Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Item Numbers: A response to my friends on UPodcast ...

My friends Asim from UPodcast, FilmiGirl and Paresh from Currysmugglers all got together recently to discuss their favorite "Item Numbers" on Asim's podcast - and much hilarity ensued ... I found myself trying to talk to them while listening to the episode, trying to throw in my 2 rupees, which is evidence as to how cool I am (I try to talk to recordings).

But I kept thinking of other Item Numbers, or wanting to exclaim how much I loved ones they were mentioning. Mostly they were referencing Item Numbers from newer movies, a lot of which I haven't seen. But several that were mentioned are definitely on my list of favorite item numbers, in particular Kajra Re (which will ALWAYS remind me of the year I got married) from Bunty aur Babli and Ishq Kamina from Shakti: The Power. Mumaith Khan is the current queen of Item Numbers, and though I'm not as huge of a fan of hers as other bloggers, her item number from Hulchul definitely stuck in my memory (is that her sister in it?).

Clearly Helen is THE queen of Item Numbers, I think that is undisputable. She stars in quite a few of my favorites, like:

O Hasina Zulfonwali (Teesri Manzil) - 1966 *click to view the song*

Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Caravan) - 1971 
I so wish I could find a pic of the cage w/ a slide from this song, very handy contraption
And the ever-popular Mehbooba Mehbooba (Sholay) - 1975

Not to mention amazing nonsense like the number from Geeta Mera Naam (1974) that I mentioned in my post on favorite Villain's Lair Dances.

But a host of amazing and popular actresses have done surprising cameos over the years. For example Rekha's strange choice to perform "Pyar Do Pyar Lo" in Jaanbaaz (1986).

Or Madhuri's turn in the Makhna number from Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998). Though I don't blame her ... she got to hang with Big B AND Govinda!

And then we had the actresses that weren't in the top slots and used Item Numbers to revive or continue their career ...

like Raveena Tandon in Shehar Ki Ladki (Rakshak) - 1996

Urmila Matondkar in Chamma Chamma (China Gate) - 1998

Shamita Shetty in songs like Chori Pe Chori (Saathiya) - 2002 and Sharara (Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai) - 2002

And gorgeous model Suman Ranganathan in Ghaagra (Kurukshetra) - 2000 (LOVE this song! How HOT is she?)

Speaking of models, there have been many model cameos, some resulting in full-blown acting careers, like Sonali Bendre in Hamma Hamma (Bombay) - 1995

Some item numbers brought new-found respect to former models and beauty queens, like Sushmita Sen in Mehboob Mere (Fiza) - 2000 and Shakalaka Baby (Mudhalvan in Tamil, Nayak in Hindi) - 1999

Andsome  models have gone on record to say that they prefer to do item numbers because they make enough moolah from their quick shoot on a single song, like Malaika Arora, who sizzled atop a moving train with Shah Rukh in Chaiyya Chaiyya (Dil Se) - 1998.

Some do item numbers while still maintaining a certain respect in the industry, like the fabulous Shilpa Shetty in Mein Aayi Hoon U.P. Bihar Lootne (Shool) - 1999, which actually was the first time the term "item number" was officially used. Whether or not you like her looks, you have to admit that girlfriend has a bangin' body and knows how to move it. I think she could show Shakira some moves. I also love her in Dupatte Ka Pallu (Tarkieb) - 2000.  I sort of just love her, period. She's my favorite Item Girl after Helen, fo sho.

There are always the girls that get lost in the Item Number shuffle and never make it out. Even super talented actresses like Aruna Irani!

Check her out in Kya Ghazab Karte Ho Ji (Love Story) - 1981 (Kumar Gaurav is so adorably dorky. And does Amisha Patel remind anyone else strongly of Vijayeta Pandit? I love this song!) or the original Thoda Resham Lagta Hai (Jyoti) - 1981. And I was always so scandalized by her in Nazar Dekho (Akalmand) - 1984. But my personal favorite item number of hers? It's definitely Har Chori Rani (Mahaan) - 1983. Not only is Amitabh amazing in it, but Aruna Irani has got some kick-a$$ moves. She wins the spot of my 3rd favorite Item Girl. Does this woman have a Lifetime Achievement Award yet? Filmfare, get on that.

EDIT: I can't believe I posted this without some tribute to Silk Smitha! Girlfriend was BOLD. And sadly, probably very abused and misunderstood ... I'm very intrigued to hear that there is supposed to be a film based on her life coming out, although the casting of Vidya Balan as Silk Smitha is something I will NEVER understand.

Silk Smitha rocked it in numbers like Jawani Jawani Jalthi Jawani (Jaani Dost) - 1983.

I also just wanted to mention a few of my favorite Tamil item numbers ... there are a TON, but the ones that stick out immediately in my memory are:

May Masam starring Reema Sen (Jay Jay) - 2003

 Aiyyo Pathikuchu starring Ramya Krishnan (Rhythm) - 2000

Chikku Bukku Raile starring Gouthami and Prabhudeva (Gentleman) - 1993

And that's not even getting into the filmographies of Disco Shanthi or Deepa Unnimary ... that will have to be for another day! 

There are many, many more, I'm sure, but I just wanted to share the ones that can to mind immediately!


  1. Oh fun! I really, really love Aruna Irani - and Laxmi Chayya and Bela Bose, for that matter - and wonder why they didn't get more heroine roles. They're all so good (and just as pretty as anyone else in their eras, if that was anyone's deciding factor)!

    Don't know how I don't remember Loota Gayee Lanka since I'm one of the handful of people who liked Hulchul.

    How'd you find out that tidbit about the use of the term "item number"? I'm fascinated it's not older! People writing and working on films must have called such songs something (or had some shorthand description) before then - wonder what?

  2. Beth - you're so right! Laxmi & Bela were AWESOME too. Maar Diya Jaye is amazing, and oh ... what was that song from Abhinetri? I'll have to look it up.

    I totally liked Hulchul too - I saw it in the theatre in India in 2004. Although I might have just been obsessed with Kareena's orange lehenga at the end.

    Oooh, I can't remember where I read that item number thing. Probably Wikipedia?

    Thanks for reading it!

  3. There are so many great songs in Abhinetri, including the silly one of Bela "driving" a "ten-headed horse" that's really a guy in Chuck Taylors and an awesome costume :)

    I love Silk too! I only recently found out about her and am a little bit obsessed to know more.

  4. Tee hee - I love how you call her Silk. In South India, she was called that but with the accent ... so it sounded like "Silukku" ... I'll have to do a podcast version of this post so you can hear it.


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