Mumbai, July 28: No shower of fluttering notes — a wall will soon come up between the deewanas and their favourite dancing girls.
In a move bar owners say is the final nail in their coffin, the Maharashtra government has decided to enforce stricter laws to clean up Mumbai’s nocturnal life. A new circular says a three-foot fence will have to be erected around the stage where the bar girls perform, mostly to “hot” numbers from Hindi movies.
The move — which has come at a time Maharashtra is headed for elections — follows the earlier ban on those below 21 from “pubbing” and the 1 am deadline for bars, which number more than 1,500.
“It is ridiculous,” said Manjit Singh Sethi, the president of the Fight for Right of Bar Owners’ Association, an umbrella body of bar owners.
Asked what his plan of action will be in the wake of the new rules, he said: “What else, it is time to close down.”
The government waves away the complaints of Sethi and his fraternity.
Both the home minister and the police commissioner say they have enough reason to enforce the new code for “unrepentant and unruly” bars.
The new rules say bar girls can no longer sway in backless lehenga cholis or anything that remotely resembles a “revealing dress”. The stricture comes with another that forbids patrons from showering wads of notes on the dancers, a ritual that is a fixture in several films, including Chandni Bar in which Tabu played the role of a dancing girl.
The “ashiqs” and “deewanas”, as regular bar-goers who fall in love with their favourite dancers are called, will now have to obediently head towards the counter and hand over the tips to the manager.
But the cruellest blow to the patrons is, perhaps, the order that they keep away from the girls. “Maintain a distance of five feet between the dancers on the stage and the patrons on the sofas and chairs to avoid physical contact between them,” the circular directs the bar owners.
“The police are right when they say that many of these bars have become pick-up points for women,” says Kripashanker Singh, the minister of state for home. The move, he explains, has no ulterior objective but to instil some discipline in the business and cleanse it.
On February 25, the Democratic Front government banned all “children” below 21 from going to pubs and beer bars. Then it prohibited bars and liquor shops from naming their establishments after gods and goddesses. The directives were followed by raids on bars in which more than 1,600 bar girls, staff and clients were arrested from close to 70 joints across the city and its suburbs.
“It appears that the government is bent upon closing the dance bar industry and depriving the common man of his right to entertainment in a rightful manner,” the bar owners’ association says.
Sethi says the new conditions are “totally unreasonable, unwarranted and drafted with a mischievous mind and ulterior motive (that) provides every chance to the police department to extort money under one pretext or the other”.