Why is the use of your body as a site of labour a question of depraved morals? That's the question this documentary, called The Fight to Dance seeks to examine.
It has been ten years since Mumbai banned dance bars, where women perform dances for customers in return for cash. Since then the courts have frequently intervened, declaring the ban unconstitutional, and yet Maharashtra's government has refused to issue licences in an effort to protect the "culture of Maharashtra."
This week, the Supreme Court suspended the legal provision banning the bars and directed the government to grant licences, yet the political leadership has remained adamant about its opposition to the bars. In 2006, The Fight to Dance, produced by the non-governmental public broadcasting trust PSBT attempted to take an all-round view of the bar dancers situation.
Directed by Anish Patel, the film's main characters – Rekha David Chauhan, Geetha Shetty and Vaishali Haldankar – tell us their view of the work and the dignity they find in it. Juxtaposing this with "item song" clips, the films brings up the logical question of what is moral and what is not.
Towards the end of the film one of the film's characters goes to people on the streets asking for opinions on the ban. What surfaces is not just a need to stick to "morals" but also a grudging unease and anger at the money these women were making through dancing.
The entire 28-minute documentary can be watched below: