Saturday, June 30, 2012

'Item' Songs!

Madam Malai

For the uninitiated, this is not what the Amul girl  will be called when she’ll grow up (if at all). This is Veena Malik in a very nondescript, can-and-will-be-forgotten-before-it-hits-the-theatres movie called Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai (thanks for the warning, makers!)

So why talk of her? Or Madam Malai? It’s because I’m going nuts!

I mean, what’s with these item songs? First of all, whoever thinks it is fun are pervs – for I see it as demeaning to women (yeah, go ahead and brand me a feminist). ‘Item’ or ‘maal’ as men are prone to calling, implies commoditizing women (and yes, the Malayalam equivalent – charakku). Isn’t that why the song is called an item song? Correct me if I’m wrong!

And I’m driven up the wall by the slew of such songs on TV – in fact, I dread switching it on around cousins. When I was a kid, catching such scenes on TV was an uncomfortable experience – the awkward silence, avoiding each other’s gaze. Now, we have women gyrating sleazily in their two- pieces (if we are lucky) and oddly enough we are comfortable with it – or at least it doesn’t raise eyebrows. The channel to avoid around adults those days was FTV, but now I don’t think there’s any channel without a bit of skin show on the offing!

Perhaps this trend was ignited when Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru got famous with their raunchy music videos, where unsuspecting old songs of yore got a facelift and was presented in its new avatar. Kaanta Laga, Chadti Jawani, Kaliyon Ka Chaman, Saheri Babu – anyone? It opened the floodgates for sleaze. What was once considered anathema became acceptable. They raised the bars and lowered our levels of alarm. It wasn’t long before movies absorbed this phenomenon. Not that ‘item songs’ didn’t exist before it. It got a new lease of life after this. I remember Shilpa Shetty in ‘Dilwaalon ke dil ka karaar lootne’ and even Malaika Arora in ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ – but it now appears harmless compared to what was to follow.

Things were again low for a while. And then Yana Gupta broke into the item scene with ‘Babuji zara dheere chalo’. Here was a foren lass gyrating to a Hindi song, along with lip-synching – no less! And the rest, as they say, is history. A bimbo in every movie seemed the magic mantra. And that trend continues – it’s hard to see a movie without one. The latest instigator was Munni Badnam where Malaika continued her legacy of Honth Rasile, Mahi Ve among others. And since then there has been a heavy dose of such songs – Sheila Ki Jawani, Chikni Chameli, Chammak Challo, Dum Maro Dum, Character Dheela, Jalebi Bai, Shalu ke Tumkhe, Mayya Mayya, Anarkali Disco Chali, Laila (from Tezz), Shake it Saiyyan ( this one I find utter crap!), Pritam Pyaare, Hua Chokra Jawaan Re...the list is growing. It appears as if we have more items songs in the last two years than in the last decade! And the worst by far is Dan Dan Cheeni from Department (had to be RGV!) I can’t stand that song on TV – horror of horrors; imagine it on the big screen! There’s this savage lady doing pelvic thrusts and I can’t fathom, for the love of God, how that is supposed to be sexy. What about feminine charm, grace and the art of seduction? This is more like brute force (I get where they are going with this approach) – and I can’t say I like it.

And need I talk about the lyrics of such songs? Double entendre is a given; but the lyrics are crass in taste as well. I am a bit biased about the song Beedi Jalai Le – it’s a bit rustic and didn’t seem out of place in the movie (okay fine, shoot me). If you still don’t trust what I say, just check out the lyrics of of some –

Oonche se ooncha banda
Potty pe baithe nanga
(What philosophy!)

Pal pal na mane tinku jiya, haan tinku jiya
Isak ka manjan ghisey hai piya
(Wonder why no toothpaste company wanted this song, like Zandu Balm and Munni!)

Chod-chad ke apne Salim ki gali
Anarkali Disco chali
(Great, now we had to drag ‘em from their graves!)

So what about old times? They had such songs then too, you ask? If I had to do a quick rewind, Helen comes to mind – she was the staple vamp, cabaret dancer, temptress or whatever you chose her to be. And yet, the girls of today don’t even come close. She also wore some daring costumes for her time, but when I see her I don’t feel repulsed; when I see the item songs now, I cringe in disgust. Some of them can’t even shake their legs – they looks like sticks shaking in the wind! No grace, no charm, no oomph (yeah, you have your Katrinas to rave about – sorry she’s not that great!). Great bodies? Hell yeah, they have that (with all the nipping and tucking, starvation and cosmetics). But the equation is still incomplete.

They say movies reflect the times we live in. And so do the songs. If this is how it looks, I am afraid the future doesn’t look any bright.


  1. It's not only that their sexist and pervert, I often find item songs boring, you know they prolong the movie unnecessarily. I just recently watched Kaakha Kaakha (2003, Tamil), and was so pissed off by that item song. Okay, the girl wasn't skin and bones, but still the song really didn't do any good for the film.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. That was fast Mette! Boring? Well, men might beg to differ ;)
      It's somewhat catchy - atleast initially, for me. Then the channels outdo 'em by broadcasting day & night. You keep hearing/seeing it till it starts to bug you. And then you think - now what's so great about that? And as for the movie, yes, it does tend to distract where the plot's going, mostly.
      I think that producers should just use this to lure people to the theatre, and include it as the credit rolls at the end, if at all. That way, we don't have to endure it if we don't like it, the promotional angle works and it doesn't distract us from the plot. That's what Aamir Khan did with his 'item' song in Delhi Belly. Made sense, for me.

  2. Well written Vinitha. I love the catchy tunes. I completely agree with you on the choreography and the lyrics of these songs, and the name "Item Song", i think most of us use it without realizing the inner meaning. They are degrading and distasteful . When it comes to costumes I don't even mind the clothes these women wear.. If you can carry it out gracefully - great, otherwise like mentioned they look like sleaze balls ! Overall enjoyed the blog :)

    1. Tunes are catchy indeed; haven't you seen how small kids pick 'em up faster than the rest? And yes, it's a fine line there, between being slutty and being sexy. Graceful? Well, can't say that applies to the songs of late. Thanks for dropping by and the generous comment, Preethi :)

  3. Hey vinitha...Malayali I assume :).... Yeah i totally agree with you... Earlier movies revolved around plots, but today it revolves around "ITEM SONGS". At least malayali industry was not affect till recently. Now we have that too in the our movies, plus most of the movies today are crap. The worst part is how people who talk against it are branded archaic. Yeah undress a girl and make here dance in front of men whose tongues are out, Very modern. Now the media is playing it safe coz of the delhi rape case and also asking if item songs are to be blamed, but we all know they will go back to square one and again fuss the "ITEM GIRLS"... Oh by the way while the item girls are glamourized and made as modern, role models, the ones who do the same thing in bars to feed their family are called names,ostracized...Aren't we great????

    1. Hi Prajod
      Thanks for dropping by! And yes, I'm a Malayali :)*shucks, that parody song came to mind*

      I digress... coming back:
      The sudden surge of such sleaze in songs is, perhaps, a reflection of reality. As hard as it is to admit it, there has been a slow erosion of moral values. Dressing provocatively and titillating men is considered okay - I don't like to call it as being 'liberal' or 'tolerant'. Let's call a spade a spade - it's plainly degrading! And this trend has caught on in the Malayalam film industry too: under the garb of 'new generation films', we're corrupting our values as well. It's one thing to open our films to new styles/themes/show reality - quite something else to push it to a whole different level.
      And you've caught the contradiction correctly - it's okay to do it on-screen, but if she does it in bars, she's called a different name! Ah well, that's human nature - hypocritical and contradictory!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...