Bollywood Belles and Beaus

  • Article by: CHRISTY DESMITH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 1, 2008 - 10:52 AM

MIA Bollywood Party 8-23. Nicole Wander, Rajni Shah.

Photo: Matt Miranda, Special to the Star Tribune

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Peacocks, monkeys and elephants welcomed partygoers to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts last Saturday evening. But they were of the artistic variety -- whimsical lawn sculptures made of hay, wire and colorful flowers.

A path covered in rose petals led art lovers past the animals to an illuminated oasis: The museum's Target Park courtyard had been transformed into an outdoor Bollywood-themed disco bathed in pink, purple and red lights. Sponsored by the Circle, the MIA's well-funded young professionals group, the festive scene included peach-flavored martinis, curry-potato appetizers and projected images of melodramatic Bollywood scenes.

Such stylized affairs attract two sorts: social butterflies who travel in packs and readily pose for pictures, and art-interested wallflowers who arrive solo and stand vigil at the party's periphery.

We had better luck with the butterflies. Petite Rajni Shah, who served on the event's host committee, bounced from friend to friend while wearing a traditional, belly-baring choli. Meanwhile, her friend Nicole Wander wore the more conservative kurta pantsuit she had borrowed. "I just got married," said Shah, shouting over the din. "These are all the Indian clothes I made for my wedding."

"This is hers, too!" cried Tamrah Schaller O'Neil, the event chair, who wore a bright embroidered outfit from Shah's trousseau.

As the evening progressed with its complimentary cocktails, a tasteful, only vaguely Indian-themed social scene gave way to sloppy dance party. DJ Anit's pleasant mix of techno-infused Bhangra gave way to dance hits, such as Michael Jackson's "Beat It."

"There are definitely a lot of single women," observed Chris Berger, a kurta-clad Minneapolitan who attended with his lovely wife, Sarah Reichert. He looked around to assess the crowd. "I don't know how many single guys there are."

Mehdi Benyebka and Mo Ziadi, a pair of uncommonly handsome thirtysomethings, were prepared to make good on those odds.

"It's nice scenery," remarked Benyebka, who kept his inky eyes locked on the crowd as it swelled with attractive women in minidresses.

Ziadi insisted the event offered professional networking opportunities as well as plentiful pickups. In fact, he'd just bumped into a big shot from Target Corp., where he works.

Still, Ziadi was quick to admit his true intentions: "I'm single. I hope to meet some good-looking people."

Christy DeSmith is a freelance writer.

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