Friday, November 24, 2006


Punjabi 'belly twins' rock Hollywood
Rohit Mullick
[ 23 Nov, 2006 2330hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

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The identical sisters have been voted Hollywood's sexiest twins. (TOI)

CHANDIGARH: The Belly Twins, saadi Punjabi girls whose real names are Neena and Veena (they don’t want to reveal their surnames) are on a roll these days — they are rocking Hollywood.

The identical sisters — voted America's sexiest twins — already have a long list of admirers and a celebrity fan list that's as long as the distance from Patiala to Pennsylvania.

Their song and dance routine has hypnotised the West, enough to have the likes of Jenna Elfman and Steven Tyler, legendary frontman of Aerosmith, and current Latino flavour Ricky Martin rooting for the kudis , who have featured in the videos of these stars and performed in hundreds of international shows.

In fact, so pervasive has been their influence on contemporary dance forms that they are credited with popularising and bringing into the mainstream belly dancing in America. Those in entertainment circles say Britney Spears and Shakira, too, haven't remained unaffected by what Neena and Veena dish out. How could they? Some of the 12 fitness videos they have starred in have had long runs on Billboard Top Ten charts, selling over 4 million copies worldwide.

Now considered to be a part of the Hollywood A-list, it hasn't been an easy ride for the girls, though. "In the entertainment field, it's not easy to be a working performer for anyone, especially Indian women. Thousands of people come to Hollywood every week to become a star," Veena told TOI in an e-mail.

"Neena and I have been very lucky to constantly get work as actors, singers, voice-over artists and, of course, dancers. It was a very hard climb for us in the beginning."

Raised in Sacramento's Punjabi community, the road to fame has got the twins to where very few Indians, leave alone Punjabis, have reached. Today, the sisters own a production company in which different projects, including films, television and commercial, are produced.

They are also branching into the animation business. "We will have a television show ready by next year," says Neena even as she describes her performances abroad as "Bollywood extravaganza with a Las Vegas twist". Asked how they got hooked to belly dancing, hooking large hordes of the glitterati in the process, they say,"We started belly dancing as an exercise, when everyone said it would not work (as money spinning showbiz item). But today belly dancing is a multi-million dollar industry." That they have incorporated "Indian influences" in their dance has only added to the exotic element of the twin package.

They say it's obvious as they have grown up listening to "Bollywood music" and dancing to various Hindi and Punjabi numbers. The sisters, who have choreographed in a number of Hindi movies and done a theatre show called 'Hooray for Bollywood', insist they'd love to work in Hindi movies.

Punjab, however, is never far from their hearts. "Even though we were born and raised in California, we always think of India as home and maintain our faith in Sikhism," Neena says, as Veena adds,"Chandigarh is one of our favourite places. We have relatives in Punjab whom we visit every year."


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