| Actors Hayder Ali Khan and Preeti Jain at the mahurat. (PTI)
Mumbai, Jan. 21: At Filmistan Studios, a dance sequence is on. It looks like a routine shoot, except that the 30 women swaying to the music are not junior artistes, but jobless bar girls working in the film Deepa ki Tarannum.
After the Maharashtra government closed its doors on dance bars last August, a small window has opened for the unemployed dancers ' Bollywood.
Most of the women donning make-up for appearing in this B-grader are being paid around Rs 200 a day. For the same work, a junior artiste would get at least Rs 500. Also, the bar girls will get to work only a few days, not an entire month, so roping them in must have made good economic sense to the producer.
Before the state government banned dancing in beer joints, a bar girl could earn at least Rs 5,000 on a good night.
Manjit Singh Sethi, the president of the Bar Owners’ Association, says: “The company is paying these girls much less than the general industry rate for junior artistes.”
But the bar girls and their association will not utter anything against Bollywood. “We are glad that Bollywood is opening its doors to the bar dancers. Some of our girls are working as junior artistes now. The girls are ready performers and so the filmmakers find them useful,” said Varsha Kale, a spokesperson for the Bar Girls’ Association.
“We don’t want to say anything negative against this industry which has opened a door for us,” said one girl on the sets of Deepa ki Tarannum.
The film’s name could have two meanings. Deepa ki Tarannum could mean Deepa’s music. It could also be interpreted as the story of Tarannum who was a dancer in the Deepa bar.
The inspiration for the film, of course, is bar girl Tarannum, who was in the news last year for her alleged involvement in cricket betting. “Tarannum is the chief inspiration behind the film. It tells the story of a bar dancer’s brush with crime, money and misery. And as she was a bar dancer, we decided to rope in real life bar dancers for the film,” said first-time producer Ranjeet Sharma of 3’s Company. The film is slated for a May release.
Tarannum’s role is being rendered by Preeti Jain, who was arrested in September last year for allegedly hiring an Arun Gawli hitman to eliminate Madhur Bhandarkar. Preeti alleged that Bhandarkar, who directed Chandni Bar, had raped her.
Actor-producer Aamir Khan’s younger brother Hayder is playing the male lead opposite Preeti.
“I’m excited (about the role) and I find it challenging,” Preeti said. “I knew Tarannum and it will help me portray the character better.”
Preeti and Tarannum spent a few days together in the same cell while in police custody and shared meals and a blanket.
First-time director Satyam Satyarthee feels “it is this direct connection with the lives of the bar dancers that gives the film the feel of a reality show”.
“I thought it was better to take them into my story rather than do any lengthy research. In comparison with professional actors, it will be easier for them to portray their lives on screen,” he said.
After bar dancing was banned, many women shifted to other states scouting for work while some took to prostitution. Thousands of others were left jobless. Bombay High Court is expected to give a judgment on the fate of dance bars sometime this month.
Some say there are bar girls in this tinsel town who can give wannabe actors a run for their money. The women donning the war paint at Filmistan Studios believe they are opening Bollywood’s doors for many like them.