Docu-drama set in the huge Bombay tenement of Pavanpul, where scores of dancing girls go through their paces in a warren of tiny, squalid rooms for the benefit of rapt, occasionally lecherous, male audiences. A fascinating subject, ill-served by Merchant's strangely coy approach, and his device of interspersing reportage with the fictional reminiscences of imaginary habituées. The effect is confusing as well as extremely irritating, and casts a pall of artifice over the whole proceedings. Devotees of Indian dancing will no doubt find much of interest, but those who attempt to follow the recipe for lime pickle are likely to end up scratching their heads, as instructions have been severely truncated in the cutting-room.
Cast and crew
Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala