“An item number or an item song in Indian cinema, is a musical performance that has little to do with the film in which it appears, but is presented to showcase beautiful dancing women in very revealing clothes, to lend support to the marketability of the film” Wikipedia definition
For those reading this post, who have little or no knowledge of Indian Cinema (now referred to as Bollywood), you will be pleased to know that by the end you will have learnt something new, the growing trend of “Item Songs”. This is not a history lesson in Indian Cinema, but merely my observation and the bravery (or stupidity) of directors to gradually push the boundaries.
As a young lad, I recall sitting with my parents watching Bollywood movies (nothing wrong with that) and left wondering why a certain women would do a song sequence and then never appear in the rest of the film. I recall that at that time, it was Helen who was the most popular women to appear in these so-called Item numbers. Now Helen never looked like your typical Indian filmi chick, why, because firstly she was not full-blooded Indian and secondly she had apparent brown hair that was very continental looking. The images below may support my observation.
I have to admit that watching Helen back then was just what a growing boy like me appreciated, something to catch the eye, get the chemicals flowing (steady on potato). However, Helen was very elegant and graceful in her performance, she kept her dignity. Also, she suited performing the “item number” sequence, it was just so her. To those new, here’s a glimpse, to those experienced like me, here’s a quick trip down memory lane:
Recently the flood gates have opened in terms of “item songs” and what’s more interesting is how raunchy they have become and how they are being performed by reputable actresses within the industry.
Back in 1993 when I was in India, I recall there was a widespread ban on the song Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai from the film Khalnayak. The ban was the result of female college students up and down the country complaining about their male counterparts singing the song to them in a very provocative manner. I saw the movie when I came back and had to admit it was so gracefully pulled off by the fantastic Madhuri Dixit. It was however, the start of things to come.
When I went to India just this February, the most popular song on the dance floor was “Chikni Chameli”, from the movie Agneepath. Now I hadn’t seen the video to this song but instantly fell in love with the song [singing it now]. When I saw the video, I was amazed, some of the dance moves and close up shots were a little naughty, see for yourself.
In today’s climate, I would say that the past consistency of Helen has now been replaced by the very popular Malaika Arora.
You can look past a nation which openly illustrates a passion pushing the boundaries in a legitimate way, for it’s all there above the surface and the inhabitants are very open about it all. However, there is something very sinister about a nation who does not tolerate the freedom to express one’s body and emotions in public, but fuelling those burning passions through their film industry.
So here’s to all those street traders, rickshaw drivers, 3-wheeler drivers, foot-path rouges, gunda-Don’s who line up the front seats of the cinema hall, whistle and dream to their hearts content at the Indian beauty strutting her stuff across the screen while being watched with hungry eyes.
Here are some picks from 2011 and 2012, you will see a common theme.