When the state government proposed a ban on all dance bars in mid-2005, journalist and author Sonia Faleiro was deeply disappointed by the response of the media.
There was a rush of reportage on the political situation and the consequences of the ban on the 75,000 bar dancers in the city, but no one, she says, could answer the most pertinent question — who really is a bar dancer?
Now, five years after dance bars were finally forced to shut down, Faleiro has answered that question in her new book, Beautiful Thing — Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars.
The non-fiction book was released at Crossword, Kemps Corner, on Wednesday evening.
“To me, the dancers and their lives were most important, and I wanted to talk about that one exemplary story which would reveal the immorality of the ban,” said Faleiro, who
spent five years doing research in Mumbai’s bars and slums to tell the story of 19-year-old Leela, a bar dancer from Mira Road.
“The life of a bar dancer is set in stone from a very young age, because they either inherit the profession from their parents or, as in Leela’s case, have been forced into it after a childhood of sustained abuse at home,” said Faleiro, who spent months observing the dancer’s world up till the point when the ban was enforced and Leela took off for the dance bars in Dubai.
Faleiro, who moved to San Francisco last year, says that the city’s dance bars have now either shut shop or exist in their former avatars, such as orchestra bars or just alcohol dens with female waiters.
“There are still some underground dance bars in the suburbs, but the ban has killed the spirit of their community.”