2005 came as a major blow to an entire industry in the sin-city of India—Mumbai. The state government banned dance bars in the city. However, in 2015, by public demand and dance-bar owners, the ban was partially removed.
The dancers, some of whom once earned six-figure sums every month and led lavish lifestyles, became domestic helpers and escorts, among other things. People in other professions that were linked to dance bars, lost a significant amount of business
It was the return of good times for not just the dancing girls at the dance-bars, but also the shaukeen customers. The patrons were mostly youth or wealthy businessmen, tourists, both domestic and international, who enjoyed an interactive session with the dancers by showering them with money or garlands of currency notes of various denominations, occasionally going up to Rs 1,000 notes for special dancers
What is a dance-bar?
Well, it’s a dance bar so definitely there will be lots of booze and latke-jhatkhe on the dance floor; on desi music. It’s just a hep version of the olden days kotha where women used to perform the mujhra. For the benefit of those who haven’t been to a dance-bar, let us describe the experience and what they’re like.
PS: If you’re a snob, kid, impatient or a heart patient, please stop reading this blog post ASAP.
Outside look: As you approach a dance bar, you know it’s one because loud music, fancy door, chamkile neon signs of a typical name will tell you so. Outside the gate, you see a couple of valets and at least one bouncer disguised as a doorman.
Name: The names of dance-bars are unique. Sometimes it’s based on a female name—Deepa, Guddi, Sanam, Chandni etc. and sometimes on noble elements—Topaz, Gold etc. or sometimes on a spiritual side—Nityanand, Lovers, Golden Heart etc.
Doorkeeper: Usually one with a groomed mustache and a fancy dress, he’ll judge you at first glance by looking from top to bottom. If he’s convinced, he’ll let you in with a smile.
Space: The bar could be as small as 500 sq ft or as large as 10,000 sq ft. The larger ones have various offerings at various price points. You could sit in a large room, where you are one of perhaps 100 guests, or you could choose to pay a premium for the exclusivity of a smaller room, where you are one of just a dozen or so guests.
Ambiance: The first thing that hits you is the quality of the music. Dance bars make major investments in audio equipment. After all, the audio is the perfect foil to the dancers. It’s dark and you see some girls dancing on the dance floor and some stoned aashiq throwing currency notes on her; on his favorite song. You can surely request the DJ to play your favorite song.
DJ: The DJ is a full-on filmy dude with his huge collection of Bollywood songs to offer. He can charge anything from INR 50-500 depending upon the type of dance-bar and your mood. I remember my old days when the DJ used to play my favorite song as I put my feet inside the dance-bar.
After a few drinks, I would have a list of my favorite song. This one was my favorite after being total-talli.
Captain: He’s like the head steward when it comes to the bar, if you know him, you get preferred seating, discounts in the bill, less hassle of tips etc, however, do remember you need to tip him the heavily.
Waiters: There are a couple of waiters in each dance-bar, their job is to serve drinks to customers, collect notes which fall of the floor, get cigarettes for customers, offer them lighters, ashtrays etc.
Bar dancers: The main attraction of a dance-bar. They come in all shapes and sizes, the better the bar you go to, the higher the density of good or great looking girls. They’ll dance to your tune if you pay them money. And if you pay them good money, you can also have sex with them in a nearby hotel or take them outside to a resort.
Usually, the money is given in some typical style, like throwing on them. My style was to make a ring of the currency notes and put on their fingers.
Mona was one such bar dancer who was quite popular in the new millennium. She was a dreamgirl and we used to dance together. I had long hairs like her, and we both used to conquer the dance floor together. No one used to dance on the dance floor when we danced.
Cash: There is no limit to the amount of money you can blow in a dance bar, even worse if that place accepts credit cards. I have seen millions being blown up. I myself have spent a considerable amount on different dance bars during 1995-2005.
On one occasion I spent INR 100,000 on a particular song. Mona and I were rocking the dance floor, and I asked my friend to shower currency notes on us.
Tip: There’s a whole hierarchy structure of tipping in a dance bar. Everyone from the dancer to the waiter, to the captain, to the waiter, to the DJ, to the doorkeeper and to the bouncer have to be tipped. There’s no rule as such but their dirty greedy eyes won’t let you leave without tipping them and tipping them is a guarantee of good—or VIP—treatment next time.
Although I don’t promote the dance-bar culture or visit them nowadays, it had served an alternate entertainment and relaxation system for me in the late hours of the night. I have been to discotheques and nightclubs, believe me, the story is the same; in different packaging.
I had a group of wealthy friends who first introduced me to this world. I was in school at that time. First, it was just a novelty, but slowly I got hooked to the culture. After I started my professional life, I started visiting regularly.
There was a time when I used to go there almost every day. I used to do dance-bar hopping with my official kaali-peeli taxi driver.
Drum Beats, White House, Indiana, Nityanand, Deepa, Guddi, Moods, Sanam, Saaqi, Sai Plaza, WWF, Rasila, Golden Rock, Topaz, Cabana, Red Horse, Millenium Space Garden, Chandni Bar, Night Lovers were some of my favorite joints.
I have spent many nights here.
All said and done, I enjoyed the dance-bar culture of Mumbai. I met hundreds of different types of p[eople here. Iahv e seen and guns and roses inside a dance-bar. I have seen the dirty and dangerous reality of this world.
It’s been a long time since the dance-bar culture was banned but those who were a regular bhakt still live in the past glory.
The business of a dance-bar is a dirty one. It’s a big bad business. It’s a form of prostitution and vulgar display of power in disguise of entertainment. Although I was one of those who threw money at women but eventually I realized that it’s a thing to be regretful.
It’s a disgrace on women and money.
It’s 2018 now. Some of the dance-bars are back in action but not in the same capacity as before. There’s no fun as the timings are also restricted. The times have changed. I recall the good-old-days as I pass through any dance-bar I used to visit.
There wasn’t one in the city that I didn’t visit!