Let us take a moment to admit that nudity sells. Be it male or female nudity, nudity sells. But in India, it isn’t legal to sell nudity. You can however come very close to it but not actually reveal it. It is like a loophole in the law.
But how do you sell something in a country where nudity is prohibited. Sex is a taboo topic in India. A taboo topic in a nation of over a billion people not created through sex but instead divine intervention. These people were not created with the husband asking the wife “You free for like 20 min?” but instead saying “Dear God, I want baby… is the waiting period going to be 9 months?”
Okay fine, I will stop with the sex jokes.
Bollywood movies lack brand value. We don’t anticipate for a movie by Karan Johar like how we’d anticipate a movie by Mani Ratnam. So how do you sell a Bollywood movie when it has no brand value? Simple, add an item number.
For those of you who are as dumb as the mouse my cat just killed, item numbers are song and dance sequences in movies which have no connection to the plot-line. Not that Bollywood movies have a plot-line to follow.
Okay fine, I will stop with the Bollywood jokes.
Item numbers are the only way you can sell a movie in Bollywood. Telugu movies and Tamil movies have no such necessity to add an item song but still do. In their case, the actors and directors have a powerful brand value.
Item numbers will involve some actress / model / former pornstar (off late) dancing to some catchy tune in a party scene and this will involve extensive hip gyration, pelvic thrusting, chest bouncing or chest thrusting to attract the audience. Do you think someone will listen to an item song when they have the option of viewing it? It isn’t about the music, it is always about the video.
Item numbers are very useful to a country where a tiny population has access to free internet nudity while a big chunk has no other option except to watch partial nudity in these short sequences. I remember one item song in an old Kannada movie. The camera would extensively focus on the woman’s navel by zooming in and out, in between the zooming in and out parts they’d show a beer bottle frothing out. For you tube lights out there, this was to symbolize wanking off. This was one of the funniest and yet disgusting scenes I have seen in cinema history.
So how can you get rid of item numbers? You cannot. Pornography is banned in India. Overturn that ban and still it will be a challenge to stop these silly song and dance sequences. Music is a big seller for Bollywood movies, which is why they have almost every song party related because going to parties is a trend among the youth today. Also, they do not have adequate story or script for a full 90 minutes so let’s add at least 30 min of songs.
I have a theory about the origin of item numbers. There are a lot of rural festivals or ‘Jaatres’ as they are called. In the evenings or late nights, they conduct these special shows exclusive for adults where they have women dance partially nude or revealing attire. This is a great way to sell alcohol and food during these events.
This has not been incorporated in movies. That is probably why you see a rural themed item song more often than something that is shot in the middle of New York City. So rather than selling drinks or food the director can sell tickets. An item number with Sunny Leone is a sure shot way to make money.
Let Bollywood item numbers continue otherwise millions would be out of jobs. And crores of tax revenue would not be collected by the exchequers.