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Going Bollywood

Family law attorney Nitasha Khanna has a background in Hindi dance

Published in 2021 Southern California Rising Stars magazine

As a psychology student at UCLA in the early 2000s, Nitasha Khanna spent hours and hours dancing in the college’s underground parking lots.

Khanna, now a family law attorney at Harris Ginsberg, was one of a dozen members of the UCLA Nashaa Hindi Film Dance team, and there usually wasn’t a room big enough to fit everyone. “So we often practiced in the parking lots, several times a week, for three to four hours at a time,” she says.

Founded in 2002, and still going strong 20 years later, the group creates dance routines to medleys of Bollywood songs. “We’d take snippets from multiple songs, and sometimes even incorporate our own storyline into the dance routine,” Khanna says. While they’d occasionally borrow a dance element from a film, such as the hook step in “Sharara” from Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, “for the most part we would choreograph them ourselves.”

Such dances helped Khanna stay connected to her culture. She was born in the U.S., moved with her family to India when she was 5, and spent the next 11 years there. She was instantly entranced by the Hindi-language film industry. “I love the colors and the joyful mood,” she says. “It’s very happy. A lot of the Bollywood mainstream cinema is romantic, and I am a romantic at heart.”

While Bollywood dancing has its own signature moves, it isn’t as regimented as, say, salsa. “You can incorporate moves from other types of dance,” she says.

It also changes over the years. “The songs from the ’50s and ’60s tended to be slower, more melodic, with lyrics that tug at your heartstrings,” Khanna says. “But over time the music has evolved a lot and lends itself to the Bollywood dancing we see today.” 

Khanna took part in a few intercollegiate dance competitions, including one in which the UCLA and USC teams acted as hosts. “There’s some anxiety in performing, because I always want to bring my best to anything that I do, but there’s also a level of excitement that comes with being on stage.”

Since graduating, Khanna has performed at several friends’ weddings.  “Indian weddings are usually large, with at least several hundred people,” she says. “At North India wedding ceremonies, there is a traditional ceremony, called the Sangeet, where friends and family members perform for the bride and groom.” Sangeet, which means “sung together” from Sanskrit, focuses on the joy surrounding the couple.

For someone who is drawn to the romance of Bollywood, how does working in family law, with its prenups, postnups, and messy divorces affect her?

“A divorce is one of the hardest things a person can go through, especially if children are involved,” she says. “I see my role as helping my clients and guiding them through the process to achieve the best possible results.”

She tries, in other words, to give them a Bollywood ending.

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