I moved to London about three and a half years ago and unfortunately, missed the “Bar Bollywood” craze by just a few months. Needless to say (for those who know me), I was very disappointed to have missed out on this special spot where South Asians came together to enjoy an evening full of desi groovin’ and shakin’ (real Madhuri and Amitabh style). Apparently, all types graced Bar Bollywood, from our favorite Jinnah market boys, the hoity toity aunties, the posh polo players from Lahore, and last but certainly not least, the beloved British Born (C) Desis, who were out to find their future husband or wife and complete their Raj/Simran fantasy.
Z, a good friend of mine, is one of many who has been raving about Bar Bollywood for ages now! He has finally decided to share his experience with you guys as well.
I’d been hearing about this place off and on so I was naturally delighted when we ended up there one night by accident. It started outside with queues either side of the doors, despite the rain. Always a good sign, I thought to myself. Although I know that clubs and the like often like to build queues up outside because it makes a place look extremely popular and the hype outside reaches sky level. Inside however, the place is usually as sparse as a minimalist’s loft. This was not the case here though.
As we went through the doors (didn’t queue as the DJ was a friend, sorry!) amongst the shrill cries of “’Oy ‘ow come dey let dem in wivaat quein’?” we got a flavor of what was to come.
Inside the place was heaving. In fact it was so full that we couldn’t even drop our coats off at the cloakroom as it was ‘full’!
As we descended the Big House in an Indian Film Set staircase, the wall in front was painted over with filmstars. Dear Shahrukh was the biggest ISHTAAR there (Shashi Kapoor’s was a very small figure in the corner, fading away, probably as a reflection of the current state of his career) and he’d actually been here at some point and signed his name next to his face! The paintings were in true Indian cinema style, you know, slightly warped faces, over-emphasized eye bags and all the males with crimson lips.
We bundled our way through, past a closed door that apparently led to the VIP area. I later discovered that this area was not for Very Important Persons at all because from the other side it was completely open for all and sundry to walk in. Not that most would want to as it was a tad dingy in there!
The main hall was something else. Dark red walls with a gold sponge effect, disco lighting, little seating areas and nooks, a stage with seats for chilling out in etc. Ninety percent of this floor was the dance floor which was so packed out with Asians jumping up and down to Stereo Nation’s “Nachangey Saaree Raat, Kar Lo Thoraa Saa Pyaar” that I’m sure the walls had moved outwards by an inch or so. All this took me back about twelve years. Although it was late, this was definitely a ‘day do’ crowd. All dolled up and ready to party. Some of the girls were definitely en-route to a wedding. Lehengas flying everywhere, sequins dazzling us to a state of complete blindness. It was hilarious. A certain young lady just sat in a corner, eyes shut, rocking from side to side and moving her hands in all directions in her trance. Yet the music was not trancey, neither was it a Qawwali. It was just your plain old, dance around the tree Indian film song. And she was swaying like a thing possessed?? Why?!
A couple of the guys whom we would have referred to as ‘Bachans’ (ie. Amitabh, ie. hero) in the good old days were on the stage, electricuted. Arms and legs everywhere, no rhythm, just movement yaar! Suddenly an old classic would hit the sound waves and everyone would steam into the middle of the floor, hands in the air and screaming. Aap Jaisaa Koi Meri Zindagi Mein Aaey Taw Baat Ban Jaaey – you couldn’t beat the lovely Miss Hassan. God rest her soul, I hope she was watching from some place above as her enchanting voice mesmerised the joint. The mandatory fight broke out in the corner, yes it was over a girl. She was Miss Thang. No lehengas for this Miss, just a crop top, a white leather mini skirt, and thigh length boots. In summary, she was a MODREN girl. Fantastic…..NOT!
I have to admit I loved every minute of all this, I was having a hoot! I’d forgotten such crowds and places existed. It was all so simultaneously young (the people) and old (the music) and fresh and smelly and josheela. Nostalgia hit but I have to admit I was surprised that things were still the same after all this time. I was no longer eighteen but this place was. And it was just so tacky it was almost cool. And the irony was that it was dead in the centre of Mayfair, right next to a ice- cool art gallery, in the midst of all things classy and timeless. All I have left to say is Long Live Bollywood…..YAAR!
* Picture above was taken from Yash Raj’s Jhoom Barabar Jhoom*