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The Courtesans of Bombay (1983)

Roughly structured over 24 hours, we visit Pavan Pool, a compound in Bombay where poor women sing, dance, and engage in prostitution. By day, they practice singing and dancing, both ... See full summary »

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Kareem Samar

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Storyline

Roughly structured over 24 hours, we visit Pavan Pool, a compound in Bombay where poor women sing, dance, and engage in prostitution. By day, they practice singing and dancing, both traditional and pop. Brothers and uncles with musical talent accompany them; the other men are idle, gambling and laying about, living off the women's earnings. At night, men come to the compound, walking past room after room of performing women, sitting down to listen to those who interest them. What they pay is up to them. After hours, prostitution begins. Our guides are the compound's rent collector, an older woman who grew up there, and a bit-part actor who spends his earnings there. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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dance | india | independent film | See All (3) »

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Documentary | Music

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January 1983 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

One of eight productions that Indian actor Saeed Jaffrey made with Merchant Ivory Productions. The films include The Guru (1969), The Delhi Way (1964), Heat and Dust (1983), The Deceivers (1988), The Sword and the Flute (1959), The Courtesans of Bombay (1983), The Creation of Woman (1961), and Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (1978). See more »

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User Reviews

 
Boring, but good views of India
7 August 2001 | by (Columbia, South Carolina, USA) – See all my reviews

This Merchant-Ivory film is probably very hard to find. It is not available on VHS or DVD, and I have rarely seen it on cable. Just by chance I happened to notice that it was on IFC on a Sunday morning, so I decided to give it a view.

For the most part, this film is excruciatingly boring, moving along at a snail's pace. It has the feel of a documentary, but it also uses recognizable actors. However, they function primarily as narrators. The film provides an extensive portrait of the brothels of the red light district of Bombay. Apparently Indian men regard "courtesans" as sources of much more than sexual gratification, but rather view them much more as Japanese view geishas, that is, as entertainers. The women are seen singing, dancing, and playing board games with the men. Sexual activity is barely hinted at, and presumably it takes place after the entertainment ends. The film is also valuable is that it gives us a good view of the squalor of contemporary Bombay, something which has probably grown much worse in the 20 or so years since this film was made. If you have a fascination with India, try to catch Louis Malle's "Phantom India."


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