Published: May 2011
When Sonia Faleiro set out to report on Bombay's bar dancers, she thought she knew what she would find- downtrodden, voiceless women, the helpless victims of predictable poverty. Instead she meets Leela- nineteen, charismatic and fearlessly outspoken, Leela has been dancing in Bombay's bars since she was thirteen. With her sharp wit and stubborn optimism, she is the best-paid dancer in a bar on the notorious Mira Road, where she dances to Bollywood film music. In the audience are 'kustomers', men with a little disposable income but not much else going for them. Leela has a 'husband' (who is already married), a few lovers whose names she can't remember, an insufferable mother camping out in her flat, and an adored best friend, Priya - the most beautiful woman she has ever seen. But when an ambitious politician shuts down the city's bars, Leela is forced into the most precarious kind of sex work - and must trade her proud independence for mere survival. Beautiful Thingis the vivid, intimate portrait of a young woman fleeing abuse and poverty to build a life on her own terms, in a city equally bent on reinventing itself. And it is the compelling story of an unlikely friendship, as two young women from different worlds pit their wits against the whims of mercurial Bombay. From Leela's point of view, our friendship was an adventure. She was seven years younger than me, but only she could teach me what I wanted to know ......
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