“Enjoy the Playboy experience,” says an immaculately togged up bouncer as he slides a red satin sash on to my wrist. A eady mix of YSL, Gucci and Issey Miyake lingers in the air as a group of twentysomethings queues up at the entrance of Novotel to sample the first Indian Playboy Club, which kicked off in Hyderabad recently. “Oooh, aren’t you excited,” giggles a pretty one in the group. “Only if you let me play,” mutters her companion with a teasing grin. Kaavya, a chartered accountant in an MNC, has had her satin-smooth skin polished to further perfection for the night and clings to her man as she stands tall on her wedges.
It’s 10.30 pm on a Saturday and the night couldn’t get any younger. Many of those walking into Playboy Club are a little self-conscious, wondering if they are there too early. But as the door swings open, the immensely addictive techno music of Konstantin Yoodza drags the languid Hyderabadi soul into a different “ozonosphere”. DJ Anees ups the tempo; the younger lot are queueing up for tequila shots at the bar near the dance floor. This is where the acoustics change the soft murmurs in the heart to a steady throb, the ‘thump experience’, as it were.
A look at the swaying mass indicates that either the famous bunnies are in hiding or have blended entirely into the partying crowd. Going by the large firang clientele, it’s difficult to guess. Except for one club hostess, it’s a complete beef fest as far as the bartending section goes.
A ravishing 27-year-old, Fahrie Berisha, who’s been in Hyderabad for over a year now, shouts over the din that she loves the “international feel out here”. “I have been to most of the city’s clubs but this music I like,” she says, bestowing the DJ with a wink. But desi boys beware, if a ‘Saturday Saturday’ is your type of dance music, Playboy isn’t the place for you. The mere mention of Bollywood causes club manager Gaurav Bankaya to give me a smirk but he does temper it with a “we might have an infusion of Bollywood once in a while in Playboy in terms of live performances, but that’s it”. So if you are in Playboy, think tech house, deep house, EDM (Electronic Dance Music), progressive house, techno and vocal house.
Shekhar and Rajani arrive at around 11.30 pm, and immediately launch into some practised house dance moves. Shekhar’s eyes dart around the club, resting ever so delicately on an expat group led by a Saudi Airlines hostess, Uzma. “You know, there’s so much vulgarity in Hindi TV soaps, why do these women’s rights groups think that a few Playboy bunnies will ruin our culture?” he wonders aloud, clearly wishing there were a few women around wearing bodices and bow ties.
Some original Playboy bunnies
The only bunnies on display currently are the large red Playboy logos glistening under the psychedelic lights. Of course, the classy menus have pages elaborating the history of Playboy and its culture.
About the order issued by Cyberabad police commissioner C.V. Anand that women in any attire will not be allowed to serve as waitresses, hostesses or to serve liquor in Playboy Club, Parag says it’s extremely unfair. “We find female hostesses everywhere in the hospitality industry, be it in hotels or airlines. So why should Playboy Club be singled out?” he asks. The licence-holder for Playboy Club says that eventually there will be female hostesses, though not “pinned down to any uniform”.
V. Chamundeswarinath, who has a five per cent stake in Playboy Club, Hyderabad, insists there will be no bunnies to cater to Indian sensibilities though rumours of high-end escorts with members fly thick and fast in the city’s elite circles. As of now, the club has a little over 150 members who have paid Rs 3 lakh/annum each for the same. Others pay Rs 4,000 as cover charges for entry into the nightclub but are not allowed into the members area. The biggest plus for members is they get entry into any of 40 Playboy Clubs across the world with this membership, says Chamundeswarinath.
Of course, not everyone’s happy with the club’s arrival. Social activist Devi, who led the opposition against the Playboy Club, says the very brand represents a “shady, provocative culture”. “We had information that six women had come from Australia and elsewhere to function as bunnies but due to the huge outcry, they are lying low. People who pay Rs 3 lakh for a club membership are not fools, they expect bunnies to serve them...directly or indirectly. This will only lead to a cheap imitation of Playboy culture across Telugu land and encourage trafficking of women,” says an angry Devi. Local BJYM leader Kalyan, who stormed Novotel on Playboy’s opening night, wonders why the KCR government was in such a hurry to grant the licence when even Goa had refused.
Meanwhile, oblivious to all the brouhaha, Fahrie is grinding into her companion for the evening, entranced by the thumping beats of Jerome Isma-Ae. The Hyderabadis are more circumspect and as always the poor dancers make way for the better ones in the middle. Co2 guns make sure that sweaty, grooving bodies get some relief. On the next level, in the members lounge, Sana Satish Babu, one of the club directors, is hosting a private party. Forty-year-old men clutch their Glenlivet on ice as they lounge on red leather sofas. Most of the guests prefer to hang out in the corners, peering down at the dance floor, drinking in the magic of youth and techno. A diminutive Satish Babu holds out a shy handshake and does his best to make himself invisible. No Hugh Hefner hangover here. Club director Tirumal Rao, a solar panel businessman from Guntur and my host for the night, is itching for a smoke. So we proceed to the terrace level where the mood is more informal and nicotine-driven.
As the night wears on and the moon lights up the sky, DJ Anees weaves further EDM magic, playing Spartaque. Last order for drinks continues till 2 am but the partying goes on till the wee hours in this part of sleepless Hyderabad. As we emerge, one of the young girls in Kaavya’s group is being taken away in a wheelchair. “Yay, Playboy bunnies,” yells the girl grabbing one of the bouncers and planting a smooch on him. After all, it’s the Playboy experience and everyone wants to play. Outside, my host Tirumal collects his Audi and jumps right back into his Hyderabadi skin. “What would you like for dinner? Guntur podi idlis or biriyani?” he asks.
By Madhavi Tata in Hyderabad
Apropos of Rabbits from Hats (Sep 1), nowadays if you take a bottle of phenyl and brand it Gucci or YSL, some of our brothers and sisters will covet it. Such is the culture. A Playboy Club without bunnies and yet people pay lakhs to be members. Sigh!
In a pro-feminism world, males are expected to play dogs. Worse, many males oblige. ‘Female chauvinist pigs’ would be a good book to write.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
In India, males enjoying sex is a big no-no. Unless they pay a heavy price for it.
As for the girls, being highly sought after, any guesses on what they could be asked to pay, for membership?
Now a days if you take a bottle of Phenyle and brand it as Gucci or YSL some of our Indian brothers and sisters will covet it.. come to think of it.. an impovised bullok cart with audi or BMW branding will also sell like hotcakes. Such is the culture. Playboy club with no bunnies yet some people pay to be members. Sigh!!!
In a pro-feminism world, males are expected to play dogs. Worse, many males oblige! If one is inclined to take a peek into backstage of such clubs, 'Female Chauvinist Pigs' will be a good read.
Finally India has "developed".
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