Bollywood through a feminist lens

Item Numbers rss

Billi (“Na Maloom Afraad,” 2014)

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June 21, 2017

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 ›

“Kamli” (Dhoom 3, 2013)

“Kamli” is an acrobatic strip tease. Katrina Kaif performs alone, amidst metal and sparks, as others watch. Aamir Khan sits in a chair, watching, unimpressed. She starts the song fully clothed, but it is clear she is vulnerable and he holds the power. Yet the sequence reveals the power of Kaif’s body (and any stunt… Read More ›

All eyes on you

Dancing Around Item Numbers

Short answer: I enjoy item numbers. Long answer: Every feminist has to wrestle with media and decide what they will tolerate, what they will turn off their brain for, what they will refuse to engage with. The difference between female-driven and male-drive item songs are striking. While an individual song may focus on a woman’s… Read More ›

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