Monday December 18, 2017
Home Opinion Bar dancers s...

Bar dancers staring at extinction

0
203
www.jihmaharashtra.org

By Arka Mondal

It might be Rosy, Pinky or Susie. It does not matter. No one gives the real name in the first encounter. You ask her for her number. If she gives a number, it is false. If she mentions the place where she lives, usually it is a lie.

One comes across a neon-lit hoarding along an array of shops, a small door, usually wooden and carved, with some innocuous or sometimes suggestive title board declaring the name of a restaurant as a decoy. Tune your ears, and you can hear the soft thump of Hindi film music in the distance. Taxis or private cabs halt at the gate, men get off and hurriedly enter through the narrow door lest being seen by someone familiar.

A man attired in a dinner jacket and a bow tie smiles and signals you into a large dimly lit room. Lights of various hues flood the hall with their rhythmical motions, creating an ambiance where one needs time to adapt to the queer luminosity. Cigarette smoke adds to the mystery.

There is an elevated round empty stage strategically placed in a way so that it can be viewed from all angles of the hall. The decibel increases and with no formal announcements, the shrill sound of famous Bollywood dance number begins and ushers in young girls clad in glittering outfits known as ‘bar dancers’.

The dancing girls and women are clad in traditional ghagra cholis and navel-revealing skirts, low-cut blouses and colorful and glittering accessories. The show begins as they ravishingly lure customers to shower cash on them. The dance moves are pathetic as very few of them know how to shake a leg, for they just shake their hips and bodies to the thumping sound of the music and pretend to ‘dance’.

The more they try to make it better, the more pathetic it gets. After all, they won’t get an award for their moves but showing flesh and enticing the customers would give them a livelihood. Their dance moves have no meanings or rhythm, rather they are gestures that provoke man’s fantasy and the latter throws in currency notes till his carnal desires go a notch up.

They wear a heavy make-up, but it is debatable whether their make-up is to lure customers or to conceal an untold tragic story. They are treated as if born to flatter rich patrons and bow to their whims for livelihood.

The beginning and the end

India is a culture enriched nation which has seen the evolution of many dance forms. India has been a male-dominated, patriarchal society, right from the times when the kings and queens ruled the country; a large number of female folks would entertain the males with their dance moves.

However, in modern times classical performers are counted among artistic aristocrats but

www.blogs.reuters.com
www.blogs.reuters.com

things were quite different in yester years. Being married and performing in public or in front of men were entirely mutually exclusive social roles for women. India’s professional female performers could not marry as they were not considered ‘respectable’. Despite many kings and courtesans admiring and adulating the patronage-based traditional performers for their art, skill and performance, their communities were of low social status.

The early 19th century witnessed the dancing girls of India losing their patronage. This can be attributed to the fact that Victorian morality and purity campaigns in British India dealt a virulent blow on them. Branded as prostitutes, they lost the meager dignity they possessed.

Consequently, the British and Indian patrons started boycotting their performances. At the same time, courts were being diluted by British rule, and the courtesans, dancing girls and other court performers too gradually lost patronage. Courtesans and the dancing girls started to enter into new forms of livelihood, particularly, the cinema.

However, before long they were hugely stigmatized and substituted by the crème de la crème, ‘respectable’ women belonging to high society who had the pedigree of the culture. But, classical performing arts were being re-invented as bourgeois, concert arts, away from courtly patronage. The traditional, hereditary performers known as the dancing girls were, hwoever, blatantly excluded from this new world.

With new independent India, princely courts were abolished, and large numbers of courtesans and female court performers abruptly lost their livelihood. Subdued with stigma and inability to enter into the respectable world of classical arts, these women had no option but to indulge in increasingly illicit, sexualized forms of performing arts that existed beneath the radar of the re-constructed official ‘Indian Culture’. Many had to take up prostitution, including in some cases entire communities.

Strange but true, bar-girls in India to some extent emerge out from the same non-marrying lineages of the dancing girls and courtesans. Despite courtesans being portrayed as a romanticized figment of India’s feudal past, they are not considered to be a part of India’s present. In fact, purity campaigns and social cleansing reforms in the new Indian society created an entire realm of illicit performing arts and vast economies of sex work instead of saving the girls from indignity and exploitation or saving the nation from the social evil of prostitution.

Bollywood and Bars

The romance between Bollywood movies and dance bars are very much evident in plenty of movies. While dance bars are usually the favorite haunts of villains in cinema, in real life dance bars are places haunted by Bollywood songs.

The relationship between the two is a curiously tangled one. ‘Babli Badmaash Hai‘  an item number from Shootout At Wadala portrays bar girl Priyanka Chopra as ‘Babli Badmaash’ who dons skimpy clothes while strategically positioned finger guns aim to up her oomph factor.

The success of Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Chandni Bar’ invigorated Bollywood’s interest in dance bars. ‘Man Saat Samandar Dol Gaya‘ from the film which is set in a dance bar manages to be both peppy and soulful. Preity Zinta singing ‘Deewani Deewani‘ in ‘Chori Chori Chupke Chupke’ not only set the silver screen on fire, but the film portrayed a bar girl’s yearnings to be like other normal respectable woman.

The movie ‘Maximum’ boasted of superstars like Naseeruddin Shah, Sonu Sood, Neha Dhupia, and Vinay Pathak in pivotal roles, but it was Hazel who stole the thunder with the bar based item number ‘Aa Ante Amalapuram‘. There are numerous other films where dancing bars have been actively used for the symbolic representation of hamlets or the places where heroes take refuge after being emotionally beaten.

Whatever might be the case it’s the bar girls that come to the rescue. In the modern era, it is the bar but in earlier days we saw Shah Rukh Khan going to the Madhuri Dixit to get solace.

Of late there have been police drives across cities in India to eradicate the bar dancing culture. However, it must be realized that they too are a product of the so-called ‘respectable’ society we live in. Verily, we are not in a position to judge whether it is ‘majboori’ or a way of making fast bucks that have led the girls to take up such a profession.

Next Story

Sexual abuse is everywhere in the world, says Radhika

The actress believes that one should know how to say 'No'

0
121
Radhika Apte's view on sexual abuse
Bollywood actress Radhika Apte says that sexual abuse is not only in B-town but in every part of the society. Wikimedia Commons

– Durga Chakravarty

Actress Radhika Apte feels that sexual abuse does not only exist in the world of showbiz but takes place in every alternate household.

“Sexual abuse takes place in every alternate household. So it’s not a part of just the film industry. You have so much child abuse, domestic abuse everywhere in the world, including India,” Radhika told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

She says it exists in “every field and household at some level or the other and that it all needs to be eliminated”.

Sexual abuse does not target just women, stresses Radhika.

“It’s also towards men, little boys and everybody. People exploit their power at every level.”

Radhika asserted that this needed to change.

“I think it starts from us putting our foot down and saying ‘no’ to things, however big your ambition is. You need to be brave about it, believe in your own talent, say ‘no’ and start speaking up because if one person speaks up, nobody is going to listen to him or her. But if 10 people do, then others would (listen to them),” she said.

The “Phobia” actress, who will be seen mentoring budding filmmakers in MTV’s upcoming digital show “Fame-istan”, says there has to be a more organised platform for people to work.

“There has to be more professional platforms as well as rules in place which is slowly happening.”

Sexual abuse has been a topic of debate in Bollywood and Hollywood. Prominent names from the entertainment industry are discussing how men in power take advantage of women in exchange for taking forward their dreams.

The sexual harassment saga started when a media house published a story in October revealing numerous accusations of sexual abuse against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

But why are no names taken in the case of casting couch in Bollywood?

“Because of fear, because people who have great ambitions are afraid. They think of what will happen to them if they take somebody’s name who has so much power. That’s what I am saying. Everybody has to speak up,” she added.

Radhika ventured into Bollywood in 2005 with “Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi!” and since then has explored genres like thriller, drama and adult comedy with films like “Rakht Charitra”, “Shor in the City”, “Badlapur”, “Parched” and “Hunterrr”.

Was it a conscious decision to act less in commercial entertainers?

Radhika said: “Nothing like that. You have to choose from the work that you have. You can’t say that ‘I want that’ if that’s not been offered to you. So, whatever is offered to you, you choose from that. You make your choice whatever you feel is going to be more challenging or something that inspires you or excites you.”

She says she makes her choices in the “spur of the moment” with whatever she feels intuitively. “I am not a very big planner.” (IANS)

Next Story

Sridevi’s daughter Jhanvi Kapoor all set to debut in Bollywood

0
70
Daughter of Sridevi
Jhanvi Kapoor is the daughter of veteran actress Sridevi and Director Boney Kapoor

Radhika Bhirani

“Let me tell you, I feel like a newcomer,” Sridevi asserts, breaking into a giggle almost reminiscent from her ahead-of-times 1991 film “Lamhe”, even as she prepares to let her elder daughter loose in the Bollywood world. She says nothing comes easy in life, and she is sure her Jhanvi is ready to face the challenges.

Jhanvi, who is frequently followed by the paparazzi in Mumbai, will reportedly foray into films with a remake of Marathi hit “Sairat”.

Steering clear of divulging details about Jhanvi’s debut, Sridevi told IANS over phone from Mumbai: “She has chosen this path and profession, and I have been in this industry for long. So I am mentally more prepared than her. She has been watching me, and knows what she is getting into.”

“Nothing is going to be a cakewalk in any profession. So you have to work hard, and there will be challenges. I’m sure she is ready for it.”

The charismatic actress made a powerful comeback of sorts with “Mom” earlier this year — five years after her delightful plain Jane avatar in “English Vinglish”.

As “Mom”, which will soon release in Russia, nears its world television premiere on &Pictures on Saturday, Sridevi — who also has daughter Khushi — spoke about her worries as a parent.

“I’m of course worried when they go out, but luckily, they know their limits and they are very responsible children. When you have responsible children, half the battle is over. So, you don’t have to worry. But you are concerned. The concern will never go, and you’ll always be conscious about them,” said the 54-year-old.

Sridevi has been a big screen delight since her Bollywood debut with the 1978 movie “Solva Sawan”. But acting is something she started when she was all of four. In Hindi cinema, “Himmatwala”, “Mr. India”, “Chandni”, “Sadma”, “Nagina”, “ChaalBaaz”, “Lamhe” and “Khuda Gawah” are some of the films which established her footing as a performer who took woman power seriously.

The trait has continued with “English Vinglish” and “Mom” — in both of which she played the strong role of a mother effectively.

While most women actors in India complain about lack of roles for older actresses, Sridevi retorted: “Let me tell you, I feel that my career has just started, haan (giggles). I feel like a newcomer, and I feel that my career is going to start now. It’s not finished, it’s going to start now.”

She is also unlike many others — even much younger actors — who are putting their life story into books.

“Arre, maine kuch achieve nai kiya (I haven’t achieved anything), where I write about my story or my book. There’s a long way to go. There’s nothing, nothing like this,” she said, sounding almost ignorant, but humble, of the fan followers of her emotive power and fluid dancing skills.

At this point, she is just enthused to deliver more.

“There are definitely two films that are coming up, but it’s too early to talk about it. (There’s) Nothing I can say right now,” she said.

Over the years, Sridevi has not just embraced the changes in Indian cinema, but also opened up herself to an environment where celebrities — as opposed to her own shy self in her earlier days — need to go all out to promote her projects.

“Look, with the time, I have definitely opened up. I am definitely introvert and shy, and have never been rude to… I’ve definitely been shy, but thanks to my children, I have opened up. Somewhere, you have to change with the time.

“You can’t be like what you were… It doesn’t work that way. And do that (change) within your comfort, not by going out of it.”

That besides, she says a positive frame of mind, helps her look forward to what life has to offer.

“Be in a positive frame of mind, be happy, fulfil your goals, work hard… It never goes waste.”

Next Story

‘Don’t mask ‘masala’ as history’ says Mewar Royal on Padmavati

The upcoming movie Padmavati is surrounded by controversies. This time its Mewar Royal commenting on the movie's theme.

0
70
Padmavati movie shot
Padmavati movie shot. Instagram

New Delhi: The drama and debates over Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s Padmavati — the story of Rajput queen Padmini — has upset a direct descendant of the Mewar royal family. Baijiraj Trivikrama Kumari Jamwal, daughter of Mahendra Singh Mewar — the 76th Maharana of the Mewar dynasty and a former Lok Sabha member — is otherwise quietly going about her life as an English teacher at a school here.

But amidst heightened protests against Padmavati, which she has tagged an “inauthentic venture”, Trivikrama says it’s unfair that her family’s name is being dragged into generating “free publicity” for the film. “The sad part is that the film is getting free pre-release publicity and that a commercial and inauthentic venture like this is using my family’s name.

“It’s not just a question of incorrect portrayal, which is established from the trailer and the ‘Ghoomar’ song itself, but also the fact that you’re using my family’s name for the commercial pre-release publicity of your film, free of cost… And the national media is talking about it. That’s my problem,” Trivikrama told IANS in an interview here.

Bhansali’s Padmavati has been mired in controversy. The conjecture that it distorts history has led organizations like Shri Rajput Karni Sena and Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha to go up in arms against the release of the movie, while BJP leaders have been making statements and appeal to stop its release on December 1.

“That’s why I am so upset. People have political and commercial agendas. There’s nothing wrong with commercial enterprises and politics, but misusing and exploiting somebody’s pride, honor and dignity for such shallow purposes, that is where I step in and say, ‘Sorry, not acceptable’,” Trivikrama said.

The makers have maintained there is no dream romance sequence shown between the Rajput queen and invader Alauddin Khilji, as had been alleged by some. But a few political leaders and Jaipur’s former princess Diya Kumari have suggested Bhansali must show the movie to some historians prior to its release.

Trivikrama questions: “It depends on who the historians are because history is also colored. It has to be a well-represented congress of historians. He (Bhansali) should approach the most authentic voice, which is the family itself. That he hasn’t done.”

Her mother, Maharani Nirupama Kumari commented: “He has already made the film. What’s the point of showing it to historians now?”

To many, the story of Rani Padmini remains a mystery. What is the story Trivikrama has grown up with?

“If you go as a tourist to Chittorgarh Fort, you’re taken to Padmini’s Palace, and you’re shown a couple of mirrors. The tourist guide tells you about it and he points out a little pond and says she stood over there and Alauddin Khilji saw her face.

“But that is just packaging culture to sell to ignorant tourists,” she said.

Trivikrama said Rani Padmini finds a mention in “Veer Vinod”, a record book on Mewar’s history.

“It’s a historical record that shows yes she was there, she was the wife of Rawal Ratan Singh and she was only an excuse that Alauddin Khilji used to invade Chittor. The real reason was a very calculated military decision to invade,” she said.

“Padmini was not in the picture at all, except now what has been made into a tale, which is a figment of the imagination, I believe. It’s not there in history,” she said, pointing out that their family is one of the oldest families with an unbroken succession.

She estimated that there were over 30 generations between now and the first Jauhar — self-immolation led by Rani Padmini in 1303 during the siege of Chittor

What about the epic Awadhi poem Padmavati?

“Apparently, it’s a self-confessed piece of fiction. I’m ready to accept that you (Bhansali) have made a piece of fiction. But then don’t drag my family’s name into it and claim you’re the custodian of my family’s history,” asserted Trivikrama, a Ph.D. in English literature.

She said filmmakers are doing a lot in the garb of artistic license.

“Sure you have that, but then along with the artistic license, there should be artistic integrity and sensitivity,” she said, pointing out how the representation of Rani Padmini is “wrong” even in terms of dance and clothes.

“Instead of making it clear that it is Bollywood masala, you’re saying it is history and misleading and ‘miseducating’ the future generations.”(IANS)