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'Item numbers' move on
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Until recently, "item numbers" in films were restricted to the women, but this seems is set to change.
The 'item girls' included Shilpa Shetty in the "Main ayee hoo UP Bihar lootne" number in "Shool" that made audiences drool. Isha Koppiker re-invented both the "item" song and her career with "Khallas" in "Company" - and Lara Dutta jolted viewers into a state of shocked response with her "Aisa jadoo" number in "Khakee".
In between, there was Urmila Matondkar's double-deckered delight "Chamma chamma" in "China Gate" and "Aayiye aa jaiyiye" in "Lajja".
More recently, Koena Mitra and Yana Gupta have sizzled the screen with numbers like "Nikal le bhaiya" in "Road" and "Babujee" in "Dum".
Suddenly, the titillation equation has shifted from the women to the men.
In the ready-for-release "Dhoom", the "item" song that's playing round-the-clock emphasises brawn and beefcake instead of oomph. While Tata Young sizzles, three men take turns to act cosy with her.
"And why not? Since a majority of our viewers are women, why should the item numbers only be targeted at male audiences?" asks Arjun Sablok, who shot the "Dhoom" music video that is playing round-the-clock on TV channels.
"I think we've had enough of that. In my "Dhoom" video, I've deliberately emphasised Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham and Uday Chopra as much as Tata Young. Women in the audience enjoy watching brawn as much as the men enjoy cheesecake," Sablok contends.
Though the "Dhoom" promotional video was meant only for television it will be included as part of the end-titles when the film releases next week.
Is this the beginning of the culture of "item" songs where men feature as the main source of interest? Could be!
In the week after "Dhoom" releases, Mahesh Manjrekar's "Rakht" has Abhishek Bachchan in a dazzling "item" song.
The "One Love" track by the American band Blue has been partially converted into Hindi by crooner Shaan and filmed in Singapore specially for "Rakht". Producer Suniel Shetty felt that the concept of a male item song was attractively new to the audience.
On the response to the brawn explosion in "Dhoom" and "Rakht" depends the future of the gender-reserved item songs. Coming up next is the mighty Amitabh Bachchan for a song and dance with Hema Malini in Yash Chopra's untitled film.