Badnaam Munni, Jawaan Shiela And Poor India

Posted on January 10, 2011 in Media and Culture

By Akanksha Mittal:

Yes, we have all loved them in the past year. So much so that some of us might even have spent our precious hard earned money to go to the movie theatre to watch the movies featuring these songs. It’s not just the above mentioned two songs that I am talking of. It is the whole new genre of “item numbers” that we shall be looking into! Oh, “new” is an under-statement here, for item songs have been the life-line of Bolly-movies since time immemorial, as they say! Remember Helen’s “Yeh Mera Dil”? Well, I am sure her daughter-in-law (ex?) would have done her very proud this year!

But without getting mean here, let us get back to the topic of discussion. There is no doubt that actresses are paid in heaps for just one odd item song performed by them. It is almost like a mad race between producers wherein the one who pays the maximum amount for an item song is the winner! In such a cat-fight, the actresses play the monkeys who run away with the producer’s money as well as a huge fan following in their kitty. Such dirty dancing gives the much-needed career boost to actresses, most of whom are owners of mediocre acting skills and oodles of sex appeal. It seems like everyone is a winner here. The producers and directors get due publicity for their otherwise senseless movies, actresses get a career boost, musicians get the creative pleasure of having a large number of people being addicted to their composition and the Indian audience gets some cheap entertainment.

But of course, the fact that more than half of the Indian population lives below the poverty line and that most of them do not even have enough money to buy their ration does not hold any significance here! Or, maybe it does. The whole madness about item songs clearly points at the disparity between the rich and poor. No, I am not trying to replay the same old morals-and-ethics story here. But, it is mere foolishness to pay a whopping Rs.1.5 crore for such mediocre examples of creativity — Item songs! Dada Saheb Phalke would be turning in his grave, seeing the kind of response to such obscenities!

The producers create what sells. And, item songs surely sell. So we have a whole series of item songs that try to outdo one another in terms of ridiculous lyrics, obscene clothing and sultry dancing. Since there are so many of these, the audience has no choice but to watch them and appreciate them! It is like a vicious cycle of demand and supply, both the variables being inter-related! The trends in Bollywood cinema show that the audience did seem to grow out of item songs in the era of the 90’s, but as they say, history repeats itself!

Recently a woman filed a petition for the banning of the movie Tees Maar Khan due to the presence of the much-loved song, Sheila Ki Jawani in it. She also appealed to the court that the song Munni Badnaam Hui be removed from the Salman Khan starrer Dabangg. Now, that takes real courage! It’s surprising why the government is taking so much time to decide! But, of course we are no one to question here! However, here it is important to note that if at all government involvement could help in such a scenario; it would be through setting an upper limit to the fees paid to actresses for such songs. Simply appealing to remove one odd song from a movie would not help solve the problem (if at all the Indian audience thinks of this madness as a problem!)

Moreover, a whole transformation in people’s attitude towards such songs needs to be brought. Gradually and steadily, but it has to be combined with strict government actions! Perhaps, it would not be a bad idea for the Censor Board to actually set the Tax limit on movies according to the presence of such obscenities as item songs. Doing this would promote meaningful cinema that aims to actually reach out to people in a more constructive and creative manner, without succumbing to the pathetic trends of the time!

Lastly, people will eventually grow out of these songs, considering the forgetful nature of the Indian audience. What remains to be tackled is the fact that a lot of precious public money that can be used for various other important growth related projects actually goes down the drain of such cheap antics.

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Shreya Ramachandran

I agree that the “vicious cycle of demand and supply” is truly the cause of continuing lack of meaning in movies – as exemplified by “Jawaan Munni” and the likes. Setting an upper limit to the fees payable to item dancers would probably be an effective measure.

Akanksha Mittal

Setting an upper limit to the fees payable to the item dancers will not prevent such songs from being made or staged. Just that we will not have the big players playing them. However, given the wide range of members of the entertainment industry, there is no dirth of “small players” who would willingly accept to do them!

Akanksha Mittal

Setting an upper limit to the fees payable to the item dancers will not prevent such songs from being made or staged. Just that we will not have the big players playing them. However, given the wide range of members of the entertainment industry, there is no dirth of “small players” who would willingly accept to do them! Where is the change?

Charumati Haran

I like almost the whole article, but I don’t completely agree with your last point of precious public money going into productive activities. By the same coin one may argue that the entire film industry is an unproductive activity, when the money should instead be directed into eradicating poverty, hunger etc. Now one may say that only good cinema should be allowed and cheap cinema not allowed, but who is to decide what is good and what is cheap? That is to say, who can decide what is a’mediocre example of creativity’ ?
Other than that, I also join you in the hope that item songs are a passing fad. It is ridiculous that obscenity in lyrics and visuals has become a competitive sport in a country where objectifying women should be a prime concern. It is interesting that the censor board does not seek to censor them and instead takes contradictory stands like refusing to show films like ‘The Dirty Picture’ which has won the national award.
People need to be reminded what is good music, and raunchy dances are not needed, so that they will forget this item number craze.

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