Grace, Beauty, and Charm.
Those are the three things that come to mind when I think about the quintessential Bollywood courtesan. Why do I like these courtesans so much? Because they are more than just courtesans to me. They have enriched the culture of India through dance, custom, and costume. After watching countless Bollywood films where women portray famous or infamous courtesans (called "Tawaif" in Hindi/Urdu), I have been addicted to their elegance, their stories of love and loss, and the men who fall recklessly in and out of love with them.
But most of all, THEIR DANCING!
If I could turn back the clocks of time and transport myself to 16th century Lucknow, I would surely be a denizen of the brothel. Not to say I am a pervert, as sex was not even contractually assured. I wouldn't want anything else but to listen to the poetry flowing from their lips and to be intoxicated by the music and dance (mujra).
From Pakeezah, to Anarkali, to Umrao Jaan, to Chandramukhi, the image of the Tawaif has been immortalized in Indian culture through prose and through film and I only hope that future generations will appreciate their legend as well:
Aishwarya Rai as Umrao Jaan
The legendary Rekha as Umrao Jaan
My Favorite Bollywood actress: Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi