Paul Little investigates Bollywood moves in Auckland suburbs.

Many Indians, according to Bollyworx co-founder Ram Lingam, are very good at talking about needing to get exercise, but woeful at doing anything about it.

You wouldn't know it to watch one of the increasingly popular, movie-inspired exercise classes that now have 200 people a week turning out to take part.

Ram was part of a loose circle of acquaintances who used to bump into each other at children's birthday parties and the like.

"At the parties the adults also had a good time and often ended up dancing," says Ram. "At one point, one of the ladies said. 'This is refreshing, so why not add a little exercise to it?"'


Hence Bollyworx, a full-body workout suitable for all ages and all ability levels, including no ability at all. Before that there was a community health organisation called Sprout - Sports, Recreation and Outdoors Trust - co- founded by Ram and Munish Bhatt. The volunteers who make up Team Sprout co-ordinate a wide variety of healthy activities, from lectures and tramps to swims and exercise classes.

With the Bollyworx seed planted in their minds, Ram and others took themselves along to NetFit, which trains fitness professionals. After some weeks training and mentoring, the Bollyworx pioneers were ready for their first class, which took place in Papatoetoe.

After a slow start, a Waitemata District Health Board contract gave the organisers the encouragement they needed. Groups, by no means all-Indian, soon followed in Mt Roskill, then Manukau ("We gets lots of Island people"), New Lynn ("We get a lot of Asians there") and Laingholm. Word of mouth has worked its magic and between them the various venues host around 200 eager movers a week.

The routines are "about 80 per cent standard exercise moves and 20 per cent Bollywood choreography" explains Ram.

It's the 20 per cent that gives the classes their special flavour; that and the fact that background music eschews It's Raining Men and Poker Face in favour of Aisa jadoo kiya re and Dum Dum must hai.

The organisers are at pains to point out, however, that no one will be required to perform "vulgar Bollywood moves that will embarrass anyone".

Ram says another reason the classes are so popular is that the instructors have all been participants and, like the current participants themselves, come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone wears gear that would have them drummed out of any self-respecting inner city gym.

The fees - a gold-coin donation - are considerably lower than those at most gyms, too.

"We say it's not value for money," Ram notes wryly, "because there is no money."

All the people behind Sprout are volunteers with day jobs. Trustees Ram, Munish and Sawinder Pasricha - a designer who come up with the idea of the capital X at the end of Bollyworx - donate their time. Ram is from Mumbai but has been in New Zealand for around 15 years and works full-time in training and development. Sprout even has its own free magazine, Healthguru, produced by volunteers. Ram is managing editor.

Despite the name, no one could mistake what goes on here for a movie-standard Bollywood routine. The participants are a dizzying mixture of shapes and sizes and their movements are only slightly less dizzying. One move in 10 might be synchronised.

In their heads, everyone is Shahrukh Khan or Priyanka Chopra, starring in an imaginary movie that only they can see. On the floor it's everyone for themselves and gym- attitude, like gym gear, is entirely absent. It's one hour, 12 songs and, reputedly, 200 calories of sheer good-natured enjoyment.

If you're keen: Click Sprout Bollyworx
* Saturday - 11.15 am to 12.15pm, New Lynn Community Centre.

* Wednesday - 6.30 to 7.30 pm, Mt Roskill War Memorial Hall, 13 May Rd, Mt Roskill.

* Friday - 7 to 8pm, Allan Brewster Rec Centre, Tavern Ln, Papatoetoe or 6.30 to 7.30pm, 69 Victory Rd, Laingholm.Gold coin donation.