In the early 2000s, there were only a handful of actors like Malaika Arora Khan, Rakhi Sawant and Mallika Sherawat who were known for doing special dance numbers, which came to be labelled 'item numbers'.
Then, in 2002, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, by then a popular mainstream actress, did an item song (Ishq kamina) for the film, Shakti. She followed it up with the very popular Kajra Re from in Bunty Aur Babli (2005) that is believed to have set the ball rolling for other mainstream names like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif to sign up for item songs as well.
The new ‘item’ girls
Now, there seems to be a fresh wave, where actresses known for their girl-next-door image, are becoming the popular choice for such numbers. This list includes Shraddha Kapoor, Shruti Haasan, Huma Qureshi and Prachi Desai, among others.
Producer Boney Kapoor, whose next, Tevar, will see Shruti in a special number, feels that featuring a fresh face helps. "Today’s reigning actresses have already done ‘item’ songs somewhere or the other. So, you need to rope in someone new," he says.
While Huma has shot for an 'item song' for Trishna (the number has been added for the India release of the 2011 film), Shraddha has shot one for director Rensil D’Silva’s Ungli. Insisting that it was Shraddha’s girl-next-door appearance that worked, Rensil says, "She can be styled in any manner. She carried off the moves without looking sleazy."
Film-maker Vipul Shah adds, "I find the term ‘item girl’ derogatory. Regardless of who the actress is, the song depends on how it is executed. If it’s not done well, it can go totally unnoticed."
The actors concerned, too, admit that a good 'item song' can do wonders for their careers. "I got to look glamorous in the song I did," says Shraddha, who feels she also got a chance to showcase her dancing skills.
Prachi, too, who was seen in the song Awaari in Ek Villain, had told IANS that "item numbers are extremely beneficial… If you get a song that really cracks it for you, it is fantastic."
Even critically acclaimed actor Divya Dutta has told IANS that she "agreed to do an item song only because I know it’s not going to be a conventional one."