Actor and TV personality Malaika Arora, who is known for her special dance numbers such as Chaiyya Chaiyya, Munni Badnaam and Anarkali, has said that she is opposed to referring to such performances as ‘item numbers’. She said that she would want to ‘slap’ whoever refers to her as an ‘item’.
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She told journalist Anupama Chopra in an interview, “Whenever I did a song I did it on my own accord, I never did it under any duress. I was comfortable.” She continued, “If I felt like I was not OK with something, I’d voice my opinion. I’d say, ‘no I don’t like that step’. If I felt like I was being objectified, I’d say it, and I’m not stupid.”
Malaika admitted that the times have changed since the heydey of ‘item numbers’ in the 80s and 90s. “I’ve always had a problem with it being called ‘item song’. Imagine someone calling me, ‘yeh kya item hai’ (what an item), I’d turn around and slap that person,” Malaika said. Malaika admitted that she was aware of the suggestive nature of the lyrics, but said that most of it was ‘tongue-in-cheek’. “I’ve never felt that it crossed that line where it was downright vulgar, or downright offensive,” she said. “According to me, it was always in a nice fun, tongue-in-cheek sort of space.”
She said that nowadays, ‘a lot of filmmakers have taken that stand’ to not have such songs in their films. “I come from a different school of thought,” Malaika said. “If a woman feels that it is not a safe environment, then I (don’t think we should have them).” She said that she’d never call for a ban on such songs, but she admitted that she has a problem with ‘the terminology’. “Our films have always been about this (song and dance) culture, why should one just change it overnight?”