In the Tamil film Varuthappadaadha Vaalibar Sangam (Carefree Youth Club), an old villager keeps wondering when “Dindigul Rita” would appear on stage during the song and dance segment of the village temple festival’s cultural programme. Rita, a glamorous small-town dancer in the film, might find herself ‘outglamourised’ by real-life competition from dancers across the Tamil Nadu border. The village festivals, in which dance troupes perform to film songs, now showcase skimpily clad dancers from two neighbouring states. Their livelihood threatened, the traditional dancers belonging to the local troupes have now petitioned the state police to enforce court-ordained conditions on how these shows are held.
“Every show needs a permit from the high court. It should normally take two weeks to get approved. But some lawyers and court officials have rigged the system and one can easily walk away with permits within a couple of days. Flashing these permits, the organisers are able to flout restrictions on time and vulgar display on stage with the help of local police. A handful of agents bring dancers from pubs and bars in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, who perform in scanty clothes in front of villagers,” complains R. Somasundaram, president of the state association of stage dancers.