“Aap Jaisa Koi Meri Zindagi” (Qurbani, 1980)

Item numbers not only provide an opportunity to titillate and perhaps offer some relief between dramatic scenes, they provide the opportunity to play. Because they are designed to be subversive, item numbers can have fun in way other parts of Bollywood number cannot.

A brief description suggests “Aap Jaisa Koi Meri Zindagi” is a standard item number: beautiful female singer in skimpy clothes, backup dancers in even skimpier outfits, set in a nightclub while a male character looks on.

But seeing, and hearing, is believing.

The song is, of course, light and upbeat. But mixed in with the usual instruments are disco beats. A shirtless man flails on the drums, and women in leotards joyfully play keyboards and guitars. Disco balls reflect bright rainbow lights. Zeenat Aman combines traditional moves with something akin to The Hustle.

Other than the dour man (in a boring dark suit), everyone looks like they are having a blast.

The camera’s focus is still squarely on the female body: an early shot centers on Aman’s ass, clad in a tight red dress. The backup dancers and musicians wear leotards that are not particularly skimpy by 2017’s standards, but still show ample legs, butts, arms, and chests.

Still, this song shows that an item number can be more than just sexy ladies: it can playfully combine stylistic elements and have fun in the process.

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