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Monday, December 5, 2011

Flash Mob Hits Mumbai

Two hundred dancers took commuters at Mumbai’s hectic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station by surprise on Sunday, when they broke into dance accompanied by the title track from Bollywood hit Rang de Basanti.
The Mumbai Flash Mob, as it was dubbed, threatened to become a viral phenomenon in India by Tuesday evening, as videos of the performance rocketed through the Twitter universe, were posted on Facebook and liked on YouTube.

While the video looks spontaneous, the act was carefully planned.

“One of the top items on my travel to-do list, which I never got around to in Europe, was to be a part of a flash mob,” one of the organizers of the mob, Shonan Kothari, formerly a researcher for Harvard Business School, said in a telephone interview. “Since India didn’t have anything of the sort, I figured I’d do it myself,” she said.

Getting over 200 people to participate in a choreographed dance in the middle of Mumbai’s bustling central railway station required a month of planning, including visits to three different departments at the station for security clearance. Atul Rane, senior divisional operations manager at Indian Railways, helped coordinate with other departments to organize the lighting, ladders and camera placements, Ms. Kothari said.

Then Ms. Kothari had to coordinate the dancers. “I had 325 people sign up within two days of sending out the e-mail,” she said. She didn’t spread the word on any social networking Web site, fearing too many people would show up. The dancers were taught the choreography in small batches over the course of two weeks in a Malabar Hill park.

While so-called flash mobs have been popular in the United States and Europe for years, the phenomenon has not really caught on in India. That may be about to change, judging by the amount of attention the video has garnered. A video of the dancing, put up on YouTube early Tuesday morning, had already been “liked” by 1,435 people by 6:30 in the evening.

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