LHS AISA hosts virtual Silsilay

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Graphic Illustration by Mei Corricello

LHS AISA hosted its annual Silsilay festival via livestream this year on April 23.

Mei Corricello

On April 23, Lynbrook’s American-Indo Student Association (AISA) hosted its annual South Asian cultural show, Silsilay, as a live stream on YouTube. COVID guidelines forced the usually crowded community to gather online, but attendance was high nonetheless. Performances included routines by teams from across the Bay Area and spanned a wide range of South Asian dance and singing genres. The charity event raised $780 toward the non-profit organization, Ekal Vidyalaya, and its cause to promote education across rural India.  

Silsilay, a Lynbrook AISA tradition that began in 2012, includes acts from all over the Bay Area. The show is presented by emcees, Lynbrook students who are selected by AISA officers through an audition process. AISA usually begins preparing for Silsilay early in the year, hosting auditions in November and announcing committee positions in December. Each led by an AISA officer, planning committees include promotional video, tech, food and decorations. In typical years, the event hosts more than 700 people and raises more than $6,000 for charity. Over the past 10 years, AISA has donated $50,000 to various charities helping rural India. Silsilay is highly regarded across the region, often considered the best South Asian showcase among Bay Area high schools.

When the pandemic eliminated the possibility of an in-person show, the AISA officer team, consisting of President Anusha Kothari, Vice President Alaap Rag, Public Relations Officers Priyanka Anand and Pranay Mamileti, Treasurer Aryan Dwivedi and Secretary Aneesha Jobi, decided to host an online event. After holding virtual auditions, they asked selected teams to submit pre-recorded clips of performances by April 9 and edited them into a video, which they live streamed for viewers. 

In order to film the skit, the AISA officers submitted a request to film on campus and arrived at the cafeteria, along with the emcees, with masks on. They then submitted a request to film on campus and arrived at the cafeteria with masks on.

“We had to contact the school in advance with all the names of students who would be there and we were in a very ventilated area,” emcee junior Archana Pisupati said. “We all got to dress up in Indian attire, which kept the old feel of the in-person performance.”

The team of emcees, including sophomores Esha Dasari and Akul Murthy; juniors Farhaan Khan, Pisupati and Rag and senior Kavya Iyer, held multiple late night meetings over Zoom to rehearse for the show prior to the in-person filming date. Creating the script was a team effort, with everyone contributing lines and jokes they came up with to create the final storyline. While filming, certain scenes had multiple characters, but they could not fit into the same camera frame due to social distancing guidelines. For such scenes, each skit character had to record their lines individually, and they were then stitched together through video editing into one coherent conversation. 

After reviewing the raw film, the team was happy with the result, which Mamileti then edited and put together to create a final product to livestream. 

Since it was virtual, we were able to have viewers from all around the nation; in fact some viewers were from Texas and the Boston area as well,” Rag said. “Our viewers left such encouraging and positive comments about the performers and the planning of Silsilay. “

More than 100 viewers participated in the livestream, and in the weeks since, the video has amassed 1.1k views as of May 21. Performing acts, including Evergreen Junoon, Lynbrook Shakthi, Monta Vista Raas, Evergreen Raas, Dougherty Dhadkan, Tino Dhadkan, Homestead Bhangra, Lynbrook Layaa, LHS Taara, Monta Vista Bhangra, Monta Vista Andaaz and LHS Jalwa sent in performances for the event. 

For safety purposes, team members filmed videos separately and edited them together. 

“I feel pretty good about this year’s performance, although it was difficult to fit 18 people into one frame. It was great to see our team have some product out this year,” LHS Jalwa captain Nivi Madhan said.

Despite the challenges that come with hosting a large event during a pandemic, AISA successfully compiled an impressive program. The club continued tradition by showcasing Lynbrook students’ talent and culture.

“It is definitely a different experience online as compared to the in-person show, but seeing everybody’s positive reactions to the show made it equally fulfilling,” Mamileti said.