Bollywood screenwriter reflects on bar nights

Her first film,Woh Lamhe (2006),was a critical and commercial success. Screenwriter Shagufta Rafique then did sequels to Raaz,Jannat 2 and Jism 2.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Mumbai | Published: July 17, 2013 12:51:10 am

Her first film,Woh Lamhe (2006),was a critical and commercial success. Screenwriter Shagufta Rafique then did sequels to Raaz,Jannat 2 and Jism 2. Her latest,Aashiqui 2,earned more than Rs 100 crore. Today,she is considered the lucky mascot of the films that the Bhatts make.

Until the day before she signed her first film contract with Vishesh Films in 2004,she was just another bar dancer.

She was nine when she lost her foster father,Mohammed Rafique. The family of filmstars — her foster mother was actress Anwari Begum whose daughter Saeeda Khan was also a known face on the screen — fell upon bad times. Along with the torment of watching Anwari Begum sell her assets,including their Bandra home,another storm was going on within Rafique. She didn’t know who her parents were; at some times,she was told she had been adopted from the street,and at others,that she is the lovechild of someone famous.

With her sister married to a man unwilling to support her family (producer Brij Sadanah who eventually shot his wife,daughter and himself),it fell upon her to earn. “I had some training in classical music and dance,which I put to use by performing at mehfils for the rich at the age of 12. Although I managed to bring bread to the table,my mother feared for my safety,so I had to discontinue that,” she says.

She says she fell into prostitution at 17. “We gradually began to clear our debts,” says Rafique. “But I wasn’t conventionally pretty and it fetched me far less money than others.”

This is the time she discovered her skills could earn her a job as a bar dancer. After a few jobs in bars in Mumbai,she moved to the UAE,working on three-month contracts. “There,it is a legit source of entertainment,a novelty.”

She feels lucky for the chance to tap her other talent. By the time dance bars were banned,she had already moved into films,but she has kept in touch with her friends. “They say dance bars are used as a cover for prostitution. But save the places in the red-light district and those on the outskirts of the city,dance bars did not indulge in prostitution,” she says.

She feels item numbers in films are merely a notch over bar dancing. “The most degrading form of earning money is prostitution. Then comes dancing in bars where you don’t need to sleep with different men but have to dance for hours,” she says. “But how much better is dancing on screen? At the core of it,you are making money for dancing — only it isn’t live — and the act is intended to entice men who will pay money to watch it in the cinema,as opposed to a bar.”

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