The classical meaning of item song in Indian cinema used to be related as highly sensual songs with racy descriptions and suggestive lyrics. The Indian Item Songs would feature an attractive girl who appears in the film as a dancer, usually in a bar or nightclub, and is taken in the film only for the purpose of that song. Earlier this concept was often frowned upon. But, today it is a commonly used with hardly any negative connotations to it. Rather it is considered as an USP of the film to use a renowned female actress in an upbeat item song.
The term item song in modern Indian cinema has now been flexible to include almost all cheerful dance numbers involving either an appealing woman in shiny clothing, or a guest appearance from a star and is present in the movie for the length of that song only. It has become quite common for these item numbers to occur in the opening and closing credits of Bollywood films. However, these days, there are many exceptions. Even if the lead or supporting actress dances to an upbeat song in the movie, it is being considered as an item song. Recently Katrina Kaif played an important role in the movie Tees Maar Khan but she also appeared as the popular item girl with the song 'Sheila Ki Jawani"
History of Indian Item Songs
Item songs date long back in the history of Indian cinema starting with Padmini and Vyjayanthimala. It was popular actress Vyjayanthimala who established the concept of item songs in most of her films like Jewel Thief, Nagin, Devdas (1955), Madhumati, Sadhana, Amrapali and many more. But the actual pioneer of this trend is the popular actress and dancer, Helen, who did such musical songs from as far back as the 1960s, along with other glamour girls like Bindu and Aruna Irani in the 1970s.
Evolution of Indian Item Songs
In the late 1980s, the Ek Do Teen sequence was added to the movie, Tezaab as an afterthought and it transformed Madhuri Dixit and made her a superstar in later years. This song is popular even today and some consider Madhuri Dixit to be the pioneer of the modern trend. Actress Urmila Matondkar is one of the most successful item girls, featured in "Chamma Chamma" in the 1998 film China Gate. Although there are many songs that can be called item numbers in the early and mid 1990's, the term itself became closely associated with the name Shilpa Shetty, when danced for "Main Aai Hoon UP Bihar Lootne" in the movie Shool. Probably, this was the first time Bollywood actually referred to Shilpa as an Item Girl and the scene as a perfect item number.
Recent trends of Indian Item Songs
Malaika Arora Khanand Yana Gupta are more contemporary item number dancers of Bollywood who are renowned to win the ground, wherever they performed. They clearly declared to the media that they don't want to act in movies since they earn adequate amount of money by just doing one song. Abhishek Bachchan probably became the first Item Boy with his performance in the film Rakht; Shahrukh Khan was also brilliant in his performance as an item boy during the casting of Kaal. However, he earned the label of item number in the true sense of the word with "Dard-e-Disco" in the Farah Khan directed Om Shanti Om where he was shot in typical "item girl" manner with bare six pack abs. He also performed an item number for the lately released movie Krazzy 4. In this film, Hrithik Roshanalso has an item number during the end credits. Even Salman Khan continued the trend by appearing in item songs in films like Hello and Tees Maar Khan, Aamir khan in Delhi Belly and Ranbir Kapoor in Chillar Party.
In the current period, Indian Item Songs had attained great new heights and status with the songs "Munni Badnam" featuring the diva of item songs Malaika Arora Khan, from the film Dabbang and "Sheila Ki Jawani" featuring the leading actress Katrina Kaif in the film Tees Maar Khan. Even Raveena Tandon's item song in the recent film, Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap has been much appreciated by the audiences.
Many movies use item songs in their films as a marketing tool that is used as a trailer or a teaser to advertise the movie on television music channels. Sometimes reputable female and male actors offer special appearances to an item song to improve the film's marketability. Item numbers of this type are generally less exposing and have more of a appealing flavour.
Malaika Aora Khan
Former item girls in pop songs other than films, Rakhi Sawant and Meghna Naidu, for example, are now in high demand and very popular. Today, they are even being offered lead roles in commercially successful movies. As of 2007, Mallika Sherawat has become the most expensive "Item Girl".
Indian Item Songs