Item Number, Retro Style

A song from the upcoming film Talaash, Muskaanein Jhooti Hain, attempts to revive the cabaret genre prominent in Bollywood through the '60s up to the '80s that spelt grace and beauty. We recount some memorable cabaret numbers of Bollywood in the past.

Monica o my darling: Caravan

Picturised on Bollywood's most successful and popular dancing queen, Helen, the song is also one of the most memorable numbers composed by RD Burman and sung by Asha Bhosle. Helen's uninhibited performance in the song was a mix of sensuousness and passion. The song also has a poor remix version in the 2010 film Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai.

Duniya mein logon ko: Apna Desh

While her contemporaries were portraying themselves as chastity queens, Mumtaz emerged as an actress who could challenge designated vamps — like Helen, Bindu, Ila Arun — on the dance floor. She did several cabaret numbers, without shying away from the costumes or the dance moves. This song from Apna Desh, however, is the most popular, as much for the dance as for the actors' eclectic looks.

Husn ke lakhon rang: Johnny Mera Naam

Shot with one of the lesser-known item girls of Bollywood, Padma Khanna, the song has lyrics considerably bold for that time. But the music and Khanna's moves — both cute and fun — mostly using the twist of the '60s made it extremely palatable. Those who remember the video will recount how being a bikini babe in those days wasn't as big a deal as it is today.

Yeh Zindagi Hai Ek Jua: Zindagi Ek Jua

Perhaps the least sensuous of all the cabaret songs in Bollywood, this is picturised on Madhuri Dixit. The '90s saw a decline in cabaret numbers and one remembers this one for Dixit's costume that reminded of Audrey Hepburn's in My Fair Lady. The trend returned in 2000, with songs like Mahi Vay in Kaante and Saaki Saaki in Musafir, but by then, cabaret had well been replaced by 'item songs'.

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