By Arpana, Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, (IANS) Musically speaking, 2006 wasn't a great year for Bollywood but lilting, so-called item songs matched with sizzling visuals acted as fillers and provided a pleasing experience for music buffs.
Demand for item numbers soared in the year and many filmmakers - be it candyfloss connoisseur Karan Johar or the crusaders of realistic cinema Vishal Bhardwaj or Madhur Bhandarkar - couldn't abstain themselves from using item songs in their films.
If "Kajra re", featuring Aishwarya Rai, was crowned the top song last year, Bipasha Basu's rustic number "Bidee" is the frontrunner this year. Both of them were penned down by Gulzar.
"I want to single out two item numbers in these past few years that have set a benchmark for all others, whose writers reminded us that any song - whether an item or a nursery rhyme - it requires, foremost, plain good poetry. The first was, of course, Gulzar's "Kajra re," and the second was "Man saat samandar" written by Irshad Kamil. These are truly iconic songs that has set completely new standards," journalist-lyricist Neelesh Misra told IANS.
Misra, who penned down "Lamha lamha" for "Gangster - A Love Story", described items songs as "great force multipliers".
"Item numbers have always been there in the movies, but suddenly I see them as, to use a military term, great force multipliers. In a crowd of film promos, where one song often sounds just like the other, I think a great item song brings more eyeballs to a film," he said.
The "Beedi" song in Bhardwaj's "Omkara" fits his theory well. It was one of the most talked about song of the year and as expected, the audience savoured the experience of watching Bipasha in it. Aesthetically picturised, it topped the charts and is a rage even after months.
Apart from "Beedi", another item number from the same film was "Namak Ishq ka", again picturised on Bipasha. It turned out to be another fantastic song though it couldn't replace "Beedi" from the top slot.
If Bipasha became the cynosure of all eyes, Payal Rohatagi too hogged the limelight for "Mast kalandar" in "Corporate", in which Bipasha played the main lead. But it couldn't remain a chartbuster for too long.
When the likes of Bipasha and Payal were endorsing item songs, "Khallas" girl Isha Koppikar too jumped on the bandwagon and sizzled in "Aashiqi mein teri" in "36 China Town".
She teamed up with newcomer Uppen Patel in this song, which continued composer-singer Himesh Reshammiya's nasal rendition and remained a chartbuster. Reshammiya's "Jhalak dikhla ja" from Aksar also did well.
While item numbers ensured instant fame for the strugglers and a newcomer like Uppen Patel, established actors too used it as a means to spruce up their popularity and Kareena Kapoor tops that list.
Her appearance in the seductive number "Yeh mera dil pyaar ka deewana" in "Don" came as a bonus to her popularity because 2006 too wasn't fruitful to her.
However, her decision to step into Helen's dancing shoes fetched her maximum attention and kept her floating in the glitzy lanes of glamour world.
Commenting on the effect of item songs Misra said: "Just as there is a `tabloidisation' of the journalism business brought about by the live news channels, item songs have brought a yearning for immediate results among music directors. But hey, some them have great music so let us not close our minds to them like I once had."
Another item song that rocked the nation was "Rock and roll soniye" from "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna".
A last minute addition to Johar's infidelity drama, the song was shot just few weeks before its release with the entire star cast and it was well received by the music lovers.
Also, the fact that Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan took to the dance floor soon after his prolonged illness made it more attention grabbing. Just like "Don", the fate of KANK was not good but the song was a runaway success.
One more song "Where is the party tonight" from the same film became a hit among the party circuit.
Usually seen as a catchy, upbeat dance song, which has no relevance to the plot, it helps in pulling the crowd to the theatre and is not a temporary phenomenon.
"In olden days we used to have 'mujras' and now we have theses shoddily picturised songs. Every director wants them. Any song which is cheaply picturised becomes a dance number," said composer Sandesh Shandilya.
Item songs contribute partially to the popularity of a star and film. Going by the current trend, it will continue to dominate the music scenario in the coming years.
There are some good items numbers lined for 2007 as well and the most talked about is Mallika Sherawat's special song appearance in Mani Ratnam's "Guru".