Item songs and flirting with danger
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 songs. Aa 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 de, Choli 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.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.