Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Courtesans of Bombay (1983)

The Merchant-Ivory team adopts a semi-documentary stance in Courtesans of Bombay. Though several scenes are dramatized, this film is essentially an unadorned look at prostitution in modern India. The film details the impoverished conditions that would prompt otherwise chaste Indian women to seek out employment as "performers"--a euphemism for the World's Oldest Profession, though they do indeed give public dancing and singing performances as a sideline. Indian actress Saeed Jeffrey heads the cast of this Ruth Prawer Jhabvala-scripted "docudrama." Courtesans of Bombay was made for British television, and original telecast in those late hours ostensibly off limits to younger viewers. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 73 mins
The Courtesans of Bombay (1983)

Yes, a little romanticizing the oldest profession although "courtesans" has broader meaning than what is implied in the comments above as well as its close link with prostitution. Defining the Courtesan provides a short glimpse into how some may positively view courtesans, as in:
Courtesans were basically mistresses. They were supported by wealthy men who provided them with anything they could ever want. Many such women lived in a more comfortable way then some of the bourgoisie.

The thing that is not discussed is that for the most part that small commune was visited by not "people of the court" but of just middle class and maybe even poor by certain standards. The doors close at night and give an air of respectability but the atmosphere was of one of a brothel as deals were made and some women left with their dates for the night.

The movie was just over an hour and it also was accompanied on the DVD about street music in India. I forgot the name and only watched a part of it, which was also just over an hour long.

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