Deciphering the ‘item’ in item songs.
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Indian film industry is one of the most flourishing sector. Bollywood plays a pivotal role in structuring society, as the actors are highly honored as gods by their devotees (fans). The mob blindly follows their favorite actor in fashion, dialogues and songs. Item songs have become an essential part of the films paving way to thriving capital consumption. Bollywood has a long history of item numbers, projecting courtesans or ‘tawaifs’ in a sexually explicit modus. Early 1950’s was an onset for upstarts as ‘Cuckoo’ who performed on item numbers in films such as Awara and Aan, soon substituted by Helen, who ruled the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s finally giving way to Aruna Irani, Bindu and Padma Khanna. In the present scenario, Bollywood’s leading ladies have taken to the floor themselves. These days it has become more obscene, pervasive and derogatory.

“I am butter chicken, gulp me with alcohol…” such lyrics are popular among the masses and by and large are in demand.

But industry fails to recognize the severity of the issue and the psycho-social impact it has on minds of the people. This sort of projection of women as a “body” in an erotic form can create sexual tribulations among the throng. The pornographic material which they serve to the audience in a platter threatens social breakdown therefore possessing serious ramifications ultimately affecting their business. Maybe that is the reason they imply the technique of showbiz i.e. the game of concealing and revealing. They do not make pornography fully available to the audience and thus keep the skin market alive and booming.

We live in a patriarchal dominated society. Many feminists celebrate liberation of women in form of dance. But they fail to notice that the core agenda for the patriarchs is to suppress ‘the other’ gender further. The increase in visibility of women in public spheres has enabled men to comprehend and accept the unprecedented change. Their sudden emergence has made men more sexually aware and a rise in pornographic consumption has led film makers to try to cash in by introducing sleazy songs such as “Choli ke pichhe kya hai…..” and many more such numbers.

Varun Grover, bollywood’s leading lyricist responds to this question, “I find it absolutely disgusting the way women are portrayed in today’s cinema be it mainstream or sleazy ones. And the big stars and celebrities are to be equally blamed as they are completely okay with the trend. Rather they seem to be milking this opportunity.”

Men often seek such erotic arousal at public events where women or trans genders are hired to perform on such songs to pacify their sexual arousals. For example ‘Sonepur’ fair of Bihar, where women dance on item numbers in the fenced area.

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A very clear example of conscribing women in fences. Same goes with bouncers or guards in bars and discs, who are implemented in the name of safety for women. Are they needed? Are men, the ‘leading and dominating’ gender of our societies that perverse and dangerous? Do women really need fences, both metaphorical and literal? If yes then why? What liberation are we seeking then? And why should this ‘art of liberation’ need protection? We live in a world of paradoxes and this platonic and rhetorical notion of feminism is leading us nowhere.



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