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What’s the difference between bar girls and item girls?

The Supreme Court in October struck down a Maharashtra state government imposed ban on dance bars as it violated bar dancers’ right to earn a livelihood. However, the state government seems too adamant to start the dance bars again. So, they are drafting some rules, which can put bars in an awkward situation. The new draft rules restrict the number of dancers on the floor and also prescribe a minimum distance between the performers and the audience, meaning customers can’t come on the dance floor or dance with the bar girl. Further, smoking would not be allowed inside dance bars, nor would flashing of currency notes be permitted. The state government seems to have made up its mind to make running a dance bar almost an impossible proposition. A draft of new rules and regulations for dance bars reviewed by us says that every dance bar must now have CCTVs with the feed beamed live to the nearest police station. Since, dance bars were always a guilty pleasure; they are unlikely to attract any customers with cops watching them all the time. Also, live feed inside the police station could embarrass them. Meanwhile, there is debate, discussions and news about dance bar re-opening, but if I have to state my opinion then bar or no bar, but Bollywood is compensating the loss of it to a larger extent.

Nowadays, there is lack of dancing talents in Bollywood in the name of item numbers. Indian film industry has stooped so low to sell their product, they are coming down to any level. Enough with item numbers, like retards these lyricists pick up a name and start writing crass words around them. Let it be Fevicol, kundi mat khadkao raja, Sheela, Munni, Pinky or Bubbly. Shame on all the ‘so called’ A grade actresses to agree to such objectifying of women. Idiotic dances, beyond mediocre lyrics, and formula marketing gimmicks. 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 offered to showcase vulgar dancing women in revealing clothes, to lend support to the commercial aspect of the film. These hit item numbers are, key to their business offers as performer in different events. The same dance numbers are performed at New Year event, award shows and many such gatherings and event. More hit item numbers have more demand. In the race of earning money and remains in glam world, these actresses have shed all sorts of inhibitions.

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 movies in order to generate publicity. The first item 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 Amitabh Bachchan, 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 Helan, but lyrics used to be very sensible at that time. There were particular set of dancers who used to do these numbers and heroine of the movie had some reputed 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 there were double meaning songs and now entire songs revolve around one name and cheap lyrics. Like Munni Badnaam huyi and Sheela ki jawani. Now there are new series like kundi mat khadkao Raja and Halkat jawani.

Although, the derivation of the term “item number” is unclear. It is likely that it originates its meaning from objectification of sexually attractive women. This is because item in filmy Mumbai slang is a sexy woman. Moreover, Mumbai is famous for dance bars and characters like Munni, Sheela, Babli and Pinky are common names of the bar dancers and prostitutes in red light areas. That’s why; these names are related to that kind of audience in theatre. 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. There are item boys as well; however, females are more commonly featured in item numbers than males. Most of the time established female and male actors will 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 that Bollywood, being such a huge influence for Indian society, has a responsibility to produce movies that show women in progressive light, but hold that censorship is not a viable way to achieve this goal.

We are seeking respect for Women. There are thousands of campaigns for woman and girl child’s rights and dignity. The same item number actresses are endorsing the cause. There are other sides also, most of the reputed newspapers are promoting sex by all means. Woman has not been put on this planet for your supreme entertainment or pleasure. A woman is not an object. If you cannot respect a woman, you are nothing. Provocative material in films is nothing but fantasy for million cinemagoers per day. Almost every movie has songs interspersed throughout the entire plot. The terminology ‘item girl’ itself degrades these women below human beings to inanimate objects who are simply there for the pleasure of the viewer, presumably male. This deconstruction of women plays along the male gaze, viewing the female in parts rather than a whole. In the end the question remains the same, what are we trying to project by showing such things? Are these songs needed to promote any movie or just intellectual bankrupts of filmmakers and viewers?

Dr. Vaidehi Tamanhttp://www.vaidehisachin.com
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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