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Posted at: Apr 17, 2017, 12:35 AM; last updated: Apr 17, 2017, 12:36 AM (IST)

In a flash of a second

We’ve had quite a few flash mobs in the city. The latest to join the bandwagon was the one for LGBT rights in Delhi. So what makes a flash mob click with the crowds?

Manpriya Singh

Seemingly random and incredibly public—what makes a flash mob click is the fact that it disperses just like it assembles, in a flash of a second and into the very crowds it came out of. It may or may not shake-up the public but it definitely pulls them out of the thoughtless dreamy existence that seems to invade the crowded lanes, marketplaces or malls. 

When the LGBT flash mob was organized in Hauz Khas Village last week, “The idea was to generate awareness, promote acceptance and get as many volunteers to join the mob as possible,” shares Harsh Agarwal, International Marketing Co-ordinator of LGBT dating App SCRUFF that organized the flash mob. “It wasn’t  just a marketing gimmick but an endeavour to get the crowd to accept these people. We had 12 to 15 volunteers gathered through social media and atleast 12 to 15 volunteers joined us.” 

Flash mobs@City beautiful

It was more than half a decade back on a sleepy Sunday evening in Sector 17 that a group of 70 to 90 odd people get together and start performing to the likes of Sukhbir’s Gal Ban Gayi and Daler Mehendi’s Dil Te Churiyaan. “I remember after a few seconds itself almost 7 to 8 people from the crowds join us. The idea was just to get people together and get them to dance,” shares Jasmeet, director of Jas K Shan’s Dance Dacha (a dance and fitness school) that had just about started operations. She adds, “That was the first official flash mob in the city and the idea came after I happened to be talking to an acquaintance who was a part of the SCT terminal flash mob in Mumbai a year before.” There’s been no stopping after that. 

Flash mob vs smart mob

The very public nature of the activity is often exploited by the corporate sector. “Unfortunately, after our first ever flash mob in Chandigarh in Sector 17, I was approached by a lot of people to advertise in a similar way. When factors like product promotions, choreography enter, that is when it becomes like any other public performance. Then they are called smart mobs. I refused most of the offers or refused to at least lend my name,” adds Jasmeet, director of Jas K Shan’s Dance Dacha.  “A lot of people confuse flash mobs (which is essentially about spontaniety) with smart mobs (where they are paid and for a promotional purpose). In that case it is a performance or a protest,” shares Mandira Singh, a PU student who has been a part of one such mob.

Flash mob trivia

New York City is where it all comes from. Cut to 2003, in Manhattan first ever flash mob is conceived of as a social experiment, by a magazine editor Bill Wasik. The idea was to encourage spontaneity and show that people could take over public places.

Are they here to stay? 

The idea of random fun has always appealed to both young and old. “But nowadays with social media it is extremely easy to organize a flash mob and hence they are not as well publicized as they used to,” adds Mandira. Which is why, perhaps, Wasik eventually ended the organizing of flash mobs in New York City, while they were still popular. Before they fizzled out because of lack of volunteers. “I think the flash mob culture is here to stay. What makes them very effective is the surprise element,” shares Devanshi Mishra from Oorja Danceworks, who has organized a couple of smart mobs at Elante Mall, including a flash mob with 10 to 15 people. “If it is a public performance on stage, people know what it is. Suddenly if a prson standing next to you starts dancing, it catches you off guard. Doesn’t it?” 

The interesting one

In 2011, at Mumbai’s CST, the commuters were taken by complete surprise when they witnessed a flash mob, organized by Shonan Kothari, a researcher for Harvard Business School, with over 200 people. It couldn’t have been more meaningful than the third anniversary tribute to people who lost their lives to 26/11 and couldn’t have been catchier than title track of Rang De Basanti. 

manpriya@tribunemail.com

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