Item numbers spicing up the small screen

Popular songs are interspersed with the story to attract TV show viewers.

Ians May 05, 2011


Racy songs and sizzling moves like in “Sheila Ki Jawani” are no longer limited to Bollywood, discos and weddings.

The small screen is cashing in on their popularity, as well, with TV actors grooving to item numbers in pre-wedding or party sequences in soaps.

Popular songs are being interspersed with the story to jazz up shows such as Zee TV’s “Ram Milayee Jodi”, “Mera Naam Karegi Roshan” and “Sangini”; Colors’ “Laagi Tujhse Lagan”, Sony’s “Baat Hamari Pakki Hai” and STAR Plus’ “Pratigya,” to name a few.

Ajay Bhalwankar, programming head for Sony, admits that there is a rise in the frequency with which Bollywood item numbers are being used on TV shows these days, but points out that the trend isn’t entirely new. He also feels the increase in Bollywood item numbers itself is a key reason for the trend.

“The trend has been there on TV for the last three years, but there are a lot more channels using them now. What has also fuelled this is the number of item songs in Bollywood,” Bhalwankar said.

At one point, many channels and producers had started creating their own tracks for specific scenes or would use the show’s title track in the background, like in “Kasautii Zindagii Kay” and “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi”. But film music soon took over.

“An integral part of Indian entertainment, music has always been important for serials too. The challenge always was that it takes time for music to grow on listeners. Therefore, specially recorded music for serials came and went in shows without much of an impact, unless it was the title theme that played again and again,” said Vivek Bahl, executive creative director of programming for STAR India Pvt Ltd. “So already popular film music began making an appearance on television a few years ago.”

Of late, sizzling numbers like “Munni badnaam hui” and “Sheila ki jawaani” have been featured frequently on TV during pre-wedding sequences like a bachelor party or a sangeet function.

Actor Barkha Bisht recently shot a song sequence in a bachelor party scene for “Ram Milayee Jodi”. Similarly, Mink Brar danced on “Munni badnaam hui” in “Pratigya”, and Sara Khan grooved to the same number in “Baat Humaari Pakki Hai”.

“The songs depend on the situation in the show. They are used at weddings and parties, where the same are common in real life too,” said Bahl.

Dance sequences increase the production cost of an episode by a margin of 10-20 per cent. So Bhalwankar says it is also pertinent for the performance to fit into the script. It should not be forced just to grab attention.

“Song and dance sequences in TV shows must be used only if the storyline permits. So, as one would see in most shows, these are included during wedding tracks or whenever the protagonists go to a party or visit a discotheque,” he said.

While shooting item numbers, channels must ensure that they don’t go overboard with the bold and sexy flavour that the original Bollywood version might have. Everything must be conducive for family viewing.

Viewers, too, feel this self-regulation is important.

“We usually watch TV with our children and when something vulgar comes up, our children don’t know where to look and we feel odd switching the channel at that point. So it helps if channels are careful themselves,” said Shalini Agarwal, a mother of two.

Nevertheless, the audience is all for item songs featured on TV shows, for they do add a little spice to the storyline.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2011.


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