celebration. “Our goal for MELA was not only to showcase the amazing acts but also [to] help the audience take a little bit of our culture home with them,” Pallikonda explained.

   “From the diverse performances, charity presentations, MC skits and the dinner afterward, we wanted to celebrate our heritage in style, and hope we inspired those who didn’t participate in MELA this year to take part next year.”