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November 12, 2021 – November 20, 2021

Fridays, Lecture | 6pm - 7:30pm | Saturdays, Dance | 5pm - 6pm

Instructor: DJ Anjali

2 Lecture & 2 Dance Classes (Virtual Classes)

Unique to South Asian Cinema is the story of the Courtesan.  A genre unto its own, some of Bollywood’s biggest films center around the story of the Tawaif (Courtesan).

From Mughal-e-Azam to Pakeezah and Umrao Jaan, we will explore the Islamicate culture of these Bollywood classics.

As India is currently descending into a Hindu fascist state, these period pieces represent a time when the history of the Mughal court culture was less of a threat to the notion of India as a nation. Tawaifs were some of the first working women to be depicted in Hindi film and continue to be featured in modern “item numbers.”

As we aim to decolonize the very word “tawaif” from its modern meaning of prostitute and restore its true definition of an honored professional and reputable elite, we’ll uncover the stories and dance of these feminist icons; though idealized and romanticized, they danced and lived outside the prescribed traditional roles of women.

The Dance classes will focus on mujra style (based on classic Kathak) from tawaif films as well as more modern sassy “item numbers”

Registration Links

Lecture and Dance Classes – $125 

Lectures Only – $75

Dance Classes Only – $50

This class is in: Classes


The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.