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Saris, Sequins, Spice: Kiwi-Indian's Bollywood Touch Unites Cultures

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As Kiwi-Indians, our love for Bollywood runs deep. Whether it's a movie night featuring classics like "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" or "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge," a karaoke session, or a Bollywood dance party, these moments help us stay connected to our roots. Bollywood is ingrained in our identity, a bond that every person of Indian origin will always relate to.

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A Kiwi-Indian entrepreneur, Anju Desai, has truly caught the pulse of this enduring love for Bollywood. Anju is making dreams come true for Bollywood enthusiasts by offering a range of party and event packages, including decoration pieces tailored to fit any party theme. Whether you're looking to spice up your next corporate event with a beautiful South Asian theme or planning a Bollywood-inspired celebration for a private function, Anju is the go-to person for all your decorative needs.

As the founder and Creative Director of Bollywood Party in New Zealand, Anju has served the Kiwi community with authentic Indian cultural experiences for the last 14 years. Her services include a themed Bollywood party setup, a lavish costume hire, authentic catering and entertainment, including music and dance.

Saris, Sequins, Spice Kiwi-Indian Mom’s Bollywood Touch Unites IndiansAnju Desai/Photo: Supplied

“Though I’ve turned this business into a lifestyle, I don’t run it in a money-minded way,” says Anju. 

“I am really delighted that people are respecting my culture, understanding it, and dressing up properly. I feel privileged to have this opportunity.”

Hailing from Mumbai, Maharashtra, Anju grew up in a culturally rich Brahmin family.

She draws inspiration from Kiwi people when selecting Bollywood costumes, understanding their preferences for colours and styles. She imports around 100 costumes on each trip to India, spending hours choosing and then bringing them back to New Zealand for display and hire. Her most demanded costume colours are baby pinks and royal blues.

As a Mumbaiker, Anju keeps up with trends and is currently loving her golden sequence saree look. 

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She has launched six new Bollywood Party packages catering to various events, from corporate celebrations to birthday bashes and simple at-home Friday Night parties.

Depending on the size of the party, packages range from photo booths, props, and posters, to catering, live DJs, MCs, and henna artists. Costume deliveries start from $12, and costumes range from $35-$160. Anju also offers saree draping for novice Kiwis who don’t know how to wear a saree, and her efforts have been greatly appreciated. 

Based in Auckland, Anju's love for art and her craft translated into her work when she moved to New Zealand in 2000. 

                                                                      Anju Desai/Photo: Supplied

“I had many different jobs when I first migrated. I owned an art gallery and taught dance and painting classes across Auckland. But as a single mother, it was hard to survive as simply an artist.”

Anju’s introduction of Bollywood as a business idea happened accidentally whilst teaching a painting class. She had the chance to delve deeper into Bollywood dancing. This opportunity turned into a party business within 6 months. 

Her love for theatre and performance, combined with a keen interest in movies, led her to teach additional dance classes. Her life took a turn after one of these classes led to her being asked to host a hen party. A hen party, or bachelorette party, is a social gathering for a bride-to-be alongside her closest female friends. 

After the success of her first hen party, a close friend suggested incorporating Indian costumes into future events. A week later, the Unitec Institute of Technology in Mt Albert called her to host a team-building event, which was also successful. Thus, Bollywood Party in New Zealand was born.

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Anju found the only available web domain with that name at the time and stuck to it. Her business now includes four extensions: decor, catering, costume hire, and entertainment.

In July 2009, Anju created the Bollywood Costume Hire Studio with just four costumes and twenty scarves. Today, her studio houses more than a thousand costumes.

“By the end of the first year of my business, I was hosting large corporate events that asked me for catering, decor, costumes; everything. So I had to expand quickly, making decorations by myself, creating Indian-style artwork like Mandala patterns on canvases and elephant paintings for events.”

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Anju once spent 30-40 hours creating decorations for a particularly large corporate event. She also started her catering department twenty years ago while living in Hamilton. Supporting her son and slowly building her business, she catered for over 80-100 people with various food options for events on her own until the business grew. Now she has a great team working with her.

During COVID-19, Anju taught online Indian cooking, dancing, and painting classes. She also utilised her marketing degree to teach people marketing online. Today, with over 350 followers under the username ‘Bollywood Costume Hire’ across Facebook and Instagram, she continues to create content for her followers, promoting her brand.

Photo: Supplied

Once the COVID-19 restrictions lessened, Anju introduced "Bubble Parties" for people who wanted to host events with close contacts in their homes. Despite the challenges, her business has bounced back, with her phone buzzing with event inquiries as soon as the lockdown ended.

From its modest beginnings, her studio's popularity has soared, becoming an award-winning costume studio. Anju’s business has won several Best Costume honours both domestically and abroad. Anju is now looking forward to hosting plenty of winter parties this upcoming season.

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