SASU returns to the stage with upcoming second annual cultural show

By Michael Lang | February 21, 2024 12:28pm
Photo courtesy of South Asian Student Union.

We’ve all heard of Shakespeare’s drama “Romeo and Juliet” and its popular storyline of two feuding families. This year, the South Asian Student Union (SASU) is putting a South Asian twist on the tale with its second annual cultural show. The theme is Rohan and Janaki, inspired by the film “2 States,” which portrays the familiar tale but sets it in modern-day India.

The show will begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 on the Quiet Side of the Commons, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. The itinerary includes a fashion show, dances, skits and food. Everyone in the UP community is welcome and tickets are $7, sold at the door.

The menu features traditional Indian food, including butter chicken, paneer tikka and chana masala with mango lassi drinks offered as well. Chai-inspired cupcakes will also be available.

The show’s emphasis, much like that of the “2 States” film, will be on the unique aspects of Northern and Southern India. The dances and skits will be used to bridge the cultural and geographical differences between the regions.

Harleen Jakhu, the president of SASU, and co-president Ashwini Chandrakanth took on the task of continuing the show for a second year. This was despite Jakhu studying abroad last year and both of them being the only two executive board members to not graduate. For Jakhu, continuing this show plays a big role in the group's on-campus presence, especially after the outcomes of the year prior.

“More people recognized us and got to know that we had this club on campus,” Jakhu said. “It was great to see everyone get to know us more from there and also be interested in maybe joining.”

Jakhu and Chandrakanth have worked together to coordinate dance routines and practices, ticket sales and other logistics essential to the success of this year’s event.

Their work with regards to the dances goes back to as early as October of last year, when practices began in preparation for the show. With eight hours of practice a week on average, the goal has been, and continues to be, ensuring everyone is prepared.

Despite the intensity, Chandrakanth noted the joy of doing the dances, especially with her and many other SASU members having little to no experience being dancers. Tik Tok played a role in the inspiration for the dances given its widespread network of users and content.

This year is also unique as SASU has invited friends from another cultural group at Oregon State University to join the events. 

“It’s been really interesting to try to navigate how we approached the dances and how we stayed true to that cultural element of it while still making it manageable and fun so that people who aren’t Indian can understand and relate to [the dances] and enjoy the experience, too,” Chandrakanth said.

Skits will be in between and, at times, combined with the dances and music to not only tie together the show, but also to promote the central Rohan and Janaki theme of two narratives coming together. For example, certain portions of the show will have a heightened focus on men and women in their own respective dances and skits, which will ultimately lead to a joint group dance at the end.

“We wanted to make sure that we held true to our Indian-American type of identity, so we did a mash-up [final song] that is half an Indian song and half “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado,” Chandrakanth said. “I think it was a really fun song to end on just because it’s really upbeat, but it’s also kind of a fusion.”

The event will continue to build upon the focus of SASU to spread cultural awareness amongst community members. 

“The majority of what SASU stands for is just to try to include and build a community of all the South Asian countries and the people from there or relations-wise to the area,” Jakhu said.

Additional information is provided via SASU’s Instagram page.

Michael Lang is a member of the editorial board for The Beacon. He can be reached at