Bollywood Item Songs – An Introduction, Part 2

This week we’re back with more item songs!

Did you catch last week’s list? I’ll wait. Come back when you’re ready.

We’ve arrived at the big, cameo-filled, it-girl showcases of the ’90s and ’00s. While the ’90s focused on many silent beautiful “It Girls,” the practice of having a pretty face to boost a song started to phase out (but never entirely because of tradition). The ’00s saw even bigger, more meta Item Songs that started to reference other Item Songs and It Girls, because everything old is new again. We saw stars of yesteryear bringing back their old songs in remixes and homages and samples and basically Bollywood ate its own tail and it is phenomenal.

Let’s get to the songs.

Hamma Hamma – Bombay (1995)

In the grand scheme of item numbers, there always have to be some lesser ones. This one features ’90s It Girl Sonali Bendre, who is showing her full range of acting skills in this song. #burn

“Chamma Chamma Baaje Re” – China Gate (1998)

Urmila Matondkar is one of those actresses who became a star because of her amazing dancing talent. This song became huge pretty much everywhere and you can find it featured in a little movie called Moulin Rouge.

“Mehboob Mere” – Fiza (2000)

I love when an item number tries to incorporate the plot and fails. This number from Fiza is heavy on Sushmita Sen looking glam as hell in monochromatic outfits and was definitely a favorite for girls looking to do a Bollywood-themed performance for school. It also tries to connect to the plot by having Karisma Kapoor and Hritik Roshan silently skulking through the scenes, the former looking desperately for the latter. Who cares, Sushmita Sen looks amazing and stunning and is inspiring my fall aesthetic.

“Chori Pe Chori” – Saathiya (2002)

Even Oscar winning super famous composers like A.R. Rahman aren’t above producing an item number (see also the first song on this list). This song was an abrupt tone change for the quiet marital melodrama Saathiya, that signaled the shift between the huge blockbusters of the ’90s and quiet, diverse more independent-minded films of 2000s.

“Babuji Zara Dheere Chalo” – Dum (2003)

This song features Czech model and dancer, Yana Gupta, which raises all sorts of question about whiteness and Bollywood and the history of colonization and beauty standards but instead of getting into all of that right now, let’s just jam to this great song (for the actual film clip, you can watch here).

“Maahi Ve” – Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)

You know what? I hate this song because it has the audacity to mix in English in the most hamfisted rhyme ever. “That’s the way, Maahi ve.” Ugh, get out of here. This is the type of lyrical garbage you can get away with because it’s a Shahrukh Khan movie and everyone is watching for him.

“Aaja Nachle” – Aaja Nachle (2007)

I just picked this song because I wanted to prove that Madhuri Dixit’s glory and skill transcends time. She is Bollywood royalty and is flawless and glamorous and we should all aspire to be her.

“Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte” – Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)

This is what I’m talking about with Shahrukh Khan getting away with whatever he wants. First of all this song is filled with cameos featuring other huge Bollywood stars like Kajol, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta, Priety Zinta, and Rani all portraying other huge Bollywood stars of the past like Nargis and Neetu Singh and yes even Item song queen Helen. Also the song itself just references a bunch of other super famous Bollywood songs like “Yahooo! Chahe Koi Mujhe” and “Mera Joota Hai Japani” and “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar.” It’s kind of a ridiculous love letter that only Shahrukh could pull off.

It’s clear that the nature of the Item Song is shifting and changing with Bollywood itself, but gladly, it will never fully go away.

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Karishma is a twenty-something living in New York City and is trying her hardest to live out every cliche about Millennials. This involves eating her feelings, drowning in debt and mocking infomercials. She likes sociology so much that she has two degrees in it, and is still warding off her parents' questions about a real career.

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