Anaar Desai-Stephens, Instructor

I’m Anaar, a 2016-2017 Randel Teaching Fellow and a Ph.d. candidate in Musicology at Cornell. My research focuses on reality music TV shows in contemporary India as sites of cultural aspiration and personal transformation. My interest in teaching this course is two-fold: Firstly, Hindi film songs are central to the practices of aspiration and transformation that I trace. Secondly, I’m a big fan of Hindi films (now known as “Bollywood”) and film songs!  I am also a musician and performer, and I look forward to melding intellectual discursive analysis with creative and exploratory forms of inquiry.


  • Divya Sriram

    I’m Divya Sriram, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and I’m majoring in Economics and Government. While I don’t speak Hindi or Tamil, Bollywood movies have always been a way for my mom and I to bond. I’ve watched hundreds of films and have gained *some* understanding of Hindi through music. No matter how ridiculous the music is to the plot, I love it. I love the colorful background, the dramatic changes in scenery, and the nonsensical costumes. The music is catchy and great to exercise to in the gym. Bollywood music is perhaps the number one thing that I associate to Indian culture. It’s the shared common language in India; I could walk up to any person in India and strike up a conversation over Lata Mangeshkar’s voice. While it may seem silly or overdramatic to an outsider, Bollywood music is one of the most beloved and integral aspects of Indian society. Its importance is why I want to study it closely and perhaps gain a unique understanding about South Asian culture.

  • Nuha

    Hi, I’m Nuha Fariha, a senior in A&S majoring in Psychology and minoring in Asian American Studies. As a Bengali and third culture kid, I grew up watching Bollywood movies with my parents so many of these movies hold personal meanings. However, I’m also interested in the vast consumption of these movies not only in India but also in surrounding countries as well as the South Asian diaspora and the sociocultural implications of Bollywood in forming a South Asian identity.

  • Dylan Manley

    I’m Dylan Manley, a second year architecture student who enrolled in this elective with no specifications other than the hope that it would fill my humanities requirement. However, I do have a particular interest in foreign culture stemming from my largely white background in high school and in my hometown, which made a class on a subject largely shrouded in stereotype particularly attractive. Despite my current lack of knowledge in the area, I’m excited to lean how the universal affect of music and audio-visual media plays into such a culturally specific genre, which I feel is often discounted as a frivolous niche but actually plays a much larger socio-political role in India and beyond.

  • Morgan Judge-Tyson

    I’m Morgan Judge-Tyson and I am a sophomore at Cornell University. I am an architecture student. I joined this course because I was looking in the humanities options for this year and this class caught my eye. I went to india in my sophomore year of high school and have taken a few courses on in already. Most of those were historical and political so I was excited to learn more about the popular culture in india. I love the sound of indian music and saw this as a good way to add some more to my collection.

  • Masoom

    Hi, I’m Masoom Chainani, and I am a senior at Cornell. I am interested in taking Bollywood Songs and South Asian Culture because my whole life I have been surrounded by Bollywood. I watch movies all the time and I used to perform dances from the songs at parties. Bollywood has been a big part of my life, however I’ve always looked at it superficially. But I believe this class will provide the opportunity to explore and better understand the role that Bollywood plays in the society and the world at large.

  • Brandon Nolasco

    Brandon Nolasco. Coming from a high school program where the majority of my peers were themselves immersed in this culture, I’ve developed an interest in the the subject that I hope to explore in more depth. From captivating rhythms in the songs to the dramatic storylines held parallel, I hope to develop a greater understanding of why this seems to interesting for me.

  • Naomi Raymond

    I’m Naomi Raymond, a senior music major with a minor in psychology. I always search through the music electives first, since that’s my primary interest, and Bollywood Songs seemed like a fun class to take. I’ve watched a few Bollywood films with friends in high school, but other than that I know nothing about the genre. I’m always looking to expand my musical and cultural repertoire, and this class seemed like a good way to do that.

  • Sayma Parhana

    Hi, I’m Sayma Parhana and I’m a senior at Cornell in the ILR School. My exposure to Bollywood has been watching a few movies here and there growing up due to my Bengali heritage that is so often intertwined with Indian culture. I took this class to understand why songs are so integral to Bollywood films, and also to gain a better grasp of Indian society and how they express themselves.

  • Salem Argaw

    Hello, my name is Salem Argaw. I’m a fourth year Biological Sciences students with a concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior. I have limited exposure to music and Indian culture. My interest for Bollywood songs stems from years of watching Bollywood movies. I’m looking forward to this class. I’m hoping to learn more about the songs themselves and their cultural/societal ties.

  • Shilpa Iyer

    Hi everyone, I’m Shilpa Iyer and I’m a Senior AEM major within CALS. I’ve grown up with both western musical western influences through the piano and violin, and had some exposure to eastern music given my South Asian background. I’m familiar with Carnatic music but know very little about Bollywood and the cultural implications surrounding it, so this class definitely caught my eye. I’m planning to travel to India after I graduate in December and I’m hoping that this class will give me a new lens to view and process my experiences there.

  • Alya Mistry

    Hi guys, my name is Alya Mistry and I am a senior AEM Major in the Dyson School. I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India and have lived there all my life so Bollywood songs and movies have definitely been a big part of my life, growing up. I love the “masala” and songs in the movies and never get tired of them, which is why I was pretty excited to take this class. I haven’t really had much exposure to music before but I hope to definitely gain some insight into it after this class. I’m interested in knowing how people from other parts of the world react to and interpret these movies and even the exposure that others, including Indians who haven’t been brought up in India, have to these movies. I’m also excited to learn more about how the songs and movies tie up with different political and cultural aspects of their various times.

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