Item songs and flirting with danger

Many people believe that item songs have been there forever, thus they cannot be blamed for any sex-related crimes.

Ovais Ahmed February 15, 2013
Item songs have an interesting history. Our parents still remember item numbers such as, Eena meena deeka and Kaho ji tum kya kya khareedo gaay from the 50s for their catchy tunes, interesting lyrics and non-situational placement in films.

The trend continued in the 50s with hits like Main kaa karoon Ram mujhey Buddha mil gaya and Honton pe aisi baat. These were songs with all the characteristics of a good item number except one - they were not cheesy.

In the 60s, the situation began to change when sexual themes were introduced in item songsAa jaane-jaan, piya tu ab to aaja and Raat baaqi were called trendsetters in such content.

The audience reaction to them was initially varied, as some people appreciated them, while others became uncomfortable when they were played.

Jumma chumma de deCholi ke peeche and Sexy sexy mujhey log bolein started a new wave of item numbers, which went on to become super hits, yet were highly controversial for Bollywood audiences in all parts of the world.

The culture of below-the-belt lyrics proved to be a double-edged sword.

For filmmakers, they generated free publicity, helping the film with its box-office success. For the audiences, such songs played a crucial part in diminishing the awkward feeling associated with them.

B-town never looked back.

Filmmakers have cashed in on hundreds of numbers like Beedi jalai ley, Munni badnaam huee, Sheela ki jawaani, Chammak challo, Chikni chameli, Jalebi bai, which portray women in less than skimpy clothes as objects of desire, as if they have been put on this planet for the sole pleasure of men.

For many, such songs are linked to inciting sexual violence.

What I don't understand is how educated actors happily take up the task; why do they put their bodies on such an obvious display of sexual objectification?

For others, the impact of the visual medium is a little less than that of a fabricated story. They are of the opinion that item songs have been there forever so they cannot be blamed for any sex-related crimes.

Those who don’t like this kind of stuff should stop watching it.

Defending monetary interests, advocates of freedom of artistic speech forget that when vulgar dance moves from such songs can subliminally affect the mind of a five-year-old - who puts them on display at a friend’s birthday party - then why can’t the motives and meaning of these item songs affect the minds of adults?

Points to ponder, no?

Read more by Ovais here. 
Ovais Ahmed A producer for Express News.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


gp65 | 9 years ago | Reply @Nobody: Yes. The raunchy songs in an otherwise family oriented story is an anomaly that is being discussed by the Indian censor board in terms of how to address it for a) The cinema halls in India b) TV in India The fact that US and other countries cinema halls are not familiar and hence do nothonour the rating system of Indian board is probably not an issue that will be resolved in short term. But perhaps as Bollywoo becomes more mainsteam, there will be a demand for the cinema owners to implement that locally.
Nobody | 9 years ago | Reply @gp65: I see. Thanks for the explanation. I think a more detailed description of what to expect is necessary now that story lines are straying from the usual PG love stories of the pre-2000's. I don't know about India, but I know for sure theater goers in the US ignore the ratings for Indian flicks (although these are usually predominantly desi owned cinemas so go figure, the rules are dismissed) and I see little kids time and time again at Indian flicks that shouldn't have kids in the audience. The item songs are usually where the problem is in my opinion. The story lines are not usually overtly vulgar, and the presence of sex is not as prevalent or blunt as it is elsewhere, but the item song starts and boom, it's a different world. While I disagree with the way women are portrayed, adults can choose to watch whatever and I'm not a purist tbh. But even then, not sure I'm comfortable with a little kid watching a couple gyrate their way through a catchy song.
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