India Meets Downtown

Bollywood at the Fox will allow Tucsonans to experience the traditions of India without spending 25 hours on an airplane.

Neelam Sethi is the founder of the event and a member of the Fox Tucson Theatre's board of directors. To make the event as authentic as possible, Sethi gathered authentic decorations and party favors on trips to India, and even ordered event invitations from India.

"It's a lot of work, but I love it," she said.

Sethi moved to Tucson from India when she was 21 years old and said she loves to share her culture with those who wouldn't normally be able to experience it firsthand. Sethi said people often stop her to ask where she's from. "They know I'm from somewhere different, because I wear the traditional clothes," she said. "... When they find out I'm from India, they always want to know what it's like there, and I love to tell them about it."

She said that many Americans are intrigued by India, but don't know much about it because it is so far away. "Maybe people will come to the event and realize how wonderful it is, and they will decide they want to travel there," said Sethi. "Or maybe they just come and have fun. Either one is fine."

Food at the event is being catered by Saffron Indian Bistro. The goodies include chaat (a vegetarian snack), as well as chicken tikka kababs and many other dishes, including desserts like mango kulfi (ice cream). Traditional Indian drinks and soft drinks provided by local Indian grocery stores.

Congress Street will be closed in front of the Fox for the event. The mela (or street party) will include carts with traditional Indian food and various activities, including dancing and other performances. Bangles—traditional Indian bracelets worn by men and women—will be offered, as will bindis, which are jewels worn on the foreheads of women, and hand-drawn henna skin decorations.

A Bollywood movie, Monsoon Wedding, will be shown at 7 p.m. inside the theater.

Sethi said that at previous Bollywood at the Fox events, people have worn traditional Indian clothing or just dressed in bright colors. "This event is about dressing up and experiencing something different than your everyday," she said.

Although Sethi loves sharing her culture, she is just as passionate about the revitalization of downtown Tucson.

"The United States is a young country, and there are not too many old buildings here, so we need to really celebrate the ones we have," she said. "We're lucky to have one here in Tucson, and we need to do what we can to preserve it."

The Fox was built in 1930 and closed in 1974. After a lengthy renovation effort, the theater reopened on New Year's Eve in 2005. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

This year, Bollywood at the Fox is a fundraiser for the Fox, including the children's program at the Fox called BollyKids, which includes a festival planned for November. The festival will offer cotton candy, food, games, clowns and a children's movie in the theater, which will be completely free.

"We really want to create a place where children can dream and play and just be a child without a care in the world," said Sethi.

Sethi said Tucson children today should learn to love the Fox just like those from past generations did. Sethi explained that the Fox Theatre used to host a Saturday Mickey Mouse Club, at a time when downtown was the place for families to go on weekends. Parents used to drop their children off at the Fox for movies and activities while they did their shopping.

"Children used to love it. We want to bring back that feel," she said.

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