The dramatic and intriguing cover of the volume under review catches one’s attention even before one registers the title. Two sassy and confident women, seemingly joined at the hip, stand facing opposite directions, one with headphones, eyes shut, most likely listening to music, one hand on a gramophone record disc, the other arm akimbo on her hip, wearing a short kurta, churidar and stylish accessories. The other woman is dressed in a nine-yards saree, wearing exquisite traditional Maharashtrian jewellry. Both women stand tall and have thick anklets which indicates their profession. The former is most likely a north Indian tawaif and the latter a Maharashtrian/Goan naikin/devadasi. The image is riff, created by Jugal Mody in 2015 for an exhibition curated by the author, based on a colonial-era postcard where the original picture shows the same women standing facing each other, with the naikin’s hand on a table and the tawaif sans the gramophones and the headphones. The riff ‘repeats and ruptures’ the original figure, a trope that is perfectly apposite for the author’s reconstruction of the growth of Mumbai’s musical lingua franca.
September 2021, volume 45, No 9