Duration: 00:07:45; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 340.771; Saturation: 0.237; Lightness: 0.206; Volume: 0.206; Cuts per Minute: 0.258; Words per Minute: 6.703
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 group of three dancers 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.
Annotation 2: Reminds me of Boticelli's Primavera, three women dancing, representing the three Graces. An ironic re-presentation of the values the Graces represented is present in this sequence as well. The fantasy of gods descending to 'rape' a girl while she is playing in nature with her handmaidens is rife in the Indo-European mythical universe. This represents a different dimension of the world of public dancing, a more 'intimate' setting, even revealing a certain harem-type camaraderie between women in a world where men are not allowed entry very easily and yet are valued very much for their economic pull. The comparison with the harem is an important one here and its relationship with the intersection between desire and familial property order telling - not very long ago it was the courtesan mistress of a 'Hindu' notable who got the jewelry and the haveli and not the wife who more often than not lived like a widow within marriage.
In another register of reading lives in this setting, pimps frequently behave like eunuch harem masters thus 'queering' the pitch so as to say. But the pimp is also a Dionysiac 'reflection' of the patriarch who holds the brothel together as a violent 'joke' in the Freudian sense about power relationships that sustain patriarchal power. It is the 'perverse' reflection of patriarchy with the only real figure being the properly matriarchal madam.
Ellora Bar, Bombay
(Hindi film song: Mera chain vain sab ujra / Zalim nazar hatha le / Barbad ho rahe ji… Kajra re, Kajra re tere kale kale naina…) My peace of mind is destroyed / take off your eyes oh cruel lover/ I am getting ruined… Oh my beauty those balck eyes of yours…
The song is from the popular film Bunty aur Babli, made by Shaad Ali in 2005. It was a very popular song in the dance bar circuit not only because of its foot tapping number but it was picturised in a dance bar. Acted by the first family of Bollywood Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya. The song and the film were a hit of the year and made the concept of dance bars popular in the country. Yet none of the people involved in the film came forward to lend support to the bar dancers against the imposition of ban by the govt.
In this event three dancers dance to the song in an empty bar. There is an air of indifference and boredom in their attitude. This could be due to the absence of the customers or because of the repetitiveness of the act or maybe both. One of the dancers is very young and skinny and gives almost an air of pathos to the programme. A few spins of the skirt (ghagra), twists of the bare waist and a couple of vertical movements complete the whole repertoire. Often the dance is an act of quotation from the popular films than an independent performance. So the expertise is reduced to evoking some memories.