“This looks like screwing a light bulb with one hand and patting the dog with the other,” said a jittery Martin Henderson in the Indo-Brit movie Bride and Prejudice , in which guests at an Indian wedding suddenly break into song and dance. Henderson's take was not far off, particularly for someone new to the boisterous music and jerky rhythmic dance moves of Masala Bhangra. Originating from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, Bhangra began as a folk art to celebrate the coming of spring. But like curry, which has traveled far and wide and lent itself to different colors, smells and palates, Bhangra too has twisted and jumped its way into different styles all over the world — from pop music and film soundtracks to America's Got Talent.
It was the Bhangra's jumps, coordinated hand and leg movements and foot-tapping music that Sarina Jain, founder and creator of Masala Bhangra, thought would make people not only dance, but shed some flab too. “The Masala Bhangra Workout was born in Los Angeles 10 years back,” says Jain, who grew up in Orange County. “People fell in love with the music beats, the vigorous movements, and had so much fun that the awesome cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening regime was just an added bonus,” she adds with a laugh.
Jain moved to New York in 2001. “I was a one-woman army in NYC. I had to get out of L.A. to make the Masala Bhangra Workout popular and then bring it back,” she explains. She got some help from magazine poster girl Paulina Porizkova, who, in an interview with People , said that she carried the Bhangra Back 2 Bollywood DVD with her whenever she was traveling.
Today, Jain says, the Masala Bhangra regime is rated among the top 10 workouts in America. But popularity came with its perils. Her own people thought the whole thing was funny. “In the beginning,” she says, “Indians poked fun for many reasons. But today, those same people are proud of me. I created a concept and my career out of scratch and paved the way for others.”
Jain now has a show on FIT TV, her Masala Bhangra Workout is a trademark certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (“a huge honor”), and she is expanding globally, with practitioners and DVD sales in Japan, Latin America, Australia, the U.K. and, of course, India and the U.S. After a decade, L.A. has reappeared on her map.
“There are more people now in L.A. who want to come and train under me,” she says.
Her master class, a special free event to launch the program for those who want to experience the workout with its founder, is scheduled for Friday, August 21, at 6:30p.m. at Crunch Gym, 8000 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. Regular classes begin the week after Labor Day weekend. For info: www.masaladance.com.