From the era when the British East India Company made Mumbai then Bombay a port and constructed a fort in the 17th century, Bombay has been a metropolis of migrants. Migrants came to the financial capital of India in search of livelihood and with them came the entertainers. Everybody from a day full of work wanted to be entertained, whether he was a mill worker, soldier, construction laborer or a merchant or even a business owner.
Back then, Mumbai had play houses for their amusement. However, as time changed, forms of entertainment changed too and then one day, Bombay was no more under the prohibition of liquor policy and was allowed to serve liquor. Promotion of liquor escalated in “permit rooms” and to our surprise even Government played a major role in backing up the sale of liquor in hotels. Competition was high amongst these permit rooms and so they introduced number of innovative ideas to be a step ahead. From orchestra to ladies singing classical songs and even serving in the bar, different concepts were introduced. Slowly in a decade when the patrons started losing interest, these theories lost its sheen. With much thinking and brain storming, finally in 1980s came the revolutionary “live dance performance” in bars where the ladies imitated the cabaret dance exactly as shown in the Hindi movies – eventually, giving birth to Dance Bars, a significant component of Bombay’s prosperous nightlife.
Unique only to Bombay, the city that never sleeps, you will find many of the young girls with little education, mostly from impoverished backgrounds came in Mumbai to dance and earn their livelihood by shaking their body to the latest Bollywood number. The male connoisseurs from affluent businessman to local babus, gangsters and even domestic as well as international tourists, if you observe never refrained from showering hundreds to thousands and sometimes even lakhs on bar girls.
That is why dance bankers like Tarannum who earned in crores was even raided by the Income Tax department. While, she and the other rich dancers had a chauffeur to escort them to the bars with security guards as well as assistants, plight of the majority of the bar girls was similar to what was shown in the 2001 national award winning movie – “Chandni Bar” and it worsened even more when Dance bar was banned in August 2005. The ban was initiated by the then Home Minister who labeled it as a measure of corrupting youth. Finally, making the curtains fall on the signature night life of the city that never sleeps.
As per the statistics, there were around 75,000 dancers in around 3,000 dance bars all over Mumbai including satellite cities of Navi Mumbai as well as Panvel who at once became jobless. Our politicians, especially the one who initiated it although belonging to the same state never rehabilitated these 75,000 dancers who then to keep their stove burning switched to pathetic jobs and even prostitution.
Now there are numerous call girls, floating sex workers and even parlor girls who are into sex trade. If you observe keenly, you will find among them, the bar girls stands superior since selling sex is not their occupation, but dancing is. They are neither lap dancers nor stripper except a charmer, the one who dances and gets the reward in the form of cash. Further, yes, you may say, that the clothes they wear are revealing but then they are not as indecent and scandalous than Bollywood’s item girls who keeps on tumbling their cleavage and stir raunchily. While the Home Minister and babus invite these item girls to perform at their own parties and public function they disown “dance bar girls” calling them an evil to society and a mechanism to corrupt the youth.
Well, the Supreme Court doesn’t seem to agree with the babus version and so finally after eight years of struggle, here comes the end of the ban. Despite, a troubled phase, the journey of dance bar now continues in every nook and corner of Mumbai, once again employing thousands of women from the marginalized society and helping them to earn their livelihood without any nuisance.
By: Deepti Verma