In the film Aashiqui 2, Shraddha Kapoor plays the female lead – the character of a singer who finds in Aditya Kapoor a mentor. This facet loosely borrows from the film’s screenwriter’s own life. Shagufta Rafique says she owes part of her success to a benefactor, who supported her financially till her career as a film writer took off. The 50-year-old, however, attributes a large part of it to her stint as a bar dancer in her younger days.
“I have come a long way but so many women in this country are where I once was, in a state of depravity,” says the screenwriter of films such as Woh Lamhe and Raaz – The Mystery Continues.
She believes the government should go with the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding dance bars. “It is sad that people shame those who choose to become bar dancers when it is not only a means of self-empowerment but allows women an option of staying away from prostitution.” she told The Indian Express.
Rafique calls her stint as a bar dancer a “stepping stone” but believes that no one but the individual — “and least of all the state that has done nothing to alleviate the condition of women”— has the right to deny her this opportunity of employment should she decide to take it up as a career.
“Acting is considered respectable today. But who gets to decide what is respectable and what isn’t? If today, we give dancing in bars the same status as acting, call it art, won’t people’s perception regarding the ban change too?” says Rafique.
Calling the ban on dance bars an act of patriarchy and inequality, the screenwriter points out that the upper class has assumed the responsibility of deciding what is morally correct in the country. “…do these people really have the right to decide what thousands of women should do to earn their bread and butter in desperate times of need?”
Rafique had seen good times in her early years. The daughter of yesteryear actress, Anwari Begum, who had married a businessman, she recalls those days fondly. The family resided in upmarket Bandra, owned cars and lived well.But that didn’t last long. After her father’s death, the family hit upon bad times. Rafique was 12 then. Her mother, who briefly starred in films, wanted her daughters to have a successful run and trained them in Kathak. By 13, she was dancing at private parties of the well-heeled and, later, as the financial situation at home deteriorated, she took to prostitution. It was a job at an Indian dance bar in the UAE that drew her out of the “pit” she was falling into. She took up a string of jobs in local bars, first as a dancer then singer after she returned to Mumbai a few years later. It was in 2003 that Rafique finally gave it all up and joined Mahesh Bhatt as a screenwriter.