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Q&A with Sonia Faleiro

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Sonia FaleiroWhen Indian journalist Sonia Faleiro first met Mumbai dance bar girl Leela she couldn’t have imagined that five years later their experiences would lead to the creation of a critically acclaimed account of the young dancer’s life on the wrong side of the tracks. Curiousbookfans loved her book, Beautiful Thing – Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars and wanted to know more about Faleiro and her book. And if you’d like to know more too, we have three copies of Beautiful Thing to give away this month – check out the Forum for more details.

CBF:It seems like the world in which you researched your book is very different from the world you grew up in. How did you make your first contact with Mumbai dance bar culture and gain the trust of people from such a very different world?

Sonia Faleiro: If you’re a reporter in India reporting on marginalized communities for the English media it’s almost certain that your social and economic background, and therefore your life experiences, will be very different from those you write about.

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Beautiful Thing – Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars

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Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars , Sonia Faleiro, book reviewBeautiful Thing – Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro is a remarkable documentary account of a few years in the life of Leela, a dancer in a Mumbai dance bar, her friends, her clients and her co-workers. It’s a life set on the wrong side of the tracks which reveals the power of friendship, honour and companionship that belies the sordid surroundings. Even more remarkable is the friendship between Leela and the writer which offers Faleiro an opportunity to go where few writers would be able to and at considerable risk to her own health and personal safety.

I’ve long been aware of the shady world of the Mumbai dance bars because I was in Mumbai in 2005 on a business trip at the time of the crackdown which is described in the book. The local papers were full of the news of the closure of the dance bars and I asked a local colleague what it was all about.

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