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Indian TV and Film industry has lost its moral or people have appetite for cheap entertainment?

Item numbers, item songs, sheila ki jawani, munni badnam hui, baby dollWhile going through social media accounts of TV and film industry actresses, you will see their display from skippiest cloths to bold video clips. Some go so nasty that they discuss their body and private parts to gain likes and followers. These days the decease of Talent in Bollywood in the name of Item Numbers, skin show has stooped so low, to sell their creation they are coming down to any level. Some retard lyricists pick up a name and start writing crass words around them. Let it be ‘Fevicol‘, ‘Kundi Mat Khadkao Raja‘, Sheila, Munni, Pinky or Bubbly. So-called A grade actresses agree to such objectifying of women. Idiotic dances, beyond mediocre lyrics, and formula marketing gimmicks are all that film can offer modern audiences. An item number or an item song, in Indian cinema, is a musical performance that has little to do with the film but is offered to showcase vulgar dancing women in revealing clothes, to lend support to the commercial aspect of the film and also the so-called top actresses.

Nowadays all these item numbers are performed by so-called “A” grade heroines. These hit item numbers are key to their business offers as performers in different events. The same dance numbers are performed at New Year’s events, award shows and many such gatherings and events. More the hit item numbers the demand to rise. In the race of earning money and remaining wanted in the glam world, these so-called actresses have shed all sorts of embarrassments. These dance numbers are generally memorable, buoyant, and often sexually provocative for a song in a movie. However, the term as understood in Bollywood phraseology has entered the entertainment industry scenario as well. Item numbers are usually added to Indian films to generate publicity.

Filmmakers flavour item numbers for the reason that since they do not add to the plot, they afford the filmmakers with the opportunity to pick potential hit songs from the stocks. It is thus a vehicle for commercial success which ensures repeat viewing. The first song, ‘Jumma Chumma De De’ (Hum, 1991), which means “Give us a kiss” is sung by a group of men, including the hero of the movie, to an ‘item girl’, who is just dancing in this song, situated in a bar. Many of the songs used in this ad take place in clubs or bars, where the hero is intoxicated. Two other phrases used, ‘Chammak Challo’ (Ra.One, 2011) and ‘Chikni Chameli’ (Agneepath, 2012) is euphemistic slang for prostitutes, especially ones who dance, and from the countryside. The words refer to the colour of their skin as well as their jewellery and ornaments, not to the woman herself. I remember this trend aggressively started with the dancers like Helen, but lyrics used to be very sensible at that time. There were a particular set of dancers who used to do these numbers, and the heroine of the movie has some reputable class. Now the trend has changed, Madhuri Dixit’s, ‘Ek Do Teen’ and ‘Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai’ were the biggest hits of modern days.

Then double meaning songs and now the entire song revolves around one name and cheap lyrics. Like ‘Munni Badnam Huyi’, or ‘Sheela Ki Jawani’, now the new series, ‘Kundi Mat Khadkao Raja’ and ‘Halkat Jawani’. Although the derivation of the term “item number” is unclear, it likely originates its meaning from the objectification of sexually attractive women. This is because the item in filmy Mumbai slang is a sexy woman. Moreover, Mumbai is famous for Dance Bars, and all these characters, ‘Munni’, ‘Sheila’, ‘Babli’, ‘Pinky’ are commonly known names of Dance bar and red-light areas. These names relate to that kind of viewer. Most of these lyricists are frequent visitors to such places. A female actor, singer or dancer, especially someone who is poised to become a star, who appears in an item number, is known as an item girl. The ‘item number’ would feature an ‘Item Girl’ who appeared in the film as a dancer, usually in a bar or nightclub, and was only in the film for the length of that song. It was often frowned upon at that point in time. There are item boys as well; however, females are more commonly featured in item numbers than males. Item numbers typically feature one or more persons other than the lead actors sometimes even the lead actress doing these numbers. Most of the time established female and male actors would lend a “special appearance” to an item number. Is it fair to blame Bollywood, or even expect it to produce movies that adhere to a higher standard? The general sentiment is that Bollywood, being such a massive influence for Indian society, has a responsibility to produce films that show women in a progressive light, but hold that censorship is not a viable way to achieve this goal.

We are living in a hypocritical time, where we are aggressive over protesting against abuse to a woman. We are seeking respect for her; there are thousands of campaigns for woman and girl child’s rights and dignity. The same item number actresses have endorsed the cause. The other side most reputed newspapers are promoting sex by all means. A woman has not been put on this planet for your supreme entertainment or pleasure. A woman is not an adjective. If you cannot respect a woman, you are nothing. Provocative material in films is nothing but a fantasy for million cinema-goers per day. Almost every movie has songs interspersed throughout the entire plot. Every song is not created the same, however. A particular genre of songs, called ‘item songs’, is often included in huge blockbusters. Item songs of late have contained actresses wearing skimpy outfits and are characterized by skimpy clothing and suggestive choreography and lyrics. These songs are often continuously played on television and the radio and become nationwide sensations. These songs often boost the careers of the actresses who continue to star in these numbers, earning them the title of ‘item girls. The terminology itself degrades these women below human beings to inanimate objects who are there for the pleasure of the viewer, presumably male. This deconstruction of women plays along with the male gaze, viewing the female in parts rather than a whole. This plays on the notion of taking advantage of uneducated women for the use of pleasure. In the end, the question remains, what are we trying to project or get out of such things? Are they needed for an hour to promote any movie or just intellectual bankruptcy of filmmakers and viewers?

Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 14 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News (international). She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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