Twelve years ago, director Madhur Bhandarkar gave audiences an in-depth glimpse into the life of bar dancers with his film, Chandni Bar (CB; 2001). The critically-acclaimed film went on to bag four National Awards, including the top honour for lead actor, Tabu.
On Tuesday (July 16), when news of the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the ban on dance bars in Maharashtra emerged, Bhandarkar found himself taken back to the time when he was shooting the film. “My research had taken me to a lot of dance bars,” says Bhandarkar, who had visited over 60 such venues before working on CB. “I’m happy these bars can re-open now; many people will be able to get back to earning their livelihood.”
Going on about the challenges bar dancers face every day, he adds, “A lot of them are mothers and have to manage everything — kids, school fees, tuition money, their homes etc.
They struggle on a day-to-day basis.
My film’s research exposed me to a dark yet real side of human desire. As a filmmaker, it was a soul-stirring and life-changing experience for me.”
However, Bollywood’s fascination with dance bars is not limited to just Bhandarkar’s brand of cinema. He is one of the many filmmakers, who have woven stories around these bars to explore Mumbai’s underbelly.
Looking back at when the ban was implemented in 2005, Sanjay Gupta, who made Shootout At Lokhandwala (2007) says, “I don’t know whether it was for the good or not, but overnight, the livelihood of many people was abruptly stopped. They could have been given some time. It was extremely cruel. This kind of moral policing is not done, especially when a lot worse is happening in the city right now.”
Films featuring dance bar scenes
Sarfarosh (1999): John Matthew Matthan had two dance bar sequences and also showed a dancer as a covert police informer. To research the same, he also visited a few bars while working on the film.
Chameli (2004): Kareena Kapoor, who plays a prostitute in the film, visits dance bars often. The song ‘Sajna ve sajna’ was shot in a bar. “It’s great that the ban has been lifted since it counters their employment... I’ve never been judgmental and have even played a sex worker in Chameli and Talaash (2012) so I respect someone’s choice of work,” says Kareena.
Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007): Aarti Chhabria plays a bar girl in Apoorva Lakhia’s film. An elaborate song was also shot in a dance bar-like set-up.
Shor In the City (2011): Director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK shot a sequence at a dance bar. Apparently, they roped in real-life bar dancers for one of the scenes.