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Bollywood Paradise: Project-Based Learning in South India

During a recent place- and project-based excursion to Kochi, India, our Grade 12 students spent five days learning Bollywood techniques and style in order to produce a full trailer for a fictitious Bollywood film, Prem/Hate (Love/Hate). During the project, students visited Bollywood film studios, met with Bollywood gurus, received dance lessons, practiced acting, and examined styles of scripts and musical scores, eventually incorporating all of these elements into the ten-minute trailer.

In the following reflection, Grade 12 student Pauli C. looks back on the challenges and processes involved in the fun project, the results of which you can view below. A special thanks to Mayank at Danceworx Mumbai for making sure our students’ acting and filming was as Bollywood as possible, and the Sea Princess Hotel and the Alapuzzha Boathouse for the use of their locations during filming!


Lights, camera and action!

What if I told you that in a week you are going to take a plane, fly to the south of India, and spend three days in a houseboat?

Photo by Jen Buchanan

Oh, and did I mention that you will be filming your own Bollywood movie?

Well, that is exactly all we knew when we boarded our flight from Mumbai to Cochin. Five students, three teachers, a choreographer with one goal in mind: Produce our own Bollywood movie trailer!

Photos by Jen Buchanan

Lights, camera and… WAIT! We first need to come up with a story. It needs to have drama, passion, slow-motion fights, and dance! Yeah definitely dance… these must be placed in different scenes full of joy and happiness, evil gatherings, scary and tense moments as well as lovely romantic shoots! 

Photo by Paula Cendoya

“Get into character” …. such a cliche direction all aspirants to theater receive. As like everything, it is easier said than done. Buy the appropriate clothes (actually, bargain for the appropriate outfit). Sketch the scenes and shoot each one at least two times to figure out the proper angle. Always be open to change, as new ideas are the  battery of a good and fruitful story.

Photo by Sam Nelson

Photo by Helen Ramos

Make-up time! Pray it won’t wash off with your own sweat, dramatic tears, or effusive laughter.

Photo by Jen Buchanan

Lights, camera and action!

Scene 2, take five.

Photo by Jen Buchanan

Scene 6, take three!

Photo by Jen Buchanan

Scene 10, take… Never mind guys lets start from the very top again!

Photo by Jen Buchanan

Are you craving a sleep?

Photo by Jen Buchanan

No way, we still need to practice our choreography!

One, two, three shimmy! Four, five, six, clap up & swag right! Seven, eight, nine, jump!  And don’t forget to smile!

The rocking boat has all of the crew sleeping like tranquil babies after 9pm. Most of our dreams consisted of flickering and enlightening images of the next scene… What movement could be improved? Should I take the risk and take this swing to another level? Our muscles passed out, but our thoughts were running wild in the floating wood cabin. Too many things to plan and even more things to improve. How exciting! It was a planning night.

Photo by Sam Nelson

Rise and shine crew, time to shoot the choreography!

Photos by Sam Nelson

Now, picture a carnival in the middle of the port city of Cochin: It’s filled with happy people, smiling despite the 40 degree temperatures burning their dampened skin. Colorful skirts flow in the warm breeze. Curious locals and tuk-tuks stop and stare at a weird group of foreigners that were dancing, screaming, and laughing in the middle of the street. But we could not care less. Our energy was at its highest peak. We did not feel like outsiders appropriating their culture. We felt like Bollywood actors and actresses who had a job to complete. And oh Lord, did we! We believed and made honor to the lyrics of our song:

Le Le Le Lere Mazaa Le

Enjoy to the fullest

Aaj Ka Jamke Mazaa Le

Enjoy the fullest today

We definitely enjoyed the experience to its fullest. Those fours days of demanding, yet exciting, work were the most fulfilling experience any of us could ever have imagined. Just like our Media Teacher Jen said, “Today was not a day about existing, but we lived today. Every moment.” I won’t lie: we were so tired. Our muscles were crying in pain and our heads throbbed with every round and circle. But our minds were just enjoying the carnival. We were going with the flow, dancing the melodious and sweet rhythm, and truly laughing.

Photo by Jen Buchanan

Oskar, a fellow classmate, told me that at the beginning of the trip he felt tired. By the end, he said, I still feel tired but fulfilled. We were full of joy, excitement, happiness and something more. We connected through the dance. Teachers and students connected at the same level. We were teaching and learning from each other. We were leaders and followers. We showed our strengths and exposed our weaknesses with equal proudness and willingness to improve. We trusted each other and truly became a team.

Photo by Helen Ramos

Photo by Alexa Wolfgram

Everyone expressed in our two-hour flight to Cochin an intrigue for the final product, the glorious and long praised Bollywood movie trailer. Looking back, I realize that what kept us wide awake during the weXplore was not the six minute clip… It was all the in-between. The effort and emotions we left on the dance floor.

Photo by Sam Nelson

What if I told you that in only four days, five students, three teachers, and one choreographer were able to produce their own Bollywood trailer? How could such a thing be accomplished? I would say, through our core values of empathy, grit, meraki, satya, kaizen and ubuntu.

Photo by Sam Nelson

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A passion for travel. A strong academic record. And the desire to improve the world as you experience it. If this sounds like you, you just might be our ideal candidate! Start your application with a five-minute inquiry form - you never know where you might end up.

It all starts here.

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