Sunday, May 15

Who doesn't love Mrs Nene?

A couple years ago when Madhuri Dixit made an appearance as a judge on the Indian version of Dancing With The Stars, Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, it made headlines! Madhuri had moved to Colorado after getting married and essentially disappeared from view. People were dying to see Madhuri back on screen and what better way than have her as a judge for a popular dance show. Madhuri's love and talent for dance is well known. In fact, Madhuri fans will swear that will never be a dancer like her again in Indian cinema. But apart from being an amazing dancer, Madhuri is also an extremely talented actor. She can capture hearts and tears in a blink of an eye. She is the quintessential Bollywood leading lady - she can act, she can dance and she is gorgeous!

I can't think of any other way to celebrate the contributions of Madhuri than showcasing some of my top 15 favorite songs featuring her.

Ek Do Teen - Tezaab (1988)

Never has a star been made with one song! The moment people saw this song, they fell in love with Madhuri Dixit and rest was history! She shined in this song and everyone was touched by her star quality. Every single time I hear this song, I want to join the crowd - MOHINI! MOHINI!

Tere Lakhan Ne - Ram Lakhan (1989)

This song highlights Madhuri is a completely different way compared to Ek Do Teen. Here she is close to the traditional Kathak dance style. The song is also very classical in nature. I like how she can pull off the masti dance numbers and at the same time she can also perform traditional dances with just as much ease. I love the way she is able to portray her emotions without being over the top. Just one glance at her and the audience knows that she is deeply hurt.

Humko Aaj Kal Hai - Sailaab (1990)

This is a lovely breezy song performed perfectly by Madhuri. She's dressed in a traditional kholi outfit, which looked wonderful on her. There is no extra fluff or drama. Just Madhuri owning the song and the excellent choreography of Saroj Khan. I loved the whole vibe of the song.

Aaj Na Chhodungi Tujhe - Dil (1990)

Here's a classic dance battle between the leads! Madhuri challenges Aamir Khan which results in this epic dance battle. I remember how this song was the rage when it first came out. Once again, Madhuri is awesome in this song. She portrays her anger and irritation perfectly without going over the top or looking childish.

Tamma Tamma Loge - Thanedaar (1990)

Talk about an epic 80s style dance number! Madhuri and Sanjay Dutt rock their butts off in this number. I've never seen Sanjay Dutt dance to this extent in any of his other films. It must have been because of Madhuri's presence! Needless to say, Madhuri rocks this song and owns it. She make the choreography look simple and easy which is the sign of an excellent dancer.

Tu Shayar Hai - Saajan (1991)

Yet another Madhuri classic. Yet another 90s stage song. I love how this song is simple and yet so beautiful. The lyrics of the song are lovely. Madhuri performs the song very well. Her expressions add so much more to the simple dancing.

Dhak Dhak Karne Laga - Beta (1992)

Now this is the mother of all sensual songs! After this song came out, Madhuri was officially tagged as the "Dhak Dhak" girl. What I enjoyed the most was that Madhuri was super sexy without being sleazy in any way, a sign of a mature performer. She had the right amount of oomph that the song required and never made it seem cheap or vulgar.

Didi Tera Dewar Deewana - Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994)

Who can forget this song? This has to be one of the most iconic Bollywood songs. Madhuri owns this song completely. She looks the part and does this song complete justice. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is a wholesome family entertainer with amazing music. Out of all the wonderful songs in that movie, this one stands out as an instant Madhuri classic.  

Chane Ke Khet Mein - Anjaam (1994)

I remember when this song first came out, every little girl wanted to dance just like Madhuri. Her jatkas, thumkas and her nakhre were amazing! I love the way she tells her story. Even if you don't understand the language, her expressions convey all the emotions perfectly!

Mera Piya Ghar Aya - Yaraana (1995)

Once again Madhuri performs an exciting stance song after Ek Do Teen. As far as I can remember, this movie was not successful but this song was a huge hit. Madhuri's amazing dancing and expressions along with the catchy song made this song an instant favorite.

Are Re Are - Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Madhuri and Shah Rukh Khan sizzled in this song! Who can forget the Aur Paas scene from this movie! Once again DTPH has awesome music but out of all the songs, this one stands out for me. I love the way the song transitions from dance rehearsals to fantasy moments seamlessly. This movie was sort of a redemption movie for Madhuri and she worked every bit of it. 

Que Sera Sera - Pukar (2000)

Madhuri and Prabhu Deva together in a song? Yes please! When word got out that Madhuri was going to be choreographed by Prabhu Deva, Bollywood fans lost their marbles. Two of the best dancers in Indian movies coming together was a big deal. And Madhuri did not disappoint! She matches steps with Prabhu Deva effortlessly in this song.

Badi Mushkil - Lajja (2001)

Once again a Madhuri song created interest for the movie. Lajja dealt with the topic of lives of women in India. It featured an ensemble cast which included Manisha Koirala, Rekha and Madhuri among others. This song provided some much needed brightness in the otherwise serious film. Even though Manisha is also featured in this song, without doubt Madhuri owns it!

Kahe Chhed Chhed Mohe - Devdas (2002)

Those expressions! If looks could kill... Madhuri is amazing in Devdas. She completely embodied the character of Chandramukhi. In fact, I can't imagine any other recent actress doing justice to that role. The choreography of this movie was exquisite and Madhuri does an amazing job in every song. Dola Re which featured Madhuri and Aishwarya dancing together for the first time was amazing but this is the song that highlights Madhuri's talents for me.

Special Mention:

Aaja Nachte - Aaja Nachle (2007)  

After a long gap Madhuri returned to Bollywood with Aaja Nachle. It was a lovely film about a woman trying to bring back theater to her home town. I personally thought the movie was well made and a perfect fit for Madhuri. We see Madhuri demonstrate her latkas and jhatkas for the first time with this song and she does not disappoint. Her dancing was on point, she looked amazing and her expressions were out of the world.

Ghagara - Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013)

This cheeky song was Madhuri's way to show Bollywood that she could totally pull off an item song. Madhuri takes control and demonstrates how it's done! It was interesting to see Madhuri with Ranbir especially since she's done films with Rishi Kapoor. This just goes to show that Madhuri is like fine wine - she just gets better with age.

Monday, May 9

Favorite Item Songs - The 90s

Item songs have been a Bollywood staple. They gave rise to item queens such as Helen, Bindu, Aruna Irani and many others. After the 70s, item songs went out of fashion. They didn't appear that frequently and the era of item queens ended. The 90s re-established the item song trend. These songs were provocative and sexy and sometimes starred the leading lady of the film. The only common theme to these songs is that the film's narrative would not suffer if these songs were omitted. So without further adieu, here are my favorite item songs of the 90s. 

Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai - Khalnayak (1993)

I still remember when this song came out. This song was considered provocative and the suggestive lyrics added to the woes of women's groups who fervently protested the song. Needless to say, this song is probably Madhuri Dixit's most famous song. In the movie Khalnayak, Madhuri's character goes undercover to get information about Sanjay Dutt's character. It is during this song that she makes contact with Sanjay Dutt's character. 

Baby Baby Mujhe Log Bole - Khuddar (1994)

This song originally started off as "Sexy Sexy Mujhe Log Bole." The original lyrics of the songs caused such a stir that they had to be changed after the fact. Along with the lyrics of the song, Karisma Kapoor was also dragged into the controversy. It's sad when the leading lady is dragged into the mix when she had nothing to do with the lyrics. Regardless, this song makes my list because it's catchy and for the first time had a good amount of English lyrics. 

Gup Chup - Karan Arjun (1995)

Mamta Kulkarni - a name associated with sexiness and oomph for the 90s. She was no stranger to controversy. Its not surprising that she was a part of this suggestive song. Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Kajol got most of the recognition for Karan Arjun while most people forget about Mamta Kulkarni. She was cast opposite Salman Khan and did quite a good job. In this song, she is attempting to distract the villains while the brothers, Karan and Arjun, set their plan to defeat the villains in motion. 

Humma Humma - Bombay (1995)

A.R. Rahman was making waves in Bollywood with his new style of music. Needless to say, Humma Humma certainly did not disappoint. The catchy chorus and the interesting vocals by Remo Fernandes made sure to hold attention. Bombay was a serious movie that dealt with the topic of the religious riots. This song takes place right after the main characters get married. This song provided just enough distraction from the seriousness. And yes that is Prabu Deva's brother and Sonali Bendre dancing it out! 

Sheher Ki Ladki - Rakshak (1996)

Now this one is a typical item song. Raveena Tandon made waves by doing this song. She created a trend by doing this song. It won't be to much to say that this song created curiosity for this movie. I didn't watch this movie but I did watch this song countless times!

Koi Jaye To Le Aaye - Ghatak (1996)

Now I'm not sure if this song would be considered an Item Song but I'll add it to the list anyway. These stage show type songs were all the rage in the 90s. Not that the main characters were stage dancers or anything but they still had such a song. I still remember the craze that this song spawned! Mamta Kulkarni's name was on everyone's lips! She rocked this song and I'm sure no one else would have created as much noise as she did.

Le Gayi Le Gayi - Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Dil To Pagal Hai started out with this song. It really has nothing to do with the movie other than introduce the audience to Shah Rukh Khan and Karisma Kapoor. This song was another one of Karisma Kapoor's famous songs.  

Chamma Chamma - China Gate (1998)

This song highlights the power of a good item song. An amazing item song creates interest for the movie, adds some drama to the movie and finally is extremely catchy. Chamma Chamma instantly created interest for China Gate. Urmila Matonkar performed this song perfectly. She was able to show off her dancing ability and create just enough oomph to keep viewers interested. Not only was thins song popular in India but it also was a part of a sequence in Moulin Rouge. Check it out here.

Main Kudi Anjani Hoon - Zor (1998)

I remember watching this song and thinking about how amazing Sushmita Sen was in it. This was an interesting song and for the first time Sushmita Sen took center stage and owned the song. It was also a time when Hema Sardesai, the singer of the song, was becoming increasingly popular for her catchy songs. All together, this is an enjoyable song and I'm sure one that Sushmita is proud to call her own.

Chaiyya Chaiyya - Dil Se (1998)

And this is how Munni got her start. This iconic A.R. Rahman number is the most recognized item song. This is the result of another Mani Ratnam and A.R. Rahman collaboration after Bombay. This is Malaika Arora's first item song. The visuals, the dancing and the music are what make this the best item song of the year! 

Makhna - Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998)

The world was pleasantly surprised when Madhuri Dixit featured in this song from Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. Back when Amitabh Bachchan was trying to get back into the public eye, he did a slew of films acting as the hero nonetheless. This was one of the few hits he had during those days. Regardless, Madhuri's presence and the fun song added quite a bit to the curiosity of the movie. This is one total fun and classic Item Song!

Dilbar Dilbar - Sirf Tum (1999)

With this song Sushmita Sen stepped into the world of Item Songs. Sirf Tum was a simple movie about lost lovers trying to find themselves a bit like Sleepless in Seattle. This song added some much needed brightness and oomph. Sushmita looks amazing and single-handedly created interest for the movie with this song.

Main Aayi Hoon U.P. Bihar Lootne - Shool (1999)

Watch and learn - That's what Shilpa Shetty must have said when she became a part of this iconic Item song from the 90s. No one can forget the raw sensuousness of this song. Shilpa does a fantastic job playing the seductive village belle in this song. 

These are the item songs of the 90s that stand out to me. Do you have any favorites that I missed? Let me know in the comments! I would love to find others that I may have forgotten.

Thursday, April 28

Let's Talk About The Item Queens...

Unlike popular belief, Item Songs are not a recent edition to Bollywood movies. They have been around for a long time. Item Songs are songs which are present just for pure entertainment. Sometimes they have a crucial role in the narrative but a majority of the time, they act as an entertaining break from the narrative meant to energize the audience. It was during the 60s and 70s that these type of songs reached their peak and introduced viewers to the Holy Trinity of Item Queens - Helen, Bindu and Aruna Irani. 

Helen - The Undisputed Queen of Item Songs

Helen, Helen, Helen - What more can be said about her? She made her debut with Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo and ever since then she came to rule the world of Item Songs. Helen was sexy, charming, strong and vulnerable all at the same time. She could brighten up any movie and the mere mention of a 'Helen Item Song' could pull people into theaters. Over her long and successful career, Helen has given her fans numerous classics. 

I would love to watch a biopic made highlighting Helen's life from her humble beginnings as a Burmese refugee to her immense success in Bollywood. I would love to see Isha Shervani play Helen. Isha would be able to portray every shade of Helen convincingly. 

Here are my top three favorite Helen songs:

1. Yeh Mera Dil (Don)

Helen is absolutely amazing in this song. The way she moves conveys her emotions perfectly. The viewer knows she's in pain and wants her revenge. She plays the perfect seductress. 

2. Mehbooba Mehbooba (Sholay)

Any Bollywood fan is aware of this song. This song is forever immortalized by Helen. In this song, she plays a banjaraan belly dancer who entertains Gabbar Singh and his band of dakus. Once again, Helen portrays the seductress with ease and leaves the viewer wanting more! 

3. Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Caravan)

Another timeless Helen classic. This song is easily one of Helen's most popular songs. Here she plays the classic cabaret dancer and puts on an unforgettable show. 

*For those who are interested, here's a post about my favorite Helen classics.

Bindu - The Quintessential Vamp 

Where Helen was known as an Item Queen, Bindu was known as the Quintessential Vamp. The Bollywood Vamp was a sexy woman who used her beauty to her advantage and generally aided the bad guys in their pursuits. Bindu was sexy and she wasn't afraid to show it with her skin-tight cut out dresses with their low necks and thigh-high slits. She introduced viewers to sexy cabarets as well as the sexy village belle or gaoun ki chori. Her unique style gave rise to a large body of distinctly Bindu-flavored Item Songs.

If there is ever a biopic made about Bindu, I would love to see Bipasha play Bindu. Both Bipasha and Bindu are strong women who are not afraid to show how sexy they are. Both Bipasha and Bindu challenged the norms about women in Bollywood. Moreover, I would love to see how Bipasha would interpret Mera Naam Hai Shabnam or Hungama Ho Gaya.

Here are my top three favorite Bindu songs:

1. Dil Jalon Ka (Zanjeer)

This is probably one of Bindu's most successful and popular songs. Bindu effortlessly teases the hero and puts him on the spot. 

2. Mera Naam Hai Shabnam (Kati Patang)

I wouldn't be surprised if people started calling Bindu Shabnam after this song came out. I strongly feel that no one else could have danced to this song other than Bindu. I just love the way she puts Asha Parekh on the spot in this song! 

P.S. To understand why Bindu puts Asha Parekh on the spot, you'll have to watch Kati Patang.

3. Hungama Ho Gaya (Anhonee)

I've got to say this is such an awesome 70s party song! Another classic Bindu song. Once again I don't think anyone else could do justice to this song. This song has regained popularity after being featured in Queen. How does Kangana compare to Bindu?

Aruna Irani - The Famous Banjaaran

Aruna Irani started out her career as a child actor. She later went on to act in several supporting roles before Caravan finally brought her front and center. She was able to showcase her dancing and helped her secure her place as an Item Queen! She was the one who made the character of the sexy banjaaran dancer famous. She also went on to perform cabaret songs and later in her career took on more central characters. If there was ever a movie made about the life of Aruna Irani, I would love to see Shradda Kapoor play her. 

1. Ab Jo Mile Hai (Caravan)

This song! I have no words for this song! I would be willing to bet that this is Aruna's most famous song. She is seductive, sexy and knows what she wants! She has her eyes set on her man and she doesn't care if the whole world is watching her go for her man. Even though the song is incredibly sexy, it is shot aesthetically. I can only imagine the skin show and provocative dancing this song would conjure if it was made today.

2. Thoda Resham Lagta Hai (Jyoti)

Here Aruna plays a courtesan. She has the villain mesmerized by her dancing and her poetry. This is the original song for the remix that made Meghna Reddy a star. Does this version have anything on the original? 

3. Ae Phansa (Bobby)

Aruna Irani plays an interesting character in Bobby. She is featured in two songs from the movie. Both songs are completely different and allow her to showcase her dancing talent wonderfully. Rather than just being the girl who comes in for songs, she actually has a role and plays an important part of the movie. In this song she makes the hero realize that he's in a bind and must take a stand to get out.

I don't think there will ever be anyone like Helen, Bindu or Aruna Irani today. They captivated without being overtly sexy and were never vulgar. They were subtle in their seduction but yet managed to steal hearts and souls. In today's world of bumping and grinding and overt sexuality, these songs and performers stand out as distant stars - forever bright and reminiscent of a different era.