Bar Dancers: Post Ban Performance by a Senior Dancer (Geeta)
Cinematographer: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Duration: 00:05:48; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 303.616; Saturation: 0.268; Lightness: 0.207; Volume: 0.273; Cuts per Minute: 17.410; Words per Minute: 7.067
Summary: Dancing in bars of Bombay and other parts of Maharashtra began in 1970s. It was a device to attract more customers to the bars and boost up sale of alcohol. The Govt. initially encouraged it in order to increase their revenue. The practice also turned out to be a modernized version of commercial dance. It provided livelihood to large number of women including many migrants from neighbouring states and countries. Many women from traditional courtesan, devdasi and other such commercial dancing communities had opted for dancing in bars. As the feudal patronage dried up dancing at bars, other than in marginal capacity in Bollywood cinemas, became the only option for these women. In 2005, the Maharashtra government proposed to ban dancing in the bars on the pretext of public morality. The proposal sparked wide public debate on issues of sexual morality, women’s rights and right to livelihood. The civil society got vertically divided on the issue. Even some conventional women’s organizations actively supported the ban on the issue of ‘degradation of women’s body’. Some feminist organizations along with the Bar Dancers’ union came together to mobilize support against the ban. Still the Govt. went ahead and implemented the ban on 15th August, independence day of India, rendering approximately 70,000 women jobless. Several feminist organizations, bar owners’ associations and others filed cases against the ban in the Bombay high court. Majlis legal centre filed the case on behalf of the Bar dancers’ union.
This is a dance performance by a bar dancer during that time. The ban was already implemented and the bars were under strict surveillance. Hence the performance had to take place in the afternoon when the bar was closed. It was part of our effort to document the performances and testimonies of the bar dancers.
Shot by Avijit Mukul Kishore
The song is from a popular flick 'Muqaddar ka Sikandar', directed by Prakash Mehra in 1978. But the song is still in circulation and often quoted as iconic doomed love affair. Performed by the superstars Rekha and Amitabh Bachchan it is a story of a courtesan and a local don. The tragic narrative of courtesan is a popular Bollywood theme. This song is often used in the dance bars to evoke romantic and seductive atmosphere.
In this event a bar dancer, clearly on the wrong side of the age for this hard core industry focused on youth, dances in a somewhat desperate attempt to prove herself. She tries to evoke an ambience of mysterious sexuality by using veils and covering her face. She also tries to imitate the male part in the song by using a beer bottle and a few broad gesture. The result is a queer mix of on-the-face sexuality.
(Hindi film song: Salam-e-ishq meri jaan / Jara kabul kar le / Tum humse pyar karne ka / Jara si bhul kar lo…) Salute to romance my beloved / Just accept it once / make the slight mistake of loving me…
salaame ishq meri jaan