Kareena Kapoor busts a move in her midriff baring ensemble, while lip syncing the words that literally translate to, ‘Why desire me with your eyes, when your hands have free rein?’
This item song from ‘Heroine’, released earlier this year, is simply one in a long succession of flash-in-the-pan, gimmicky tracks that are a multimillion dirham industry, which do more for a Bollywood film’s box office collections than sometimes the script itself.
Suggestive lyrics, gyrating moves and pelvic thrusts, along with figure-hugging skimpy outfits are the USP of such attention-grabbing songs. Add to that mix is a hot looking lead actress or an international model, and what you have is a lethal combination of a marketing package that’s catered to entice the masses.
While conservative groups across India have raised red flags in the past at the increasing number in such ‘cheap publicity stunts’, according to one organisation, Bollywood is now facing the firing squad once again over its responsibility towards the community as the brutal Delhi gang rape continues to outrage a nation.
Earlier this month, a 23-year-old was gang-raped and brutally assaulted in a moving bus in south Delhi and remains in critical condition.
Thousands have converged into India’s capital to protest, demanding swift reforms by the government in making the country safe once again for its women, while amending the law to bring in capital punishment for rapists.
However, several have also used this platform to revive the Bollywood debate, whether censors should curb such songs that don’t follow a broad based ethical guideline but rather use a crutch of double innuendos and “downright vulgar lyrics”, according to one concerned citizen on Twitter.
From ‘Sheila’ to ‘Chikni’
In the past few years, a bare few big budgeted Bollywood films made it to the top of the box office charts without piggybacking on an item song’s notoriety.
While Salman Khan’s ‘Dabangg’ (2010) roped in film producer and item queen Malaika Arora Khan to be its ‘Munni’, the same year, Akshay Kumar’s ‘Tees Maar Khan’ had Katrina Kaif gyrating to ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’.
The trend continued the following year with Mallika Sherawat hip swinging to ‘Jalebi Bai’ in ‘Double Dhmaal’, while Deepika Padukone lured a nation to the ‘benefits’ of smoking pot in the title track from ‘Dum Maro Dum’.
This year started off with a bang as Katrina did a ‘Chikni Chameli’, which saw her lip sync the line: ‘My beauty is the match that lights up your weed’, before adding this little gem: ‘My evenings are free to be shared with you; my words are an indication to the play at hand, come break-in to steal the treasures I possess inside’.
Meanwhile, Kareena was on a double bill with her ‘Halkat Jawani’ and now ‘Dabangg 2’s’ item song, ‘Fevicol Se’ that sees the actress perform a few pelvic thrusts on screen while mouthing lyrics: ‘Come my prince, let me show you heaven.. I am a piece of Tandoori Chicken, swallow me down with alcohol as I beckon’.
Who is responsible?
When Nishika Tridevi heard her nine-year-old daughter mouth those words, she saw red.
“It felt as someone had taken a bucket of ice cold water and thrown it in my face,” said Trivedi. “Here I was, boiling my blood over the Delhi gang rape case, talking about how women were being disrespected and left vulnerable in India, while my daughter was singing songs that fuelled such imagery of objectifying a woman and disrespecting her with such suggestive lyrics.”
Quizzed whether she felt that Bollywood was somehow responsible in the lead up to such heinous crimes against women and Trivedi said: “Look, a rapist is responsible 100 per cent for his crime and no external force will entice him directly to attack a woman. But what I am pointing a finger at is the acceleration of creating false mindsets and misconceptions that are not flattering towards a woman.”
Trivedi is not alone in her chain of thought.
Ruchika Mathur, a mother of two from Delhi, said: “What happened to that poor girl is every woman’s worse nightmare come true. And while I firmly say that only the rapists are responsible for this heinous crime they committed, I also question their external environment that led up to that moment on the bus.
“I don’t have answers on whether they come from an abusive background or a generally disrespect women, but I do question whether such titillating songs and sequences from films fuel this evil that lies within them.”
Gurdeep Singh, a father, asked: “Tell me one thing: generally, would you find eve teasers singing songs such as ‘Baharon Phool Barsao’ (Spring Season, Shower with Flowers) or would they sing, ‘Night Ki Naughty Kahaani’ (The Naughty Story of the Night)?
“That’s the sort of mentality that gets enticed further with such suggestive songs. As a parent, whose only mission in life is to keep their child safe, would you not question an influencer such as the Indian film industry that continues to objectify women in such a derogatory manner?”
While parents such as Singh, Mathur and Trivedi question the practice of such titillating tracks in Bollywood films, there are many who find the whole debate ‘ludicrous’, such as Piyush Lohade, a Dubai-based student.
“Are you seriously going to tell me that we should blame Bollywood for enticing those six rapists and hundred others that have committed rape in the past and will continue to do so in future?” he asked. “The fact is, these are mentally sick people who commit rape. Even if you play religious films on TV all day, it will make no difference.”
Diya Banerjee, a photographer, said: “I believe any form of the arts has a right to creative freedom; it would be quite hypocritical for me to then say, that Bollywood should not have such suggestive dance number in films or have their leading ladies wear cleavage baring attire, while I happily exhibit such elaborative imagery of the Ajanta or Ellora Caves.”
Kangan Sinha, a tele marketer, added: “Telling women in films to dress conservatively or the writers there to tone down lyrics is equal to telling us in the real world how to dress. And in the real world, a short skirt and a spaghetti-strapped top is not an invitation to rape. It never is.”