Item numbers/song – a term used to describe a catchy, upbeat, often sexually provocative dance sequence for a song in a movie. The main aim of an item number is to entertain and also to lend support to the marketability of the film.
We’re in 2017 for crying out loud and Bollywood still believes in the obnoxious charm created by a ‘hot item song’. A trend that has been around since the 1950’s, has turned into a prominent ploy for commercialization.
The term ‘item’ in item number roughly translates to ‘an object of attention, concern, or interest’. This sleazy term that defines women dancing on songs that are sexist and nearly misogynistic clearly showcases the filmmakers’ attempt to attract a large number of male audience to theatres.
The golden era of Helen as a cabaret dancer in various movies was a huge entertainment asset. Though we absolutely love Helen, we should’ve moved on from that era of Bollywood, after nearly four decades, right? But the recent item-number scene has stooped too far. In the past few years item numbers became a mandatory formula for traction; a formula that was quite unnecessary. Top actresses turned into item girls and the idea of giving them memorable names gained popularity. It all started with Munni and Sheila, (played by Malaika Arora & Katrina Kaif respectively) leading to Baby-doll, Mary (Sunny Leone & Kareena Kapoor Khan respectively) and the list can go on forever. But the looming question is.. Does Bollywood REALLY need the item number?
A few marvelous filmmakers are thankfully changing the game slowly yet successfully. Well, if entertaining songs are the pure factor that brings in the audience, why not just do that, minus women dressed in sleazy outfits and sexist lyrics? Some movie makers have given us the shining hope that movies with no item songs at all can also fare well. Anurag Basu’s movies – Barfi and Jagga Jasoos – for instance, were loved and appreciated by all. Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a great example of such movies too. None of Imtiaz Ali’s movies have item songs either, be it a Jab We Met, or a Highway, or Tamasha. Did Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots or PK have item songs? Nope. Yet all of these movies have grossed high amounts of moolah and some even won an award for Best Film of the year.
We know the numbers, so is it safe to say that the Bollywood item-song formula is a ship that won’t sail any more? Well, the answer is quite clear to us, hope the makers pay heed.