The Courtesans of Bombay (1983)

TV Movie   |    |  Documentary, Music

The Courtesans of Bombay (1983) Poster

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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7 August 2001 | wjfickling
| Boring, but good views of India
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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