Bollywood through a feminist lens

Item Numbers rss

Laila Main Laila (Raees, 2017)

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August 9, 2017

What do item numbers do best? Push boundaries. Combine styles. The music is an updated version of “Laila O Laila” from 1980’s Qurbani. The music is a bit faster, more electronic and processed (the original is more disco-influenced). The editing is full of fast cuts. Shahrukh Khan stalks through the scene in sunglasses, watching the… Read More ›

“Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu” (Howrah Bridge, 1958)

It takes at least a week to get this song out of your head. A week if you are lucky. And then you start mindlessly humming, and suddenly the song is back. “Mere Naam Chin Chin Chu” is a famous song, one of the oldest, most recognizable item numbers. It was a star turn for… Read More ›

“Chammak Challo” (Ra.One, 2011)

“Chammak Challo” is an infectious, joyful earworm with a video featuring two attractive stars dancing and being charming. While not an item song in the traditional sense, it topped a number of charts around the world and was an important part of the marketing for Ra.One. The lyrics are simple and set to a beat… Read More ›

Billi (“Na Maloom Afraad,” 2014)

To celebrate adopting two more cats, I wanted to write about an item song with “billi” in the name. This was the only one I could find. But that’s cool, I haven’t seen many movies from Pakistan. Most of what I know about Pakistan comes from Indian cinema, so that’s problematic at best. The song… Read More ›

“Ladna Jhagadna” (Duplicate, 1998)

“Keh Rahi Hai” is set in a nightclub and features a man dancing with a snake. Yet it’s a rather boring item number: the gangster’s girlfriend dances in skimpy clothes, and eventually he joins her on stage. They both wear a lot of black leather. But “Ladna Jhagadna.” Here is a showstopper. Duplicate has a… Read More ›

“Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008)

“Remediation,” as defined by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, is the idea that new media achieves cultural significance by referring to and building on old media. One form of art or culture as reflected through another. Consider something like a vine, which combines gifs, memes, video, and thus photography, painting, stage productions. . …. Read More ›

“Tattad Tattad” (Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, 2013)

“Tattad Tattad” is my platonic ideal of an item number: catchy, fun, a performance by a gorgeous actor, colorful visuals. Because this is a male item number, the focus is on Ranveer Singh’s desirability and coolness. But he owns that desire. All eyes on him because that’s what he wants; he has the power to… Read More ›

Girls Want to Swing (Dil Dhadakne Do, 2015)

The YouTube thumbnail for “Girls Want to Swing” shows Priyanka Chopra and Anushka Sharma smiling into the camera, beckoning the viewer to join them. The camera is tight on their faces, and Sharma’s hand rests on Chopra’s shoulder. Chopra is cool, as always; Sharma looks inviting. The shot seems to tell two stories: the first… Read More ›

“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… Read More ›

“Dard-e-Disco” (Om Shanti Om, 2007)

Are item songs about power? Is sex about power? An item song is an opportunity to show off a body. I was about to add this is also an opportunity to use sexually charged lyrics, yet the actual song is often not very different from a duet between the hero and heroine. Those duets are… Read More ›

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