Duration: 00:05:48; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 297.707; Saturation: 0.412; Lightness: 0.150; Volume: 0.252; Cuts per Minute: 10.171; Words per Minute: 7.068
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. But with the enthusiasm that this dancer came and put on their costumes and make up can only be compared to the agony of any artist who had been denied access to work.
During the lengthy and prolonged arguments in the court, lawyers read long extracts from precedents and decided cases. In one such argument, on the point of obscenity, the lawyer for the bar owners began to read from a judgment on obscenity law. It involved a cabaret dancer from the seventies, she was acquitted of all charges.
As he read, in his black robe and all his regalia in Court room no 54, the low murmur of the court in its daily business slowly silenced itself and a hush fell:
" The artist was Accused No. 1, Miss. Joyce, also called Temiko. We are concerned with her cabaret show in this case. The prosecution alleged that Temiko, accused No. 1 was dressed in a transparent gown. She was smoking when she entered the hall accompanied by cabaret music. Spotlight was on her. All other lights were off; she danced for a few minutes. Then she started moving around the table shouting aloud. She nudged various customers at their backside and blew smoke on their heads. She approached the customers in the dance hall of Blue Nile to remove her clothes. Some customers obliged till she was left only with transparent panties. She then lay fatly on the floor making erotic moves with her legs and body suggesting sexual acts. She made strokes against the floor and uttered cries, which made people get up from their chair and look at her. Subsequently she put on a transparent gown, which left her left breasts open to view. She shouted to the customers to suck them. She further put her nipples in the mouth of some customers, she was also brushing people with her breasts. The cabaret lasted till 12-30 AM. It is said that at the end of the show, SG SI Desai was annoyed at the show and approached Inspector Daxinar. "It is true that I did a cabaret at the Blue Nile between the night of 19-12-1970 and early hours of 20-12-1970. It is not true that I entered the hall in a transparent gown, which was upto, my hip. It is true that I entered the hall smoking. It is not true that I approached the customers and requested them to remove my clothes one after another. It is not true that except for my panties, I was completely naked. It is not true that I lay on the floor and that I was moving my legs, hands and my body in a typical way or in an erotic manner. I say that in a cabaret such as mine, I had to dance to the rhythm of the music. It is not true that I lay on the ground and was striking it with my body. It is true that people did gather around the floor. "It is not true that I was striking my breasts in a violent manner. It is not true that I inserted my nipples in the mouth of the customers or I pushed them with breasts or hips, it is true that when came to the floor, I removed my top gown. It is not true that I opened my brassiere. It is not true that is subsequently out on another gown which was open in front and which showed my breasts. It is not true that I blew smoke on customers and played with their hair. It is not true that some persons in the audience were annoyed. It is not true that nobody called at the show. They was great applause". She also filed a written statement reiterating what she had said in her statement under sec. 342: "I was giving the performance of a western dance known as 'Solo' which is a well known performance and during the same dance, I had to bend as low as to be near the ground and rise up again to the tune. I deny having rolled on the ground naked and taken out my brassiere at that time. It is clear that the witnesses have not understood the same as is evident from the statement of Khanna. I say that my performance is very much liked and that there are many who repeatedly come for the show. On the day in question also, my performance was very much appreciated by the audience who called me throughout the show by way of appreciation. There was none in the audience who left in the middle and everyone including the ladies sat through out the show. I have been giving these performances since last three years at various places and am appreciated."
I rushed back from the court that day to find this judgment- and sure enough after searching through several files, buried in the mountains of case laws and precedents, at last was the frankly, unapologetically sexual body of the dancing woman. She was there all along! The case finds no mention in the final judgment. My researches on Joyce Zee and Miss Temiko have turned up nothing. She is merely a trace, a slippage, perhaps a spectre? But to me she is important because she represents a legally constituted subject, (she is after all facing criminal charges in an obscenity trial) who inserting herself ( her dancing self , not her violated self alone) into the law, subverts it. She is within the law-in it's attic perhaps, or buried in the volumes of papers in it's subterranean cellars , in the labyrinth city's underbelly and dark side. Yet law cannot avert its gaze, and she disrupts and interrupts the law's easy fable and narrative closures.
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…
The song is from a popular flick 'Muqaddar ka Sikandar', directed by Prakash Mehra in 1978 In the film it is sang as a mujra by a courtesan (played by Rekha) to a much misunderstood orphan turned toughie (played by Amitabh Bachchan). It is a doomed love story of two marginalized people. 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 the context of the ban this song and the performance become ironic.
The dancer is Saloni enters with slight discomfort, maybe due to the presence of the camera. But as the dancing gets momentum she gets transformed. A migrant from Muradabad, near Delhi. She is a popular dancer in her set up. She dances with abandance, completely oblivious of the surrounding, in this case the camera.. Her dizzying spin, her red ghagra, overtly done make up, light body and meditative eyes make her dance a piece of abstraction. Watching her obvious pleasure in dancing the issues around the act of bar dancing seem so ridiculous.
salaame ishq meri jaan