Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars

Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars

4.6 18
by Sonia Faleiro
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions


Already published in India to great acclaim and named a Time Out Subcontinental Book of the Year and an Observer Book of the Year, Beautiful Thing is a stunning piece of reportage that offers a rare firsthand glimpse into Bombay’s notorious sex industry.

Sonia Faleiro was a reporter in search of a story when she met nineteen-year-old Leela, a

Overview


Already published in India to great acclaim and named a Time Out Subcontinental Book of the Year and an Observer Book of the Year, Beautiful Thing is a stunning piece of reportage that offers a rare firsthand glimpse into Bombay’s notorious sex industry.

Sonia Faleiro was a reporter in search of a story when she met nineteen-year-old Leela, a charismatic exotic dancer with a story to tell. Leela introduced Sonia to the underworld of Bombay’s dance bars: a world of glamorous women; of fierce love, sex, and violence; of gangsters, police, prostitutes, and pimps. When an ambitious politician cashed in on a tide of false morality and had Bombay’s dance bars wiped out, Leela’s proud independence faced its greatest test. In a city where almost everyone is certain that someone, somewhere, is worse off than them, she fights to survive—and to win.

Sonia Faleiro has crafted one of the most original works of nonfiction about India in years. Unforgettable for its artistry and intimacy, Beautiful Thing is a vivid portrait of one reporter’s journey into the dark, damaged soul of Bombay.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Bombay, street urchins hawk pirated goods just steps away from white-pillared mansions, and the sex trade has infiltrated all corners of life—from the rickety, tin-roofed brothels that line the red-light district of Kamatipura to the spare rooms middle-class women rent to pimps for pocket money. Faleiro (The Girl) mines the gritty underworld of Bombay’s dance bars, where dancers perform for male patrons in exchange for showers of 100-rupee notes and the hope of escape from poverty. She spent five years shadowing Leela, a teenage dancer with a bubbly personality and a love for Western-style clothes, Bollywood glamour, and all things “bootiful.” Leela and the breathtaking Priya, her confidante and fellow dancer, consider themselves a cut above women who sell their services on the streets and in brothels. But when a self-seeking politician takes up a moral crusade, shutting down Bombay’s dance bars, the two are left with few options. Faleiro paints a grim picture of rape, physical abuse, and sexual slavery, often perpetrated on women like Leela by their own families. But Leela’s fearlessness keeps her afloat in the mire of madams, pimps, and hit men, where the cops are as corrupt as the gangsters and HIV an unspoken but constant threat. Through a kaleidoscope of deftly captured voices, Faleiro recreates the harsh world beyond the bar lights’ glow. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

The Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year
—A Guardian, Observer, and Economist Best Book of the Year
—A Time Out India Subcontinental Book of the Year

"[An] intimate and valuable book of literary reportage . . . [Faleiro's] language, like dots of colored light pinging from a smudgy mirrored ball, casts an intoxicating if unsettling glow. . . . Will break your heart several times over."—The New York Times

"Reporting at its best."—Junot Diaz (interview with The Rumpus)

"A glimpse into a frightening subculture unlike anything that a typical American has ever experienced. . . . With crackling prose, Faleiro provides an intense, disconcertingly entertaining [look] into the shadowy corners of a foreign culture; the fast-paced narrative, while undeniably journalistic, reads like a thriller. But what ultimately gives the book its resonance is Faleiro's empathy and love for her fully developed subjects. In lesser hands, these young people could have come off as clichés, but the author makes sure we care for them and root for them to survive a life that most will never understand. Gritty, gripping, and often heartbreaking—an impressive piece of narrative nonfiction."—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"Through the kaleidoscope of deftly captured voices, Faleiro recreates the harsh world beyond the bar lights' glow."—Publishers Weekly

"Brilliant . . . It's most outstanding quality to my eye is the window it offers on the widespread sexual repression that exists in India today, and the murky middle-class morality that rules it."—The Guardian

"Faleiro delivers Leela's story with a reporter's distance and a novelist's immediacy. She animates journalistic observations with vivid descriptions, and her dialogue sings with slang and dialect. Leela moves through the pages as a remarkable, tragic, and . . . grittily inspiring figure—victim, heroine, survivor."—Shelf Awareness

"A tour de force of heartrending reportage . . . which blends rigorous journalistic research with the narrative skills of a novelist. Faleiro depicts effects as well as excavating causes, painting a vivid portrait of the daily—and nightly—life of a dancer. . . . With tight focus and pacing, she is adept at conjuring the brutal backstory of these lives."—The Independent

"Excellent . . . A meticulous, moving account of the battle for social mobility and personal freedom in Bombay . . . A rich portrait of the desires, vulnerabilities, and sheer resilience of Leela and her colleagues."—The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"In a fast-paced, conversational, high-octance circumstantial style, the contradictions of Leela's hedonistic, heartbreaking life as a badass Lolita crossed with a naively knowing Sweet Charity are thoroughly and empathetically explored. Her rich character is sparked to vivid life in a highly colored work of brilliant literary reportage."—The Times (UK)

“[Faleiro] seamlessly weaves politics, history, sociology, urban activism, and healthcare into her portrait of Leela’s life as an erotic dancer, infusing her rhythmic sentences with Leela’s and her coterie’s sharp-witted and colorful patter. . . . Faleiro masterfully portrays the complexity of these women's lives.”—Bookslut

"It is useless to describe the pathos and singular power of this book. Beautiful Thing is, quite, simply, one of the finest books on Bombay ever written."—The Spectator (UK)

"Faleiro demonstrates that when written with empathy, the story of one person's life can effectively tell the story of thousands."—The Scotsman Book Supplement

"Does what every good piece of reportage ought to–took me to a place I couldn't have gone by myself."—Hari Kunzru, The Guardian (Best Books of 2011)

“A rare glimpse into dismissed lives. Faleiro brings a novelist’s eye for detail and a depth of empathy to her work. A magnificent book of reportage that is also endowed with all the terror and beauty of art.”—Kiran Desai, author of The Inheritance of Loss

"A gripping and intimate portrayal of the lives of the women who work in [India's sex industry]. She manages to evoke shock, rage, and laughter. . . . The book is a moving testament to girls who deal with the brutal hand fate has dealt them by capitalizing on the gifts they do have: beauty, an inner strength, and each other."—Literary Review (UK)

“A small masterpiece of observation . . . Sassy, sensitive, and deeply moving . . . Beautiful Thing opens up a hidden world with startling insight and intimacy, and strangely is both a tragic monument to the abused bar girls of Bombay and a celebration of their amazing resilience and spirit.”—William Dalrymple, author of Nine Lives

“Astonishing, gripping, immersive.”—Time Out (India)

"A revealing and important book."—Sunday Times (Best Travel Book of the Year)

“Without question a brilliant, unforgettable book by a writer who is one of the best of her generation . . . One of the most intimate and gripping books written about Bombay in a very long while.”—Business Standard

“Unforgettable . . . Faleiro has transformed a door, studded with rusted nails of truth, heavy with the strange and disturbing secrets it hides, into a jeweled curtain, and she has drawn that curtain aside with an artist’s hand.”—Gregory David Roberts, author of Shantaram

“Faleiro writes her way into the bloodstream with this mesmeric book, fashioned with heart and enviable acuity. A shocking, funny and memorable ride.”—Nikita Lalwani, author of Gifted

"Faleiro [has] striking empathy, sensitivity, and [a] sharp ear."—The Independent on Sunday

"Faleiro's portrait of a teenaged Mumbai dancer, Leela, and her bright but brittle world is so compelling that it invites from us the question of exactly what might constitute genius in nonfiction."—The National

“Compelling . . . Faleiro has captured a world many refuse to acknowledge and shown it in a delicate, nonjudgmental and touching way.”—GQ (India)

“Detailed, disturbing, admirable. A big achievement.—The Indian Express

"In India, despite the staggering number of fabulous stories that are waiting to be told, we have been mostly deprived of good literary nonfiction - a genre which Edward Hume describes as one that combines 'the immediacy of journalism and the power of true accounts with the texture, read, drama, emotional punch, point of view and broad themes of a novel.' This is what Faleiro has achieved in her riveting story-telling, as she draws out the relationship between nineteen-year-old Leela and the dance bar, Night Lovers, with its golden pillars and Medusa heads."—Times of India

"As a first person narrator who makes her presence felt only occasionally, Faleiro presents what is revealed to her without judgement or heavy-handed emotion. She has collected a wonderful set of characters to act as our guides in Beautiful Thing. Aside from Leela, there’s Aunty, who runs a brothel in Aksa Beach; Masti, a rare example of a hijra accepted by her family; Shetty, the owner of a dance bar; Priya, Leela’s friend; Apsara, Leela’s mother; and a Dubai-based fixer who claims to be Abu Salem’s right hand man. Well-paced, sharply-observed and full of respectful curiosity, Beautiful Thing is difficult to put down."—Mumbai Boss

"To ignore Beautiful Thing would be an act of supreme ego."—The Hindu

"Irrefutably heartbreaking."—The Asian Age

Kirkus Reviews
A harsh, cinematic look at the international sex trade. In 2005, Vogue contributing editor Faleiro (The Girl, 2008) met the beautiful, charismatic Leela, "the highest-paid bar dancer" in her Bombay suburb. Leela brought Faleiro into her world, an environment filled with sleazy Johns, frightening pimps and, of course, other exploited young women who were trapped in a life of stripping and/or prostitution. When Bombay's strip-club scene crashed and almost burned, Faleiro followed Leela's quest to rebuild her life. Leela was happy to let the author report on her adventures, and the result is a glimpse into a frightening subculture unlike anything that a typical American has ever experienced. Originally published in India in 2010, the book has become an international sensation; after only a few pages, it's easy to understand why. With crackling prose, Faleiro provides an intense, disconcertingly entertaining glimpse into the shadowy corners of a foreign culture; the fast-paced narrative, while undeniably journalistic, reads like a thriller. But what ultimately gives the book its resonance is Faleiro's empathy and love for her fully developed subjects. In lesser hands, these young people could have come off as clichés, but the author makes sure we care for them and root for them to survive a life that most will never understand. Gritty, gripping, and often heartbreaking--an impressive piece of narrative nonfiction.
Dwight Garner
Leela, the young exotic dancer at the center of Beautiful Thing, is a genius of vulgarity. In this intimate and valuable book of literary reportage by Sonia Faleiro nearly every word out of Leela's mouth is spit like a cartoon hornet…Leela's way with a dirty phrase seems to infect Ms. Faleiro…[whose] language, like dots of colored light pinging from a smudgy mirrored ball, casts an intoxicating if unsettling glow…[Beautiful Thing] has a resonance that belies its compact size.
—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802170927
Publisher:
Canongate U.S.
Publication date:
02/28/2012
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
796,141
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author


Sonia Faleiro is the author of the novel, The Girl (Viking, 2006), and is a contributing editor at Vogue. She was born in Goa, studied in Edinburgh, and lives in San Francisco.

Visit her website at soniafaleiro.com

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Leela a youngBombay bardancer. The book is a must for anyone interested in women issue, the dark side of Bombay, and high risk groups. The book captures Leelas voice and will haunt for days on end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just dont throw anything else at me then
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not lost...I think...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I jusst wanna say that u guys are the cutest couple ive ever seen
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey. Im sooo bored. :p
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not a party of any kind. This is just regular people sending messages to each other using reviews. This is what we get every day on our regular books. Only people who have no lives come to these"parties".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hel<_>ler, how ya derin'?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Jumps into the pool and sees a top on submerging*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is here
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wat up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey eslie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Art student res1...... post an help pick a name at res5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So ur jsaons friend?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Goes between valentine and joel grabs val
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Starting now at cup of joe res 2 and 6!! Hurry there!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
Beautiful Things is a good book. It is another book that examines something harldly discussed. It was fascinating to learn about India's dance bars through Leela's eyes. This book is a thought-provoking read.