Dear Bollywood, stop making those crappy item numbers first!

item number 1

Predictably every Bollywood actor and filmmaker is taking to Twitter and expressing outrage over the heinous gang-rape of a photojournalist at Mumbai’s Lower Parel yesterday evening.

Apart from condemning the incident, some are also targeting the Mumbai Police for their shoddy security bandobast for the city’s women.

Thank you Bollywood for joining the ranks.

But has anybody in Bollywood thought about how they can actually help the crusaders who are fighting these criminals?

I have a suggestion, dear Bollywood.

Kindly stop churning out those sleazy and titillating ‘item numbers’ with such alarming regularity.

Some filmmakers have a huge problem calling item numbers what they actually are. They prefer to call it by some other name, like a ‘special song’ or something. But I don’t mind referring to these ‘special songs’ with its age-old moniker.

Now, before I launch my tirade against item numbers, let me explain them to you. This is for my readers who are still looking for a reason about why item numbers haven’t become extinct by now. There was a time, not long ago, when item numbers used to be classy and existed in harmony with the script.

But today, it has become an inseparable part of a film in some other way. Its definition have gone through a sea-change in the last five years or so.


What are item numbers in commercial Bollywood films?

Item numbers are those ‘special’ songs which are not connected with the storyline of the film in any way. It is picturised on an actor who is otherwise not a part of film’s cast. In some cases, the item numbers are shot by the lead actors though the song is forcefully inserted into the narrative of the film.

Why are item numbers made?

Item numbers are made purely out of commercial concerns. The item numbers are used to promote the film and boost album sales. It aims to goad a lot of people to download the tune on their mobiles or computers. All of that spell money. Item numbers are the best sales tool for bringing in a quick buck before the movie’s release. Peppy item numbers also contribute to the opening of a film.

What is the content of an item number?

Item numbers will generally portray the actress as a sex object and will have lyrics that will titillate the sexual desires of the audience. Most item numbers will have actresses gyrating to the lyrics in a sexually suggestive way. The dance movements are choreographed in way that is sexually suggestive. Some item numbers are shot with male actors too. The sexual innuendos vary with every item song. The lyrics are the most important component of an item song. In some cases it directly talks about sex while in other cases, the songs are cleverly worded.

I know some filmmakers are classy with their item numbers but the problem is, most of them are not.

Now that everybody is expressing their outrage, I am asking Bollywood one question.

Do you really need that sleazy item song to sell your film?

There must be a reason why sexually explicit item numbers doesn’t exist in Hollywood or the UK but have become a rule in Indian commercial cinema in the last 10 years or so. If a big-budget commercial film doesn’t have an item number to boast of, we call that film an exception.

I understand that item numbers spell a lot of money for Bollywood filmmakers, but do you really need to put that in your film? All you guys are marketing geniuses, can’t you figure out another way to market your film rather than base it on a song which has an overdose of sexual innuendos?

I know a lot of Bollywood filmmakers will argue that they shoot their item numbers in a very classy way. But what about those who are portraying women as an object of sex?

A Bollywood filmmaker told me that item numbers don’t cause rapes and that the Indian audience must exercise discretion about what they want to imbibe from a film’s song. True.

I too know that argument.

item number 3

But tell me when you go to the single screens and you see your ‘audience’ dancing on a chair when an item number comes on screen, do you think they are taking the item number in the right spirit?

In India, statistics show that sexual crimes against women are committed by a certain class of people who, apart from having a twisted mind, also come from a poor economic background.

The kind of women they see on the big screen are out of their reach. One of the main motives of these perpetrators is to ‘have’ the woman who is otherwise out of their reach.

Some studies and surveys have already pointed out that Bollywood films and specially item numbers have a deep impact on such a criminal’s mind.

Do you think you have a responsibility towards that class of your audience who will be most influenced by your item number without exercising any discretion? Who will never take the number in the right spirit? Who will be deeply influenced by seeing a woman being portrayed as a sex object? The class of audience who needs to be educated first and made aware before being subjected to lyrics that talk about having sex with a woman who is out of their reach in real life?

When we had broached the topic in the past, you have always reacted by moving the goalpost. When we have pointed out the malaise that item numbers are breeding in a particular economic and social class, you have spoken about the discerning audience who use social media.

We talk about somebody else and dear Bollywood, you always talk about us.

But you make your item numbers keeping us in mind or some other class of audience? Let’s talk about those people who are the target group (TG) of your item numbers.

Now tell me, do you feel that you should bombard them with such crude lyrics or a woman gyrating suggestively and singing about having sex?


I could have embedded numerous video-clips from upcoming Bollywood films that are trying to earn money by selling crude lyrics and subjecting the most talented of actresses into doing something that they otherwise won’t do.

You say Indian television serials are regressive.

Aren’t item numbers as regressive, dear Bollywood?

Short-link of the post ->

Cartoonist Avinash Patil has kindly contributed the cartoon for this blog. He blogs HERE.

9 replies »

  1. I agree with every word of you here … the fact that the filmmakers have to resort to item numbers to make their art noticed says a lot about their capability and much more about the sensibility of their audience.


  2. Aren’t filmmakers(producers) are like wealthy guys with no or little education. So they are like “JIsse paisa banega, woh hi cheez film mein dalega”. They don’t know or care about society and problems or maybe they lack the insight. They have been brought up in the environment where Rokda is everything and hence, they follow the tradition. This ofcourse is for 90% of them.
    For rest of 10%, the PR forces them to have item numbers as others are reaching 100cr with its help.Till that time, all hail the Lungi song otherwise Laila aapki bhi le legi.


  3. How true Soumyadip… Lost all respect for an actress who had claimed that she will never do item songs which insult women and was checking lyrics/dance steps et al. But nowadays is seen dancing away to glory in this pathetic song “pinki hain PAISEWALON ki..” Now from which angle and logic is this song respectful can you ask her on my behalf? As a woman, I feel so offended and embarrassed when such sleazy “item numbers” are being aired constantly. And no, i do not watch entertainment channels, even the news channels are not spared. Watching TV has become a torture.


  4. it’s worthless for us to even think that Bollywood cares about the well-being of people. Hell, they don’t even protect the women working in their industry, so why would they give a damn on how their movies and item songs have impacts on women’s lives? all they care about is how to make MONEY…the rest is for show!


  5. Agree with every word in this article. Stars , film maker in fact give long lectures on crime in society , but happily contribute in nurturing the same crime. They will do all crappy songs like shila ki jawani , chikni chameli blah blah , and at the end they will advocate they are just entertainer and society never emulate them etc. all craps.

    The thing human always influenced by visuals and in indian society context lots of thrend , shape of mind etc. copied from movies , star etc. On one side they pollute the viewer mind by promoting commodification of women that too in a highly patriarchal society in India and in other side do the lip service in twitter and media. Instead taking these criticism as attack on their business interest they should take these type of criticism to ractify things that will helpful in building a better society . But in this shameless money hunger the same story will continue by impose another item song , in the next movie they will aptly say;

    1234 get on the business folks ,

    I think it is the responsibility of media to ensure all kind of professional support to the brave heart. with out any thought


  6. Please STOP blaming trivial things on reasons why rapes happen in India! By taking out item songs, you seriously think rapes will stop??? Come on!!!! Are we living in the dark ages???… is very sad that educated people like you are pointing fingers and blaming others for the sick depraved frustrated wack jobs that are out there. Ever thought of blaming our judiciary system?


  7. @Ananymous
    Problem for few like u is they hardly think about notorious issues like this , A kid can say it is loophole of law- order and judiciary system . Put a little extra pressure to your thought process on what is society , what is patriarchal thinking,

    Did anyone here blame vulgarity and projection of women in item songs – commodification of women is sole reason? Instead cheering item song , blabbering some dark age etc. use your energy to counter the view in the article ,


  8. Couldn’t agree more.
    There are currently no new actress in Bollywood worthy to give respect . All roam around in bikinis. Most of them like to be called sex objects.
    Juwi Chawla, Tabu and all those 90’s actress always remain in our hearts.


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