Bhangra, Bollywood dancers rock Buckingham Palace

Leading British-Indian citizens from the field of sports, writing, acting and business gathered together last night to watch a performance by cultural group Nutkhut in the palace ballroom, under the shadow of a 30-ft domed red velvet canopy, used at the coronation durbar of King George V and Queen Mary in Delhi in 1911.

Performers from the dance group Nutkhut, founded by husband and wife team of Ajay Chhabra and Simmy Gupta, performed a 15-minute extract from the couple's show Bollywood Steps, inspired by Indian movies.

The couple said they were honoured to be representing Indian arts at the palace.
Chhabra, speaking about the opulent surroundings of the royal residence, said "We felt the setting leant itself to a film set -- the columns, the fabric of the canopy -- the bling of it stood out."

Bollywood Steps
Nutkhut, a London-based British-Indian dance company, perform to an audience which included Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as they present an extract of Bollywood Steps, during a reception inside the ballroom of Buckingham Palace in central London, Tuesday. AP

Chhabra's wife Simmy Gupta who jointly choreographed the show said: "It's a real privilege and honour to be asked to perform in the palace. We're British, we're Asian, we are contemporary, we also know our roots."

"Bollywood Steps is me growing up in England being a British Asian. It is influenced by Bollywood films and Hollywood films. It goes from my classically trained background to contemporary hip-hop. It is up to date, really sexy and hot," Gupta said.

Five female dancers and three males performed in the 15-minute show. It was a truncated version of the 40-minute outdoor show which Nutkhut has been performing around Britain for the past four years and is described as "a spectacular celebration of all that is kitsch in Indian cinema".

Other guests at the event included cricketer Monty Panesar, Coronation Street star Jimmi Harkishin, and the husband-wife duo of Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal, stars of the award winning BBC comedy show 'The Kumars at No 42'.

Syal said, "I was watching the performance and thinking this is the place where the head of state has sat and received people. And in this hallowed space you've got a group of Bhangra dancers, this is amazing, this is progress."
With President Pratibha Patil scheduled to visit Britain later this month, there is considerable interest in the country. The last visit by an Indian President was in 1990 when President R Venkataraman, accompanied by his wife Janaki, came to London.

Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Phillip and Princess Michael of Kent were among British royals who watched dancers from the British Asian group Nutkhut swing to the throbbing rhythms of Bollywood tunes in steps that could have come right out of a film set in Mumbai.

The event, an advance reception in honour of the October-end visit by President Pratibha Patil, was held Wednesday in the ornate ballroom in Buckingham Palace - the largest of its 775 rooms and one that is more used to hosting stately dinners than Bollywood shows.

Stood under a 30-ft domed red velvet canopy used at the 1911 coronation durbar of King George V and Queen Mary in Delhi, some 350 invited guests watched a dance that was described by its creator as “really sexy and hot”.

After the show, the 83-year-old Queen - who is said to have seen a Bollywood performance once before in the city of Bradford - congratulated the performers.

The British monarch appeared to be in a relaxed mood -  actor Meera Syal’s husband Sanjeev Bhaskar, also an actor, said she liked Syal’s granny makeup for their hit TV show, ‘The Kumars At No. 42’, and laughed when he replied that no makeup was needed.
The guests - leading British-Indians - included steel tycoon Swraj Paul, cricketers Samit Patel and Monty Panesar, footballer Michael Chopra, television star Jimmi Harkishin, newsreader Krishnan Gurumurthy, Tom Singh, founder of the New Look fashion chain, and restaurateurs Namita Panjabi and Ranjit Mathrani, who own Veeraswamy, London’s oldest Indian restaurant.

Two chefs from Veeraswamy - established in 1926, the same year Elizabeth II was born - helped royal chef Mark Flanangan and his team prepare Indian canapés, including tofu salad rolls, paneer croquets and almond chicken tikka.
The queen included Punjabi Bhangra singer Malkit Singh in the royal honours list in 2008 and enrolled two Sikhs - Simranjit Singh and Sarvjit Singh - as her personal bodyguards in July this year.

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