Posted in Film

More “Item Songs” in Bollywood mean India is getting raunchy then ever!

“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.


Someone trying to rip through the normality of life and expand a few horizons.

18 thoughts on “More “Item Songs” in Bollywood mean India is getting raunchy then ever!

    1. To be honest Bikram I am not a huge fan anymore of Bollywood movies, there are just too many that are rubbish. I have to admit that I do like Chikni Chameli and the one from Yamlaa Paglaa Dewaana… guilty pleasure!!!

  1. I see Bollywood in two parts that connect together at some point – but not for long. First is the movie itself, and Second is the song(s) which make up key moments in the movie.

    Often when the movie hit’s cinema, the songs within the movie have already been released to the public, and long after the movie leaves the cinema the song’s continue to appear popular amongst the public. Prince movie was a classic example, the songs from this movie were launched weeks if not months before and the hype was massive, but when the cinema opened the doors to this movie – it was a flop – but still despite the crap movie the songs are popular.

    Coming back to item numbers, well – the formula for getting mass population into cinema, not just in India but pretty much around the world is not short of being perfect.

    “My name is Shila, Shila ki javani, I’m too sexy for you, meh teri haath na arni” sums it all up for you – watch (plenty of it) but no touching.

    Great post

    1. Go dude, singing Shila!!! Will keep an eye on you on Britains Got Talent…

      These days I don’t think they do songs at key moments, they just dead-stop a scene in the movie and next thing you know they are on a beach in Southend singing a totally unrelated song…which involves the likes of Salman Khan popping off his t-shirt next to some “chic” in a mini..(not that I am complaining).

      My fav. movie of last year was “Guzaarish” and I haven’t seen a movie which tops it this year, if you haven’t seen it yet, I advise you do, it is very good.

      I agree on the music, it is released very early to generate interest, the film thus remains an after thought. I do hope the standard of movies (in terms of story line) improve.

      1. Yes I have watched Guzaarish, and hats off to the man he was bloody awesome.

        The other movie I really enjoyed was ‘Rockstar’ also released 2011. For me, Rockstar did it and in my view this movie was the best for 2011.

  2. I still like hindi movies even though I am not a fan of item numbers…there’s something demeaning abt showing a woman as a sexual commodity and this seems to be the case these days and I really dislike that!

    1. I am guessing that the power actors and actresses have these days that they can refuse to do such scenes, however the concern is that I think they actually want to perform this “show and tell”. It happens within the male arena too, example being the likes of Salman Khan, Sharukh Khan and even Amir Khan (and others) have pumped up their bodies and feel the need to “tear open” their shirts at some point in a movie.

      Coming back to item numbers, these are now being performed by leading actresses who quite frankly don’t mind showing themselves off, part of that is to do with the international visibility Bollywood movies is getting, it’s what the wider audience wants.

      What next for the future of Bollywood, who knows?

  3. I haven’t liked these munnis and sheilas and chamelis.. but think of Helen dancing to ‘woh ayega.. woh ayega…’ in that beautiful ‘longing’ voice, it is GOLD.. very beautiful. And even before that, if you remember, the black and white era also had those “chadh gayo paapi.. bichua” and the likes Nadira and all doing such aesthetically shot songs.
    Today, they only sell what ‘sells’. Among the current lot of songs, I have started tilting towards the soft sufi songs, and they really give me peace. The most played song on my mobile is ‘Main tainu samjhawaan’ and I can hear it as many number of times as i want and never get bored.
    A very well-compiled article this was.. 🙂

    1. Thanks for popping in and commenting Punam.

      Helen was truly graceful and dignified, as were a large majority of actresses (and actors) back then, not much can be said today, its all about “revea” as much as possible for a few more fans – however Richard Gere comes over, plants a kiss on Shilpa and the country goes into rage…

      “Old is Gold” with a doubt. Janbaaz is one of my fav. movie albums, very hard to beat those songs as they are deep in meaning.

      Have fun.

  4. Janbaaz is one of my all time favs and still is. My fav actress stops at madhuri no body has come along yet that can match up to her acting, dancing and success.

    Mahesh Bhatt once said “the truth is sex sells and that’s what the movies are about. It’s really obviously and subtly, if it wasn’t there we could never sell anything” and he was right.

    I sometimes wonder if there was no censorship how far would these actors and actresses go.

    Item numbers just aren’t like they used to be… A few of them just make actresses look really cheap and desperate. It takes a certain class of actress to pull it off.

  5. You know I’m new to wonderful Bollywood movies, and I can honestly say every culture is expeeriencing this. Not to say that its right, but everyone wants to push the boundaries so they won’t get lost in the shuffle (well at least thats what they think). I believe gracefullness is still beautiful.. you don’t have to be raunchy to get your point across. But try telling that to Hollywood, Bollywood, and other cultues.

  6. Wow! Brilliant post!!! Actually I’ve been getting sick of all these movies that have not just item songs… But their other songs with women dancing half naked… It is such a poor portrayal of Indian culture. Ok so our population would suggest that we really like sex, but that doesn’t mean we behave in any such manner that would outwardly show how deep our passionate nature is. Generally Indian women are shy and conservative..
    Also I’ve found that most times I like the song but not the video that goes with it… It’s becoming ridiculous…
    Great post!

  7. Hey dear, awesome post 👏
    Am a big movie buff. And songs are something that make Bollywood really. 😉. Crazy people love to dance. 😚.
    My take on item songs is kinda neutral. Everyone grooves on these songs in weddings, clubs, parties, reunions. These songs do not need choreography ( or should I say people here don’t😜, coz we move the way we want to, however hard you try to teach 😛).
    At times these songs are used to move the story forward. (Am so glad the scenario is changing, the 3hours+ movie really sounded dreadful as it was slow paced). Munni badnaam was played simultaneously when cops were searching the goons and finally caught them.

    Coming to the negatives- like skin show and stuff.I wouldn’t oppose it if it is decent. The time decency is pulled off vulgarity increases.
    Madhuri Dixit pulls off every dance so gracefully and decently, people watch her dance but not her dress. The other person who really does justice to the genre of item songs is malaika arora khan. I love her absolutely from chaiyya chaiyya to munni badnaam. She is the person who really needs to be applauded.

    If you ask me about the impact these songs have on people and society then I must say people should improve their values. They should understand what the actors do is their job, their occupation. And being a democratic nation respect others, their work is an utmost priority.

    Its the values with which a person grows are important.

    To get spoiled coz of songs or to simply view that as entertainment is in the hands of people.

    I recall here the song ram chahe leela from Ramleela. I must say, the song was awesome,the film was good. It was a raw passionate movie, a path breaking one for sure. If people were free from witnessing the love scenes of ram and leela, the skin exposing costumes of the ladies, had they noticed the finesse with which bhansali had made the movie. The detailing was crisp, the shots were amazing, the story had the element of poignancy, songs were awesome and soulful. The movie explored the gujrati culture through the songs. Garba was reinvented. And yes item song was there. I hear this song even today in our gym. The movie was definitely a mixture of art and commercial cinema. But alas, a few of them notice this.
    Another movie without an item song was lootera, a very fine scripted period film loosely based on “the last leaf” by O.Henry. I must say the movie was appreciated. Dunno the exact no.s but you know what, statistics lie. 😝

    Recent release of akshay Kumar, “baby” had no song either. And what a brilliant movie it was. It had a cameo song in the end credits, definitely not an item song I must say it nailed it. This movie was also highly appreciated.

    More than item songs porn movies irk to me to another level. I find porn to be explicit and something unreal.

    I fleetingly read 50 shades of grey. After that I got to know that it was going to be adapted as film. I had done with it. Disgusted at the thought itself. I haven’t watched the movie and don’t intend to. Romanticising abuse is something very disturbing.

    Coming to Bollywood, I don’t understand the rise of sunny Leone in the industry. I haven’t seen a single movie of hers. Her item song
    “baby doll” is a very groovy no. but only to listen. After watching so many item songs I think am irked by her work, be it skin show or whatever..

    Am sorry this went so long, but am a huge Bollywood fan 😎

    1. No need to apologise, I loved reading your take on this, and Thanks for taking the time to respond. Your knowledge is great and I used to be a massive movie buff but limited time has somewhat put a dent in that. I absolutely loved the movie Lootera, it’s a film of mixed emotions. At points you feel frustrated, then some sympathy, then frustration. But deep down it’s a love story of a strange kind. I have made it a task to read the book by O.Henry.
      The item song in the ‘re-release’ of Don was great. Chaiyya Chaiyya was a great track from a great soundtrack and movie.
      Have a nice weekend.

  8. Oh yes! I used to think the same. Why does this woman appear just in one song? Eventually, I got to know that they are called item songs. And I completely agree with your point. We don’t let women wear exposing clothes in public but we love to see them on the screen. It’s complete hypocrisy.

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