an 'Item Number' is used to promote the film
Bollywood films are usually musicals. Very few movies are made without including at least one song and dance sequence. Bollywood actresses, in particular, have caused quite a stir and continued controversy over the years performing these demanding and sometimes risqué, sequences.
From the hip thrusting Helen of the 60’s and 70’s to the scintillating Sridevi of the 80’s. The majestic Madhuri of the 90’s, to the Alluring Aishwarya, captivating Katrina and mesmerising ‘Malaika’ of today to name just a few.
World class performances would not be same, without world class choreographers such as Saroj Khan, Farah khan, and Ganesh Acharya working with these ladies.
Saroj Khan is the most well known of Bollywood choreographers with over 200 films to her name, a career spanning over 50 years and at least 11 awards for best choreography. She helped Madhuri launch her career. Saroj Khan is at present a judge in the dance reality show named after her: ‘Nachle Ve with Saroj Khan’.
Farah Khan is another phenomenal lady with over 96 films to her name including recent action hit ‘Blue’ where she choreographed Kylie Minogue in the song ‘Chiggy Wiggy’.
Ganesh Acharya choreographed five big films in 2006 including Phir Hera Pheri and Lage Raho Munnabhai. He started his own dance group at a very young age (12) and became a choreographer at 19, with his first film at 12: Anaam (1992).
Helen Jairag Richardson Khan (known as Helen) was a Bollywood dancer of the 60’s and 70’s. Born in London to an exotic mix of Anglo-Indian (French) father and Burmese mother, Helen was 16 yrs old when she got her first big break in ‘Howrah Bridge’ (1957) where she danced in the famous song ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu’.
With her seductive moves Helen incorporating the then trendy western dance moves such as ‘The Bump’, ‘The Twist’ and ‘The Boogaloo’ into Bollywood dance sequences. Her popular performances include ‘O Haseena Zulfowali’ from Teesri Manzil (1966, and Yeh Mera Dil Pyar Ka Diwana from Don (1978) with the most famous being ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba from Sholay (1975).
Madhuri Dixit is one of Bollywood’s most treasured actresses and dancers. Her natural ability to move gracefully through various techniques such as classical Khathak to modern pop has set her in a league of her own. Acting was not her goal for she wanted to be a Micro-biologist. She is often referred to as the ‘Dhak Dhak Girl ‘due to the famous dance sequence in the song ‘Dhak Dhak Karne Laga’ from the film Beta(1992).
Madhuri was catapulted into stardom, literally overnight, from her dance sequence in Tezaab called ‘Ek, Do, Teen’ which was choreographed by Saroj Khan.
Madhuri has performed many memorable dance sequences including the controversial ‘Choli ke Peeche’ from Khalnayak (1993), but most recently in the film Ajaa Nachle (2007) in the title song of that name, showing she ‘still has it!’ Madhuri is unsurprisingly considered an ‘icon of dance’ amongst her fans.
Aishwariya Rai Bachchan
After winning Miss World in 1994, Ash glided onto the dance screens with her performance of ‘Nimbooda’ (choreography, Saroj Khan) in the film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999). Her dancing mainly comprised of the classical style: intricate hand moves, poise and effortless agility combined with beguiling expressions which enthralled fans worldwide.
In recent years she is notably remembered for her performances as an actress and dancer in Devdas (2002), and her ‘Item numbers’ ‘Ishq Kamina’ in Shakti (2002) and ‘Kajra Re’ in Bunty Aur Babli (2005) as well as the remake of the famous Umrao Jaan (2006).
Katrina Kaif is a star in the making. Initially a model she has captured everybody with her recent titillating performances in ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ from Tees Mar Khan (2012) choreographed by Farah Khan and the racy ‘Chikni Chameli’ from Agneepath (2012) choreographed by Ganesh Acharya.
The hit song ‘Chikni Chameli’ is based upon the Marathi hit ‘Kombadi Palali’ including the dance sequence and costume. According to Atul Gogavale, ‘Katrina spent eight days in rehearsal before starting to shoot the song. It took nine days to finish the shoot, and her energy levels never saw a dip’. Her sizzling ‘latkas’ and ‘chatkas’ have everybody hypnotized, leaving them eagerly anticipating more.
Here is a taster of actresses and dancers who have appeared in ‘Item Numbers’ for Bollywood films:
Item Numbers Trend
The song ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’ from Dabangg (2010) set the benchmark for ‘Item Number’ songs to follow.
During the 90’s and throughout 00’s these songs disappeared until ‘Munni’ hit the screens, setting off the trend again.
Malaika Arora Khan showed why she was still one of India’s top ‘Item girls’ after originally exploding on the scenes in ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ from Dil Se (1998) with her dance on a moving train. For ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’ there were 1235 participants performing the dance (choreographed by Farah Khan) with Malaika leading them on the stage, setting a world record! Her item song ‘Anarkali Disco Chali’ in Housefull 2 is currently creating waves everywhere.
Kareena Kapoor is another lady whose catchy ‘Item’ song ‘Dil Mera Muft Ka’ from ‘Agent Vinod’(March 2012) is causing a lot of commotion. This song is slightly different to other recent songs as it is done in the traditional Mujra style which is a dance originated by Tawaifs (courtesans) incorporating both classical and provocative movements. Kareena has been praised for executing the dance/expressions well. She is currently participating in two ‘Item’ songs in the forth coming film called ‘Heroine’ (April 2012) which she stars in.
Mallika Sherawat is often displayed as a Bollywood sex symbol and is renowned for performing ‘Item Songs’. ‘Mayya Mayya’ from Guru (2007) featured her in a very provocative performance which got many pulses racing and tongues wagging.
Sherawat has since been in songs ‘Razia’ from the film ‘Thank you’ and ‘Shalu Ke Thumki’ film ‘Bin Bulaye Baraati’, both released 2011. She is also featured as an ‘Item Girl’ in the song ‘Laila’ in the film ‘Tezz’ (2012).
In the modern era, more and more often, an ‘Item Number’ is used to promote the film to attract audiences during the trailers- these are usually actresses that are not in the actual film except for the song they perform in.
Nowadays, high profile actresses participate in this trend, simply as guest dancers. These include Veena Malik’s who’s debut ‘Item Number’ ‘Chhanno’ in ‘Gali Gali Chor Hain,’ Bipasha Basu in the film ‘Jodi Breaker’ with song ‘Bipasha- Pyar Ki Bhasha,’ Vidya Balan in the song ‘Ferrari Ki Sewaari’ from the film of the same name, Chitrangda Singh in the song ‘Firana’ from the film ‘Joker’ and Riya Sen in the film ‘Zindagi 50-50’.
So, who are your favourites? The voluptuous vixens of the past or the salacious beauties of today?