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?
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.