Archive for the ‘SHEHER KI LADKI’ Tag

Let’s celebrate top 5 item songs of all time!

Previously published on PFC…

This is not much of a blog post really. It’s more of a call out to all the fans of big bad khalish desi style vintage Bollywood cinema on PFC, particularly those of you who like item numbers. A well done item number is like daal main tadka or sambhar mein kari patta, whichever metaphor works better for you. A well done item number can not only increase the entertainment quotient of a film but can also take the narrative and overall quality of the film several notches higher. Like every other aspect of film making, item number also requires careful planning, creative writing and crisp execution by the choreographer, dancers or actors and the rest of the crew, in addition to the music director of course. But most important, just like you cannot separate a good film from a good director, a good item number also requires the stamp of the director. For the item number to work, it should not be done on the side and later added to the film. The director must be fully involved and should know what he wants from the item number. In the absence of that, the item number gets reduced to just a filler even if it has great music and catchy lyrics.

This is a list of what I consider top 5 item numbers of all time. To be precise, my definition of an item number is restricted to songs performed on screen by an artist, who does not have a role in the rest of the film, not even a guest role. The actor or actress must appear in the film for the item number only. So for all the ‘Bidi’ fans out there, the song doesn’t belong in the list as Bipasha Basu had a full fledged role in Omkara. Similarly many of the Helen’s songs of yore also get struck out, including the all time classic “Yeh mera dil”, because she had a small but well defined role in those films. With that, and before any further delay, let me get started with my list.

Number 1- Khallas from Company

If I can write in great Oz’s language, this one can really be called the ‘Baap of all the item numbers’. Item numbers don’t get spicier than this one. The fast paced music by Sandeep Chowta is top notch, the singing out of this world. Sapna Awasthi does a great job, Sudhesh Bhonsle reprises RD Burman in his yemma yemma style, with the deep throaty raw voice but what makes the song special is the use of Asha Bhonsle.  Oh man, does she deliver? Lyrics are superb with Khallas as the catch phrase but also with a two layered , almost anti-Sufiana narrative that allows the song to be interpreted either as a song about love or underworld, both being full of danger, the central theme of the song .

However, it’s the picturization that applies char chaand to the song and that’s where the genius of RGV shows. The set up is very realistic page three type party; the camera movement is fast, jerky but with a voyeuristic focus on key figures among the crowd. Isha Koppikar sizzles in her red outfit and does a perfect job of an item girl. There is not much skin show, yet Ms. Koppikar looks sensuous and hot.

One way to judge the item song is by its impact. This format of crowded dance floor, full of alcohol and smoke and an item girl dancing in skimpy clothes got copied over and over again in substandard films, never quite reaching the level that Khallas did. Khallas itself borrowed the format from Tezaab in which Madhuri dances on stage surrounded by a room full of people. RGV brought the item girl down into the crowd. Overall, a great song in audio and video and my choice to lead this super list.

Number 2 – Kajrare from Bunti aur Babli

If Khallas is the baap of all item songs, this one is clearly the ma. Item songs don’t get bigger than this one.  The music of this film was a hit before the film came out. The song already sounded well orchestrated and started being noticed even without the visuals. The Kawwali, almost pinjrae wali munia style of singing where some lines are sung or rather repeated in high pitch was great. Llyrics were extra ordinary by the great one and only Gulzar sab.

But, we had no idea what was coming until we watched the song in the film. God, this was mind blowing stuff. They had all the ingredients, the two Bachchans for the first time together in a song and Aishwarya Rai, great music by SAL and sensuous voice of Alisha Chinoy. Combinations don’t get hotter than that. But you may have all the ingredients, it still takes an expert chef to turn it into a mouth watering dish and that’s exactly what this one was. Aishwarya Rai simply rocked. I am not a big fan of her acting; at best it comes across as labored and well rehearsed. Her dancing is slightly better but the woodenness doesn’t quite go away. But in this song, she was in a completely different zone. Every body movement of her was out of this world, she was dressed right and looked equal amount a cheap item girl yet graceful, scorching hot and sexy yet beautiful like a dream.  Big B was, well, just Big B and Chhote B didn’t disappoint either, he just seemed to be having a good time, which is what he was supposed to be doing anyway.

This song has so much going for it, that it’s hard to pinpoint any one aspect. But if we don’t mention Gulzar sab’s lyrics, we missed the soul of the song. I mean, who inserts, Kali Kamli wale, a reference to Krishna and Ballimaran ki galiyan, a reference to Mirza Ghalib in the same song, and yet maintains the tempo of a typical item number. Yet, that’s exactly what Gulzar sab achieves. Hats off to him! This song would remain unsurpassable for some time. Great all time item song!

Number 3 – Mehbooba from Sholay

I promise you this will be my last ma-baap type metaphor. But this song has to be really the grandpa or grand ma of all item songs.    In a film from which million other stuff became part of the Indian folklore forever, the fact that this song survived the test of the times and is still unsurpassable is amazing. It’s a not a great song, not even the best song in the film, that has to be Yeh Dosti. In fact, watched in isolation, without the context, it even appears half baked and done in a hurry. Yet, there is something to this song. To me, it has to be the combination of Helen and RD Burman (both voice and music) and everything else such as Gabbar, dakus and stuff just add on the fun. Anyway, this song had to be on the list, otherwise my list would have been incomplete without the all time queen of item numbers, the great immortal Helen.

Other than Helen, the song also deserves its place due to the sheer impact it has had. The format of villan’s adda and a girl dancing to racy music has become an iconic image in Hindi cinema and has been repeated and copied to the hilt. In fact, I have seen the format making it to non-cinema mediums such as Ramlila where typically they show a girl dancing in Raawan’s court.

Number 4 – Main Aaayi Hun UP Bihar Lootne

If songs were selected based on international popularity, this would come out on the top. This song has had a weird destiny in many ways. On one hand, this is quite a racy song in an otherwise serious film and actually provided good relief from Manoj Bajpayee’s extra serious acting in the film. But more than that, this song should always be remembered for resurrecting the career of an out of favor Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. For those of you who don’t read gossip magazines(God, what do you read then?), Ms Shetty used this song in her Big Brother appearance in UK and danced to victory, straight through the heart of the confused and guilty conscious Britons. They saw the innocence of our entire Bharat Mata in Shilpa Shetty and decided to repent for all the sins of their forefathers that they had incurred on poor Bharat Mata. Rest is history, the full details of her journey from Big Brother to IPL queen and big time celebrity can be read in the chronicles of Narnia. Sorry, for the bad humor, here’s the song

Number 5 – Sheher Ki Ladki – Rakshak

For many of you, this may be a surprise on the list. But once upon a time, we used to have a great action hero in our industry called Suneil Shetty, who we always believed financed his own films, being a rich hoteling industry tycoon in real life. We didn’t mind that, after all it was his money. But then, he wouldn’t stop at that. Borrowing inspiration from Sunny Deol, he would also insist on dancing. With his great dancing skills and ‘dhai kilo ke hathode jaise paer’ he would murder many otherwise decent songs. He almost murdered this one too, but it survived because of Raveena Tandon. With this song, Raveena started a trend of mainstream heroes and heroines appearing in item songs. This was also the time Hindi film heroines started to drop their loud, gaudy saris in favor of Manish Malhotra dresses and mini-skirts became permanent part of their wardrobe. If you don’t remember the song, I don’t blame you because the film was an utter flop, like most Suneil Shetty films. But you can still enjoy the song- for Raveena or for Suneil Shetty. Either way, it’s a classic.

Ok, so that completes my list of top 5 item songs of all time. There were many others that didn’t make it for one reason or the other.

–          Kaal Dhamaal – Kaal, what sounded like a great idea on paper came didn’t work in execution. That applies to the film as well as to this song.

–          Dilli ki sardi – don’t remember the name of the film- only the words were great. Amrita Arora sucked as item girl.

–          Koi  jaye to le aaye – Ghatak, Anyone remember Mamta Kulkarni? This film started her link up with Rajkumar Santoshi that lead to China Gate and finally to her ouster from the gate completely. But she was great in the song.

–          Chhamma – China Gate, Mamta’s loss became Urmila’s gain. After Santoshiji got upset with her for opening her mouth, her role got reduced to miniscule and this song was handed over to Urmila Martondkar. There was something missing in the song. It didn’t quite work for me.

–          Humma-Humma – Bombay. This one wasn’t bad. Manisha and Arvind Swami playing suhagrat-suhagrat in the background was picturized very nicely. Sonali Bendre did a great job. Somehow, the song didn’t make any impact outside the film and to me, it didn’t move the narrative forward either. So, looked like a song added just for the sake of it.

–          One Love – Rakt. This was a turnaround song for Chhote B. For the first time he looked comfortable in his skin and cool on screen. The song remains a nice watch, but no one noticed because the film was an utter flop.

Ok, so that’s my list. Hope you had fun reading it and at least found one of your songs in the list. Hope to hear back from you all soon! Enjoy the summer!