Criticising the culture of item numbers in Hindi films, veteran actor Shabana Azmi said they are used in movies for “titillation”. In a panel discussion at the ongoing FICCI Frames, Azmi said item numbers involve a woman surrendering to the male gaze. “I have strong views on item numbers because they are not part of the narrative and they’ve been put in a film for the only purpose of titillation and nothing else. “When a girl or a leading lady says ‘it’s alright, I want to celebrate my sensuality’ I have no problem with that. I think that’s wonderful,” she said.
“But under the pretence of ‘celebrating your sensuality’ what you are actually doing is surrendering to the male gaze and objectifying yourselves because the business of cinema is of images,” the actor added. Azmi said it is problematic when people are shown a woman’s “fragmented bits of her body, heaving bosom, swinging navel, shaking hip”, as it robs her whole autonomy. Citing the lyrics of Salman Khan-starrer “Dabangg 2“, where Kareena Kapoor Khan danced on “Fevicol Se”, Azmi said mouthing those lines is a cause of concern.
“Please be informed, when you say ‘main tandoori murgi hu, gatka lo mujhe alcohol kay saath’ and a four-year-old girl is dancing on it, you are leading to the sexualisation of children and the parents who are enjoying it, people who are encouraging her are just as responsible.” Drawing a parallel with Zoya Akhtar’s “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara“, the actor said portions of Katrina Kaif in the film, where she wears a bikini, were gracefully shot.
“In the film, Katrina Kaif comes out of the water in a bikini, the camera doesn’t go close to her, doesn’t linger on her bosom or the droplets falling. The camera in mid (frame) sees her coming out of the water, picks up her bathrobe, wears it and you immediately accept that she is an instructor who is coming and doing her job. “The very same shot, if the director had decided to go over, it would be objectification. So it’s the intention. There’s a difference between sensuality and objectification,” she added.