Munni vs Sheila: The way of the 'Item Bomb'

Item number

As the year closes with Sheila fighting it out with Munni on the dance floor, Dipti Nagpaul-D'Souza looks at the craze for "item" songs that keeps coming back.

IN September this year, Arbaaz Khan boasted of having given his wife one of the biggest hits of her career. He was referring to the item song Munni Badnaam Hui in his home production Dabangg, filmed on Malaika Arora Khan. But before the year could close, Sheila Ki Jawani from Farah Khan's Tees Maar Khan, with a sizzling, belly-dancing Katrina Kaif, is threatening to displace Munni from the top slot, as social networking sites overflow with comparisons between the two songs.

"I just went to Vishal-Shekhar with the three words 'Sheila Ki Jawani' and told them I wanted a groovy song written and composed around them. That's how Sheila was born," recounts Farah. Industry grapevine has it that inspired by the songs' success, Samir Karnik has also had a similar number shot for his film Yamla Pagla Deewana, starring Dharmendra with sons Sunny and Bobby Deol. Even Rohan Sippy is said to have signed on Deepika Padukone for a steamy remixed version of Dum Maaro Dum for his next film by the same name.

The year may have seen a surge in item songs in Bollywood — the last big success was Beedi, starring Bipasha Basu, in the 2006-release Omkara — but the trend dates back to the '50s. "Helen remains one of the most memorable names even today. Back then, vamps mostly doubled up as sensuous vixens," recounts Ramesh Sippy. The classic RD Burman hit Mehbooba, Mehbooba from Sholay had Helen play a gypsy girl, which he terms as the "alternative to the vamp or cabaret dancer image".

Over the years, the vamp gave way to designated 'item girls', such as Arora Khan, followed by the likes of Mallika Sherawat and Rakhi Sawant. But every now and then, top heroines have shed their inhibitions to get groovy and sensuous. Be it Parveen Babi in Namak Halal's Raat Baaki or Aishwarya Rai's Kajra Re in Bunty Aur Babli, the craze that followed helped item numbers transcend these barriers.

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