Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Beautiful Thing Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars

Bombay’s Dance bars have been much written, much spoken, much maligned, much debated but have continued to fascinate many.  Suketu Mehta in his book, The Maximum City had a chapter on the night life of Bombay which rightly said ‘Cities like Bombay live at night. The city unfurls itself, luxuriously, after the sun sets. ‘  If we keep the morality debate of the dance bars aside, these dance bars were a source of entertainment, source of livelihood for some and for many it was an escape from harsh reality. The dance bars were considered an integral part of Mumbai’s night life. So when a politician decided to ban these dance bars on moral grounds he managed to not just wipe out livelihood for many but also a part of Mumbai’s history.  

While the newspapers extensively covered the statistics involved of people who will lose their jobs if the ban was enforced not many attempted to find out what happened to these women, the bar owners, their families after the ban. This book manages to bridge that gap.  Brilliantly at that!

Sonia Faleiro’s book, Beautiful Thing Inside The Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars researched over a period of five years gives the reader an insightful and moving account of Leela, one of the many bar dancers.  The book will take you from the high points in Leela’s life as a bar dancer in part I to the low points that she went through after the dance bars were banned in Mumbai in part II of the book. Leela throughout comes across as an immensely positive and  fiercely independent person who even being at the bottom of the heap post the dance bar ban refuses to seek any financial assistance from anyone.  Leela’s journey from her hometown to the big bad world of Bombay, the fame and adulation as a bar dancer to her fall after the dance bar ban will move you, captivate you and keep you hooked till the end. The book is not just about Leela’s struggles but also that of her mother Apsara, her friend Priya and her ‘husband’ Purushottam Shetty.  How despite all odds they manage to find their peace in the city and in their lives.

The author manages to bring all the characters alive and through Leela’s story she manages to give the reader a peek into the lives of these women, their families, their friends. 

The book will keep the reader mesmerized and turning pages to know what ultimately happens to Leela.  The story is brilliantly narrated and turns out to be absolutely hard to put down.  

A riveting, gripping and moving read.

If you haven’t picked up the book yet, do it now!

About the Author:

Sonia Faleiro is an award-winning reporter and writer. She is the author of a book of fiction, The Girl, and a contributor to numerous anthologies including AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India. She has reported for publications including India Today and Tehelka, and is now a contributing editor with Vogue. Sonia was born in Goa, studied in Edinburgh and lives in San Francisco. She is working on her second book of non-fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Wowie! I finished it in one go, couldn't put it down, had to find out what happened, though it was quite clear what the end must be...written in sharp, salty, lyrical language, with evocative descriptions of settings, people, atmospheres! The author has managed to combine empathy and distance in handling a tragic and depressing subject with great sensitivity and humour, which makes it possible to follow the horrors of the storyline. This will make a marvellous, gripping movie, in the hands of a sensitive (female?) director!
    The text leaves me questioning societies that allow/encourage men to act out all their desires, for immediate gratification, without any regard for ethics or morality, as if women and children were items to be used and discarded at will. Where are the principles and the inner restraints?
    This is a thought-provoking, deeply felt and well-written text! I recommend it highly!