Duration: 00:02:12; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 323.765; Saturation: 0.124; Lightness: 0.148; Volume: 0.193; Cuts per Minute: 0.452; Words per Minute: 13.118
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. In this event a bar dancer dances to popular Hindi film song in a pale imitation of mujra. Mujra is a song performance form practiced by the courtesans for their feudal patrons. Many exponents of the courtesans have joined the dance bars for survival. Dance bar is an industrial and democratic version of the mujra, where the performances and patronage are much more generic and faceless.
An attempt at retrieving a History 1:
"Retrieving histories of the sexual subaltern are essential to countering the dogmas of nationhood, morality and tradition that frame public discussions on sexuality as a binary between a tradition and modernity." Ratna Kapoor
The Tawaif and the Bar Girl.
"In pre-colonial India, courtesans cultivated a wide variety of artistic skills, including magic, music, dance, poetry, humour and chemistry often courtesans have hovered in the crevices of space, time, and practice--between gifts and money, courts and cities, feminine allure and masculine power, as substitutes for wives but keepers of culture. Reproductively irrelevant, they have tended to be ambiguous figures, thriving on social distinction while operating outside official familial relations. They have symbolized desirability and sophistication yet often been reviled as decadent".
The Bombay Bar dancer is a hybrid – a "mixture of two social languages within the limits of a single utterance, an encounter, within the arena of an utterance, between two different linguistic consiousnesses, separated from one another by an epoch, by social differentiation, or by some other factor" She is an embodiment of the traditional dancer/courtesan (mujrewali, tawaif, kothewali, the colonial 'nautch girl') who performed for favours and patronage; and simultaneously the rendering into flesh of filmic fantasy.
<For a note on the Politics of Clothing, and the construction of 'Tradition', especially in the Court Room, see Annotations by Shrimoyee Nandini
Her moves and costumes are a simulation of dances in popular Bollywood films. Male customers watch her dance (usually on a raised platform) and tip her or ritually shower or garland her with currency notes – a gesture that evokes the mode of rewarding mujra dancers and tawaifs during performances.
Many bar girls come from towns and cities in North India renowned for their tawaif traditions. Outside of the gaze of cameras, and the need to stress their 'victimhood', their descriptions of their relationships with their patrons/clients/ admirers/ chaahne waalas carry traces of deeply coded language of ritualised and dramatic romance and infatuation, gift giving, seduction, withdrawal and coquettery, which seem to both defy and mimic norms of matrimonial and heterosexual love in the same breath.
In his fictionalised (?) account of the life of a upmarket bargirl Monalisa, Suketu Mehta, captures many of the popular myths and dramatic mystique surrounding the bar girl. Monalisa draws the author into her world, telling him of her failed tryst with the son of a Bombay don and explaining the tattoo of slash marks on her wrist.
See also Description by Shrimoyee Nandini, An attempt at retrieving a History 2: The Bar Girl and the 'Traditional sex Worker'
Live music of popular Hindi film song. Dil Cheez hi kya / Aap mera jaan bhi lijiye…
What is there in the heart / You can have my life too….
This song is part of an extremely reputed film Umrao Jaan. Based on a biographical novel on the life of a courtesan in the feudal Lucknow by Rushwa, it is directed by Muzzaffar Ali in 1981. Whether the character of the protagonist Umrao is fictional or not is highly debated over the century. Umrao was abducted from a poverty stricken rural area and sold to the courtesan-dom in big city Lucknow. Eventually she became a very accomplished and renowned artist. But she remained lonely and forever in search of the true love and a home. In the film this song (written by Gulzar) is sung by her in a mujra in front of her lover-patron Nawab. Through more than three decades the song has achieved an iconic status and has become a symbol of longing and desires.
In this event the dancer, Geeta, tries to evoke the ambience of Umrao. The jaded symbolism and tired routine of a dance bar create more of a sweat shop than a site of romance.
dil cheez kya hai