Bollywood great Hema Malini dances in Johnson County

07/13/2014 8:20 PM

07/13/2014 8:42 PM

There is beauty in simplicity and something to be said for doing a lot with very little.

Using only a projected backdrop and colored spotlights, Hema Malini, once renowned as the “Dream Girl” of Hindi cinema, starred in “Durga” on Friday night.

The dance ballet, performed in the Shawnee Mission Northwest High School theater, was a cultural celebration of the divine mother, the Durga, a symbol of protection in the Hindu faith that transcends religion and nationality.

The two-hour show, all in Hindi, played over the auditorium’s loudspeakers as onstage characters mouthed the words and songs that accompanied their ballet and musical movements. Malini and her 27-member troupe have played in other U.S. locations on their tour.

The star’s wide range of emotions conveyed the humor, anger, power and humility of the Durga throughout different stages of life. The 65-year-old actress never tired, gracefully wielding a trident her own height during the show’s final act.

Malini’s talent transported the sold-out audience to India’s mythological world, a performance that earned its standing ovation.

In many ways, the Bollywood superstar — she has performed in more than 150 films, many with her husband, Dharmendra, and is now directing — was perfect as the role of a mother to India. Her training as a classical Bharatanatyam dancer helped her film career.

Malini enchanted the audience even after the performance.

After the curtain closed, she came out to emphasize the importance for Indian-American children to visit their motherland. She encouraged them to take their experience from the evening and pay it forward to those in need within India. A member of her nation’s parliament, she belongs to the Bharatiya Janata (Indian People’s Party), which just won a majority of seats and installed Narendra Modi as prime minister in May.

Before the ballet began, four local Indian dance studios performed and encouraged more involvement within the community for the traditional art.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Kansas Republican, attended the show with his wife, Brooke. He was welcomed to the stage for an impromptu speech that expressed pride in the growing Indian community and thanks for bringing “world-class talent to the sleepy suburbs.”

To reach Linley Sanders, call 816-234-4297 or send email to lsanders@kcstar.com.

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