By Saira Bajwa
From Hofstra to Hollywood, Aniejane Malika has had a memorable year. In February, Aniejane appeared on stage at the Oscars, performed on the Oprah Winfrey show, and met some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Drama students may dream of Hollywood, but Aniejane Malika spends most of her time academically crunching numbers as a finance major.
Anie, as she prefers to be called, began learning classical Indian dancing at a young age. Several years ago, she and a group of her friends started a dance team called “Yuba”. The group’s first performance was at a church fundraiser. They went on to perform in Indian exhibitions and fundraisers, and even have traveled as far as Trinidad for a performace. Anie chose to attend Hofstra and major in finance, where she maintains much of her focus.
Yuba caught the eye of choreographer Rujuta Vaidya, who was asked to choreograph the Bollywood number at the Oscars; thus beginning Anie’s unlikely journey to Hollywood. The dancer describes the event as being incredible. “Performing in front of the talented people who I look up to and who I watch on screen was amazing, “says Aniejane.
Vaidya fought hard to include Yuba because of their strong background in Indian dancing, which the other dancers lacked. Vaidya wanted the girls to bring their graceful, genuine Indian touch to the performance. “Being the only four Indian girls on that stage, it was an honor to represent the Indian community,” Anie says.
Anie also met some of the biggest stars in Hollywood: Oprah, Danny Boyle, Freida Pinto and Dev Patel as well as others whom she saw in passing. Despite being star-struck initially, Anie says they were “just really pretty people.” “The cast of Slumdog Millionaire was especially nice and spoke to us for quite some time. We actually snuck into Oprah’s green room the next day and met Danny Boyle just kind of holding his Oscar like it was no big deal. It was surreal.”
Dancers who make it to the Oscars are typically professionals who have devoted their lives to dancing. Anie, however, is a content finance major who has no plans of changing her dreams. “Dancing will always be a wonderful hobby of mine. I can’t rule anything out but I really do love finance.”
“I’m so grateful for this experience and I’m humbled by the response I’ve gotten from my friends and my community”. For now however, Anie says “I am looking forward to getting back to my normal, boring life,” catching up with classes, and preparing for graduation like any other stressed-out college student.
For the full story, check out the Spring issue of Pulse, available now.