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Since the very beginning of sound film in India in 1931, virtually all Indian commercial films
have had a musical format, nowadays including about six or seven songs per film. In 1934,
the first gramophone records of film songs were produced and played on the radio (Joshi
150), thus launching film song as a mass mediated, popular music in India. For over five
decades, these film songs, also known as film music, almost exclusively constituted what
was popular music in South Asia, and despite the expansion in the music world that has taken
place from the 1980s following the advent of cassettes in India (Manuel 26), they are still the
dominant form of popular music in this part of the world.
The enduring presence of songs in Hindi films has received much attention and been given
various interpretations. It is said that Indians love music, that songs and music mark the
most important aspects of Indian life life cycle rituals such as birth and marriage, and also
festivals and worship and hence Hindi films are full of songs. Whilst most Indians
undoubtedly love music, and music is a part of traditional (and also modern) life in India, the
same can be said of Europe and America.
Music industry, in India has attained unprecedented heights in recent years. Over the years,
Hindi film songs have undergone drastic changes and an evolution that has given way to new
trends. Much has happened from the old cabaret to todays item numbers. Though item songs
have been a selling point of a film since the day of Helen, these days they have become
extremely important.
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A special genre of songs, called item songs, is often included in huge blockbusters. They
often bring a star or an actress, famous or just a mere starlet, who appears in the film just to
dance in this number .These songs have become a means to pull a particular crowd towards
the movie, and serve no larger purpose.
Filmmakers are inventing new ways to minimize costs and ensure that they get a rocking item
song for their film since one good item song and the right promotional strategy, are enough to
guarantee success. Today, they have become a promotional necessity. Almost all the movies
have a hot sleazy number with catchy music and vulgar/double meaning lyrics. Once a song
catches on, the movie gains much more hype.
In Bollywood, there is a new genre of music directors coming up who are known to compose
only item numbers and they are the ones who are earning the highest, not to mention the huge
publicity that automatically comes with it.
In the 1980s and 1990s, item numbers were seen as way for newcomers to break into the film
industry. The past decade, however, has seen even established actresses, such as Kareena
Kapoor and Vidya Balan taking advantage of the trend's capability to build their career to
great heights. When we have director still looking for a producer to fund a biopic on Rani
Laxmibai, the biopic of Silk Smitha got made in a jiffy. Rani Mukerji is struggling to find
good scripts, but adult film star Sunny Leone, who self admittedly cant act or dance, has
four films in her kitty back to back. What attracts the audiences, hence, is surely not the
caliber these actresses posses, but the way in which they entertain them. Knowing the
growing popularity of item numbers, Rani also couldnt stop doing a dreamum wakeapum to
make a comeback and cease attention.
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Ask any woman and she will tell you how many times she has been referred to as
chiknichameli/ bijli/munni etc. And the unfortunate women by the name of Sheila,
the words ki jawaani have become an almost permanent fixture, like a surname, to their
names.
What has contributed so much to this sort of a popularity of item songs, not just among male
viewers but also among female spectators, despite of several ideological interrogations is
worth interpreting.
Several ideologies work behind the popularity and success of any song. It is no longer, the
large capital investment that decides its popularity, which was a part of the traditional
monolithic system. Technological advancements have now collaborated with skilled and
satisfying manipulation of visual pleasure to allure the public.
Bollywood, especially has, so well manifested this visual pleasure with the inclusion of item
numbers and there by enjoying in great detail, the female anatomy. Every other song that has
released recently in bollywood, makes use of lyrics as well as visuals that covertly celebrates
the female figure.
Its a tradition in some ways and a trend that we have learnt to associate with. The heroines
are there in song simply for the pleasure of the viewer and have got no particular relation
with the script of the film in which they appear.
And what is more surprising is that that in a country like India, where every next thing is a
controversy and is interrogated, item songs, though evaluated and criticized, somehow escape
the trail. The success of these songs and their huge popularity reflects that this trend is well
approved by the viewers.
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The reason might be that that bollywood has well understood the unconscious patriarchal
desires lurking somewhere in the Indian audience and hence, has channeled for them, a
creative outlet, to fulfill those burning desires, with the creation of item numbers.
This study is hence, an attempt to analyze how the patriarchal ideology, deep rooted in our
society, gets re-established and reinforced through such contemptuous portrayal of women in
our songs. And is also an attempt to discover how and why munni and sheela have become a
part of our daily lives today. This study aims to demonstrate, through various examples and
theories of psychoanalysis combined with feminists notions of male gaze, the unconscious
of the spectators, moulded by his/her social situations (which is again patriarchal),
leading to the popularity of these songs.

Chapter one
THE PATRIARCHAL GAZE

Item songs have become an inevitable component of bollywood films these days. The
unacceptable skin shows with vulgar lyrics portray women as a passive image of visual
perfection who can be subjected to erotic ways of looking.
The woman of this century, hence, is a glamorous figure with hardly any attire, going all out
to lure the public in showstopper song. She is the center of desire, where through lyrics and
dance movements, she almost beseeches to be pounced upon. They are viewed as inanimate
objects who are simply there for the pleasure of the viewer.
With skimpy dress and explicit move they appear as a fair game for men who ask her
jumma chumma de de chumma, give us a kiss. It becomes more fascinating for the public,
in and out of the screen, when she herself asks her spectators zara zara touch me touch me
touch me and is taking every possible effort to please her viewers with her explicit outfit and
suggestive language confirming her availability. Since the male mob around her including the
spectators, are the bearer of the look or the gaze, the woman can only function as an image
whose duty, as dictated by the patriarchal norms is to amuse and entertain.
The male crowd around the item girl, and the spectators watching the performance are often
found excited, to see choli ke peeche kya hai, what is behind her blouse. The focus lies on
her hips, navel and cleavage mainly. By rule, the girl has to barely dress, so that she can be

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the source of erotic pleasure for those who watch her. Slices of her body is portrayed,
surrendering her autonomy completely to the male gaze.
The girl appears as an isolated, glamorous, on display, sexualized image at the opening of
every item song. Her generalized sexuality is accessible to all the men around her as well as
to the viewers and she takes their motives further with suggestive dance moves. The eyes of
both the men folk in the song and the spectators outside, freeze, once they see her skin.
In their exhibitionist role in the item songs, women are simultaneously looked at and
displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be
said to connote to-be- looked-at-ness. Women displayed as sexual object appears to be the
motif of erotic spectacle: from Helen to Sunny Leone, she holds the look, plays to and
signifies male desires.
Item songs, thus, becomes a platform, for women to confirm themselves to the patriarchal
gaze. A platform that goes well with the accepted norms of to look and to be looked at,
and that of the active/male and passive/female. Where the women reveals her sub-ordinate
status when she tries to please the crowd around her and is ready to objectify herself, a
situation which is so much entertaining to an audience, including both men and women,
whose view point is governed souly by the patriarchal ideology.
Lyrics play their role well in this process of objectification, which makes item songs a more
pleasurable experience for the viewers. The very word item or maal in Hindi confirms that
they are objects. And since, they are objects, are ought to provide pleasure. The item girl
confirms her identity because her outlook regarding her own body is determined by the male
chauvinistic society around her and therefore, she readily satisfies the male- oriented desires.

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She doesnt feel anything is wrong, when someone says bomb lagti meinu, you seem to be a
bomb for me because her perspective is analogous to that of her male counterpart, both of
them being the products of a male- centered society. She is, hence, what she is asked to be
like and she normalizes this fact through acceptance. Therefore, in an item song she comes
out with semi- naked outfits to entertain the masses.
But she does sustain a curiosity through the lyrics when she says tere hath kabhi na anni, I
wont fall in your hands. Such statements make the men folk more anxious and they make
use of lyrics hay re aisse tarse hum hai ho gaye sou arse re, we have been dyeing for years
to posses you, that can pursue her because she has now made her features extremely
mysterious and the eyes of the spectators and the male crowd grows wider to peep into her
parts, giving immense pleasure to the spectators. This is equally pleasurable to the women
because she accords to her inferior status as an object, being a part of the patriarchal norms
and conditions.
Her confirmation or her acceptance is clear when in one song she says meeri angdayi na
toote tu aaja, it wont ache me, you may come. Her sexuality becomes far more alluring
with the use of suggestive lyrics. The song beedi jalaily jigar se piya turned to be a hit as it
gave consent to the male gazers to light their cigarettes from her hot breasts. These sensual
usages are so much entertaining for the onlookers and the crowd around the female figure on
screen, as it suits the male- oriented life and gets easily popularized in such a society. But this
acceptance is governed by her unconscious which is again patriarchal, the very notion which
has structured item numbers. Partially challenged, item songs, have coded the erotic into the
language of the dominant patriarchal order.

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The mimetic relief out of this art form is far greater than the normal one as it is an outlet for
the repressed sexual feelings of a male chauvinistic society which is unavailable to them in
the real life. They find in an item song, the display of an ideal patriarchal society where they
have an easy access to the female body and also her consent. The popularity of item songs is
hence accounted to the sexual relief that is delivered when the unconscious patriarchal desires
gets fulfilled. But the fulfillment and the mode used are unrecognizable to the masses, so the
pleasure it gives is immense. Since, it is an amusement that is dictated by the unconscious of
the audience.
Though these songs are accused for their obscenity, it gets a bail as it is a trend that reinforces
male dominance. Since, nothing, no moralistic interpretation, can be more important than the
sexual needs of a man, in a deeply patriarchal system. Thus it is the male-oriented
psychological obsession of the society that has contributed to the popularity of these songs,
aiding this trend to pass every moral evaluation.
But for those who do not criticize this trend and enjoy watching the performance, take it as an
entertainment package and nothing more. They arent critical about the ideology which
sustains their interest in this popular culture. And for this reason again, the real politics of
item songs largely remains unevaluated. And the trend continues to gain hype.
It doesnt require a promotional technique to be launched, but is in itself a promotional
strategy to launch an actress or the film. An actress has to construct herself in accordance
with her accepted identity of an image, which is pleasing to the viewers to get established.
The more is her skin show, the greater is her popularity.

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It is the patriarchal grammar that dominates even her thought process and she readily
functions as an object. Thus, only objectification can gain popularity to an actress. Her
independence is largely based on sexual terms. Item songs have become a metaphor for
female liberation rather than their subjugation to the dominant ideology.
Actresses love to be called sexy or hot, because these titles give them currency and is a
language spoken by the dominant tongue, which determines their way of life. It is her
sexuality that matters in a society where the male folk control ideologies. She doesnt require
acting potentials to be called an actress as is Rakhi Sawant and Sunny Leone. She will be
readily called so because she reinforces patriarchy.

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CHAPTER TWO
THE UNCONSCIOUS POLITICS OF ITEM SONGS

Item songs satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it goes further developing
scopophilia (Freudian infantile), the pleasure involved in looking at other peoples bodies as
(particularly, erotic) objects (Lacan 44) The two circumstances, one in which, looking itself is
a source of pleasure and the other in which, in the reverse, there is pleasure in being looked
at, both these situations are palpable in an item song.
Freud isolated scopophilia as one of the component instincts of sexuality which exits as
drives quite independently of the erotogenic zones. At this point scopophilia is associated
with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze.
Scopophilia initially is attached to the pre-genital auto eroticism (Freuds theory of
scopophila), after which the pleasure of the look is transferred to others by analogy. Although
the instinct is modified by other factors, in particular the construction of ego, it continues to
exist as the erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as object. It can also produce
Peeping Toms, whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active
controlling sense, an objectified other.

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Item songs brilliantly produce a sense of separation for the audience by portraying a
hermetically sealed world and the shifting patterns of light and shade on the screen helps to
promote the illusion of voyeuristic separation. The conditions of screening in an item song,
give the spectator an illusion of looking in on a private world and the screen as the projection
of the repressed desires of his/her private minds. In the darkness of the cinema auditorium it
is notable that one may look without being seen either by those on the screen or by other
members of the audience. Various features of cinema viewing conditions facilitate for the
viewer the voyeuristic process of objectification of the female figure. An item song hence,
acts as a safe outlet for the viewers, to release their suppressed sexual desires.
Item songs focus attention to the human form. Jacques Lacan has described in his
explanation of the mirror stage that the child finds its mirror image to be more complete,
more perfect than it experiences its own body. Recognition is thus, overlaid by
misrecognition: the image recognized is conceived as the reflected body of the ideal self , but
its misrecognition as superior projects this body outside itself as an ideal ego, the alienated
subject. This, re-introjected as an ego ideal, gives rise to the future generation of
identification with others (Mulvey 17).
Thus while viewing an item number; the viewers identify themselves with the male
protagonist who is hitherto portrayed as an ideal persona in the film. Therefore these songs
not just facilitate objectification process but also the narcissistic process of identification with
an ideal ego seen on the screen, which is the male protagonist of the story as per the
regulations of a patriarchal society.
In a patriarchal society, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and
passive/female (Mulvey 9). This is reflected in the dominant forms of an item song that not

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only typically focus on a male protagonist in the narrative but also assumes a male spectator.
As the spectators identify themselves with the main male protagonist, they project their
looks onto that of his like, their screen surrogate, so that the power of the male protagonist as
he controls events coincides with the active power of the erotic look (Mulvey 10 ), both
giving a satisfying sense of omnipotence
Dominant ideology that presents men as active, controlling subjects and treat women as
passive objects of desire for men in both the song and in the audience, and do not allow
women to be desiring sexual subjects in their own right. Thus, objectify women in relation to
the controlling male gaze, presenting woman as image (or spectacle) and man as bearer
of the look. Men do the looking; women are there to be looked at. The code of this popular
trend is obsessively subordinated to the neurotic needs of the male ego (Daniel Chandler 26)
The woman displayed in the song has basically two functions: as the erotic object for the
characters within the screen and as the erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium.
The woman performs within the gaze of the spectator and that of the male characters around
her. According to the principles of the ruling ideology and the psychical structures that back
it up, the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification. Man is reluctant to
gaze at his exhibitionist like (Mulvey 10). Hence the song projects man bearing an active
role, who makes things happen.
It is the man who controls the song fantasy and therefore he is also the representative of
power in a further sense: as the bearer of the look of the spectator and therefore the female
becomes a spectacle. This is made possible through the processes set in motion by
structuring the film around a main controlling figure with whom the spectator can identify.

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Since, the male protagonist is projected as more perfect, more complete, more powerful ideal
ego (like that of Lacans mirror image), identification with him, gives consent to the viewer
to watch an item song and also access the female body as his screen surrogate does. And for
the female audience again, the ideology held by the male protagonist is well- approving,
because of her identification with him, so that she can also be the active bearer of look. Her
view about the spectacle (the item girl) is more or likely a double-identification (Teresa de
Lauretis, 27) with both the passive and active subject positions though she adopts a masculine
reading position.

What about the homosexual viewers is something worth interrogating. (Steve Neale 281)
argues that in a heterosexual and patriarchal society the male body cannot be marked
explicitly as the erotic object of another male look: that look must be motivated, its erotic
component repressed.
Mulvey distinguishes between two modes of looking for the film spectator: voyeuristic and
fetishistic. Voyeuristic looking involves a controlling gaze and this has associations with
sadism: pleasure lies in ascertaining guilt - asserting control and subjecting the guilty person
through punishment or forgiveness (Mulvey 16). Fetishistic looking, in contrast, involves
the substitution of a fetish object or turning the represented figures itself into a fetish so that
it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous. This builds up the physical beauty of the object,
transforming it into something satisfying in itself. The erotic instinct is focused on the look
alone. Fetishistic looking leads to overvaluation of the female image.

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We now confront a tension between the mode of representation of women in item songs and
conventions surrounding the diegesis. Each is associated with a look: that of the spectator in
direct scopophilic contact with the female form displayed for enjoyment (connoting the
fantasy) and that of the spectator fascinated with the image of his like set in an illusion of
natural space, and through him gaining control and possession of the woman within the
diegesis.
The dominant popular discourse, for instance, only accentuates the fact that women, in the
majority of societies around the world, live lives of spectacle. Women are categorized as, the
bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning (Mulvey 18). As Mulveys statement suggests,
unlike males, females seldom find themselves in the role of spectator, or in the case of an
item song, in the role of control. Women form the spectacle. They are the objects while males
are generally the subjects.
Psychoanalytically, Freud termed and explained the voyeurism that is attached to the
predominant male gaze as fetishism. Because there are little to no instances of male
objectification in popular culture or everyday life (Mulvey 13), the burden of scopophilia,
the active pleasure of looking (Mulvey 15), falls squarely on the male gender. The exclusive
male control of the medium of film requires that any pleasure derived is in a male context. If
women are to gain pleasure from film, they do so by assuming the male gaze and accepting
themselves and other women as objects.
Freud postulates that scopophilia and fetishism originate from the Oedipal Complex. The
young male child is exceptionally close to the mother. However, he soon becomes aware of a
lack in her, meaning the penis (Mulvey 17). He also feels competition with the father in his
desire to return to the perfect utopia of the womb. Because of this purposed threat of the

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father, the male child grows to regard females in the light of the desire for the mother and the
paranoia of the lack. But, because women do not have a penis, the male child must fetishize a
particular aspect of women in order to center his desire on the correct object. From hence
develops the male obsession with female legs, for example, and the phallic stand-ins, high
heels.
Following this line of thought it is easy to see why men seldom shrink from obvious visual
perusal of the female body and why gazes along the same lines are seldom directed back by
women.
Mulvey goes on to say that, the paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it
depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world
(Mulvey 17). Like Freuds theories, the spectacle of item song, as it is recognized today,
cannot exist without its female instrument of spectacle. Without women to provide a counter
weight to phallocentrism and give the male gaze something to control, neither could exist.
(Lacan 30).
The female figure also poses a deeper problem. She also connotes something that the look
continually circles around but disavows: her lack of a penis, implying a threat of castration
and hence unpleasure. Ultimately, the meaning of woman is sexual difference, the absence of
the penis as visually ascertainable, the material evidence on which is based the castration
complex essential for the organization of entrance to the symbolic order and the law of the
father. Thus women as an icon displayed for gaze and entertainment of men, in an item song,
the active controllers of the look, always threatens to evoke the anxiety it originally signified.
Following this line of thought it is easy to see why men seldom shrink from obvious visual

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perusal of the female body and why gazes along the same lines are seldom directed back by
women.
Freud suggests that femininity is complicated, since both sexes share a masculine phase.
There may be a simple process of repression of the masculine tendencies in female sexuality,
accompanied by the occasional regression or alternation between masculine and feminine
tendencies. Finally, Freud suggests that the libido, the 'motive force of sexual life' serves both
masculine and feminine functions and has no sex of its own -- but it happens to be more
constrained 'when it is pressed into the service of the feminine function' (Mulvey quoting
Freud 124).
The male unconscious has two avenues of escape from this castration anxiety: preoccupation
with the re-enactment of the original trauma(investigating the women, demystifying her
mystery), counterbalanced by the devaluation, punishment or saving of the guilty object (an
avenue typified by the concerns of the film noir) ; or else complete disavowal of castration by
the substitution of a fetish object or transforming the represented figure itself into something
satisfying in itself into a fetish so that it becomes reassuring rather than rather than
dangerous (hence over valuation, the cult of the female star).
This second avenue, fetishistic scopophilia, builds up the physical beauty of the object,
transforming it into something satisfying in itself. The first avenue, voyeurism, on the
contrary, has associations with sadism: pleasure lies in asserting guilt (immediately associated
with castration), asserting control and subjecting the guilty person through punishment or
forgiveness. This sadistic side fits in well with narrative. Sadism demands a story, depends on
making something happen, forcing a change in another person, a battle of will and strength,
victory/ defeat, all occurring in a linear time with a beginning and an end.

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Fetishistic scopophilia, on the other hand, can exist outside linear time as the erotic instinct is
focused on the look alone.
The particular fascinations of item songs may be 'reinforced by pre-existing patterns of fascination
already at work within the individual subject and the social formations that have moulded him
(Mulvey 58) especially by considering sexual difference.

The gaze in these songs is basically the outlook of the camera. Because the outlook of the
camera fosters identification with the audience, the gaze can be used as a powerful discourse.
Women are always the objects of the gaze, never the possessors of the gaze. In the case of
item songs, the control of the camera and therefore the control of the gaze is almost always
firmly settled in the male sphere. The camera, cannot be taken just as a cinematic technology,
it can be thought of as a symbol and applied to patriarchal control in society at large. It is in
this light that the camera can be considered an instrument of patriarchal subjugation. In the
song, the camera almost always assumes the gaze of the male.
Therefore it is he who moves the action while women have little access to the camera and/or
control of the narrative. The camera seems to constantly watch women as it does not do with
men. Almost always the camera assumes a male perspective and a male gaze in the narrative.
It is the male that the audience, whether male or female, relates to because it is a male gaze
that moves and controls the camera.
A scene may focus on the curves of a woman's body, putting the viewer in the eyes of a male.
However it is only the Male Gaze theory if these curves are highlighted with specific
conventions such as slow motion, deliberate camera movements and cut aways. The
relationship between camera and (mostly) unknown audience is a new sort of "to-be-lookedat-ness" that has emerged in full force in item songs. Theoretical discussions emphasize how

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the camera lens is a surrogate of the male gaze. The image would not make sense if the
smiling (leering?) Deepika Padukone was replaced by the Shahrukh khan. The dancer in the
camera lens is in a constructed pose that assumes that she is being looked at by the male gaze.
Her pose displays her body for the male's visual pleasure. The pose accentuates her long legs,
skimpy outfit, her slim but well-endowed figure, her long, blond hair, and her coy expression
that acknowledges that she is being looked at. The point of view we see her from calls
attention to her physical assets. While the male gets pleasure from looking, the woman is
shown to get pleasure from being looked at.
In an item song, the camera almost always assumes the gaze of the male. Therefore it is he
who moves the action while women have little access to the camera and/or control of the
narrative. The camera seems to constantly watch women as it does not do with men. Almost
always the camera assumes a male perspective and a male gaze in the narrative. It is the male
that the audience, whether male or female, relates to because it is a male gaze that moves and
controls the camera.
Camera technology (as exemplified by deep focus in particular) and camera movements
(determined by the action of the protagonist), combined with invisible editing (demanded by
realism) all tend to blur the limits of screen space. The male protagonist is free to command
the stage, a stage of spatial illusion in which he articulates the look and creates the action.
But thanks to the overwhelming presence of Facebook in our everyday lives, and now,
perhaps especially, with blogging of the personal-style variety, there is an opportunity for
women to shape own images--to usurp the power of the human gaze (not necessarily, and not
even mostly, male) and funnel it through more favorable channels. Women are given an
opportunity to take advantage of our "to-be-looked-at-ness"--and, to some extent, to control

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it. The verdict is still out on whether or not this is a positive thing. While photographic film is
still a pretty superficial medium, at least the self-portraiture of most style bloggers is a
reflection of the ability of a modern woman to determine her identity, and the "to-be-lookedat-ness" originates with her own inward gaze. But unfortunately their liberty, even in the era
of bloggers, is crushed by the dominant ideology by misusing these self- constructed images
of women and hence once again challenging their attempt to become the controllers.

Item songs, therefore satisfies this primal pleasure attained from looking at other people. This
in psychological terms is known as scopophilia: the pleasure we get from looking, in seeing
other people as objects. A sense of power is attained from being able to do this. This results
in objectification; however, objectification is not bad in itself (we all do it). The problem
comes with abusive objectification. Mulvey's argument follows the standard feminist critique
of objectification: Objectification is problematic when a person is reduced to mere object
under the gaze. Abusive objectification happens when the gaze confers power to the lookers.
In other words, the one who looks has the power. .
Notably, women function as objects of this gaze far more often than as proxies for the
spectator. Mulvey notes the divide between the male, active gaze which looks and female
passivity which is looked upon. Women are always on display in film. Women are seen as
objects of sexual desire, which becomes transformed into exhibitionism. The visual presence
of female tends to stop the story line to dwell on the image.
This argument holds that through the use of various film techniques, such as shot reverse
shot, a typical films viewer becomes aligned with the point of view of its male protagonist.
The camera constructs a visual focalizer through the use of subjective camera shots that
convey perspective.

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Scopophilic pleasure is very much available in item numbers, since the viewers watch in an
enclosed world, where images appear apparently regardless of who is watching. Thus the
spectators seem to be looking in on a private world, and can project their desires on to the
actors. Conventions of mainstream film also focus on the human body, and 'Scale, space,
stories are all anthropomorphic' (Mulvey, 1992, 61). This provides the pleasures of
recognition.
Hence , item songs and performing women acts as a means of erotic pleasure dictated by the
psychic conditions of the viewers, that is more or less left unrecognized due to the magic or
fantasies created by various film techniques .Therefore item numbers escape every moralistic
encounters and have emerged as the most successful and popular trend of the scenario.

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Chapter Three
Analysis of the Current Trend
Taking advantage of the trends capability in the past and also in the recent times several
films have started attaching at least one item song. Now that we have analyzed the
psychoanalytic reasons working behind this sort of popularity, it is easy to get an idea why
our recent item song experts have turned to be a sensation world-wide. The language of the
dominant tongue gets accepted so easily, in a society where patriarchal ideology govern
minds and thereby the unconscious.
Several regional singers have taken up tasks to compose item songs with increasing vulgarity
in lyrics and visuals. Such new attempts have well succeeded, which shows that our viewers
as analyzed in the second chapter are so much obsessed with this trend. These songs act as
instruments of the male gaze, producing representations of women, the good life, and sexual
fantasy from a male point of view. The elements of scopophilia are very much palpable in
these songs. Looking at other peoples bodies as (particularly, erotic) objects and thereby
establishing the male superiority has become a common practice in the current item numbers.
The female figure is manifested perfectly, as an object to be pounced upon. And the spectacle
(item girl) objectifies herself to suit the male point of view as dictated by her unconscious
which accepts the male supremacy.
A composer from Punjab, a rap singer in himself, and also a lyricist has made item numbers a
real sensation in India. His example has proven that item songs are worshipped in our
country. The person talked about is none other than Yo Yo Honey Singh whose songs have

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created world wide applause and tremendous fan followers for this regional singer from in
and out of the industry. Spectators, in large number enjoy the spectacle he has made. His
songs, especially lyrics celebrate female sexuality in great depth from a masculine view
point.
Films may not work but if that film has a song by Yo Yo Honey Singh, the film's soundtrack
is bound to be super hit. Take for instance T-Series last film 'Yaariyaan' which starred a bunch
of new comers in a college romance. While the film did not work at all, its music- which had
two of Honey Singh numbers is still ruling the charts.
Honey Singh has been producing music since 2005. But it is only in 2011, when he
collaborated with Daljit Dosanjh for a song called 'Lak 28 Kudi' (an item song) that put him
in the limelight. Again another item number in Saif Ali Khan's 'Cocktail' - 'Angreji Beat' put
him into the top league. Reportedly he was paid Rs 7 crores for the song. The song made him
a hero worth to be worshipped in an overnight. Honey Singh has become almost an essential
part of all the Bollywood films and makers are ready to spend hefty amount to get the singer
on board. Honey Singh has almost become an anthem of 2013-14 and filmmakers have
started queuing up outside Honey Singh's office to sign him up for their films. Yo Yo Honey
Singh is being eulogized as the next big thing in Bollywood music. His numbers were on
YouTubes top 10 lists last year, and Anurag Kashyap (film producer) has recently that said
he wants to make a biopic on him.
His songs have become a part of everyones private humming though they frown upon it in
public. These songs are very much accorded in a country where women play the roles of a
secondary citizen. His highly suggestive lyrics which are covertly misogynistic, promote a
permissive and casual attitude to sexual assault.

23
Take for example, one of his huge hits sunny sunny from the film Yaariyaan. The lyrics well
explains even the camera focus. The several girls lying on the beach with semi-naked clothes
arrange an enjoyable spectacle for the viewers. It gets more pleasing when the girl asks the
men folk to capture her sexuality in a camera (aaja on the beach yara photo meri kheench).
The song presents women who seduce men and ask men to take them for a party to have
drinks. (Lets go to party yara mujhse naa ab wait hou..botal pilade mujhko bas phir yara I
dont care). The visual again, in which Honey Singh himself is on the beach as a spectator,
exhibits women in a contemptuous manner as if they are kept on the beach for the male
crowd to enjoy, again a scene representative of a male-dominated society.
In another song, Blue Eyes, Honey Singh appears to be flirting with a college girl. The
lyrics of this song say that the girl in short dress seems to be a bomb for him (I swear choti
dress mei bomb lagdi mienu) whose glossy lips and tricks are killing and also her blue eyes
hypnotize him. The entire lyrics project the girl as a seducer and every line compares her with
inanimate objects. He says she had poured champagne on his pants after taking him to club
and now asks him to take a hotel on rent, to change his clothes (Champagne ger di hai tune
meri pant pe, Kehti hai change karlo hotel leke rent pay). He is shown as an innocent victim
to her tricks when its he who is actually victimizing her through objectification. The effect of
the dominant belief system is so deep on the girl that she happily accepts her role as a seducer
and also as an object and is ready to befool her parents when he asks her to do so.
. When the word sex related terms is used as we use the words chair, table, car, cinema
and so on, it gains a sort of normalcy and also a sort of acceptance in the decent crowd. It is
good as the issues related to gender could be talked freely without attaching any kind of taboo
to it. At the same time it is dangerous because, these lines are not just sexual connotations,

24
but they are covert representations of a generalized sexuality of a woman from a male point
of view. The spectacle that is the female is presented as an object below humanity or else as
an exhibit to be looked upon and enjoyed. Such objectification is rare or is never seen in the
case of male sexuality.
Item songs have not just worked for Honey Singh. Several other composers and films have
been benefitted with its ability to attract audience. Examples of such endeavors are many. A
case that is of special mention can be that of the film Dabang starring Salman Khan in the
role of an inspector. The film has been created in two parts where both the part contains one
item song each, which are mega hits in bollywood. The two songs munni badnam hui and
fevicol se are crucial to understand the subtlety of patriarchal ideology in our country. The
hero (Salman Khan as Chulbul Pandey), is symbolic of order and the law, a policeman and a
dominant male possessing money and power. But his erotic drives him into compromised
situations. The power to subject another person to the will sadistically or to gaze
voyeuristically is turned on to the woman as the object of both. Power here is backed by a
certainty of legal right. Hence we find the policeman dancing with women and enjoying her
sexuality in both the songs who are surely not his pair in the film. The women are entertainers
for this law establisher and therefore on the right side of it as well. The identification
process and liberal use of subjective camera from the point of view of the inspector draw the
spectators deeply into his position, making them share his uneasy gaze. This an example that
can best reveal the perverted side of ideological correctness and the recognition of established
morality that is accepted by the viewers through the process of normal identification .

25

Conclusion
The cinematic gaze produced is often masculine both by means of the identification produced
with the male hero and through the use of the camera. An item song also produces pleasure,
manners which arise from different mental mechanisms. The first involves the objectification
of the image, and the second one the identification with it. Both mechanisms represent the
mental desires of the male subject. The first form of pleasure relates to what Freud termed as
scopophilia or the pleasure derived from subjecting someone to one's gaze. The second form
of pleasure other which operates alongside the scopophilia is the identification with the
represented character which is brought about by needs stemming from the Freudian Ego.
Psychoanalytically, Freud termed and explained the voyeurism that is attached to the
predominant male gaze as fetishism. Because there are little to no instances of male
objectification in popular culture or everyday life (Mulvey 13), the burden of scopophilia, the
active pleasure of looking (Mulvey 18), falls squarely on the male gender. The exclusive male
control of the medium of film requires that any pleasure derived is in a male context. If
women are to gain pleasure from item songs, they do so by assuming the male gaze and
accepting themselves and other women as objects.
Freud postulates that scopophilia and fetishism originate from the Oedipal Complex. The
young male child is exceptionally close to the mother. However, he soon becomes aware of a
lack in her, meaning the penis (Mulvey 17). He also feels competition with the father in his
desire to return to the perfect utopia of the womb. Because of this purposed threat of the
father, the male child grows to regard females in the light of the desire for the mother and the
paranoia of the lack. But, because women do not have a penis, the male child must fetishize a

26
particular aspect of women in order to center his desire on the correct object. From hence
develops the male obsession with female legs, for example, and the phallic stand-ins, high
heels. Following this line of thought it is easy to see why men seldom shrink from obvious
visual perusal of the female body and why gazes along the same lines are seldom directed
back by women. Mulvey goes on to say that, the paradox of phallocentrism in all its
manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and
meaning to its world (Mulvey 17). Like Freuds theories, the spectacle of film as it is
recognized today, cannot exist without its female instrument of spectacle. Without women to
provide a counter weight to phallocentrism and give the male gaze something to control,
neither could exist. If women in film, and in society as a whole, are to escape the patriarchal
objectification of the male gaze a new neutral gaze must be developed.
The woman does have power, but it is power gained from her ability to attract male attention.
Thus her power is not independent but contained within the patriarchal system. While our
culture authorizes the privilege of the male to look, for most women the daily experience of
such aggressive attention by the male gaze is seen to be threatening and intrusive. The
pleasure in looking (scopophilia) and desire fulfill the sexual needs and pleasures of a
heterosexual viewer. Women can find pleasure in watching, but their pleasure is gained by
them watching as if they were men. This gives to women the status of being the passive
object of the male heterosexual observer while the male is the active subject.
The dancer or the performing women in the camera lens is in a constructed pose that assumes
that she is being looked at by the male gaze. Her pose displays her body for the male's visual
pleasure. The pose accentuates her long legs, skimpy outfit, her slim but well-endowed
figure, her long, blond hair, and her coy expression that acknowledges that she is being

27
looked at. The point of view we see her from calls attention to her physical assets. While the
male gets pleasure from looking, the woman is shown to get pleasure from being looked at.
Female Objectification is related to the gaze The persons gazed at are objectified, treated as
an object whose sole value is to be enjoyed or possessed by the voyeur Objectified characters
are devalued and their humanity removed. In a patriarchal society, men dictate the rules,
construct and represent the ideal visions, roles and dominate over woman. The worry is that
that a passive audience will be influenced by this representation of reality and copy it and it
will actually become reality with normalization.
Male or female, the audience has been forced to objectify the character via a masculine
voyeuristic position. The female characters in an item song have been coded to ensure that
she has a strong visual and erotic impact, with large breasts, flawless skin, fully make upped
when swimming and a tiny waste, which draws in To be looked at ness.
The image of woman as passive raw materials for the active gaze of man takes the argument a
step further layer demanded by the ideology of the patriarchal order as it is worked out in its
favorite cinematic form - item song. Psychoanalytic point of view analyses woman as
representation signifying castration, voyeuristic or fetishistic mechanism to circumvent her
threat. None of these interacting layers is intrinsic in these songs, but it is only in this form
that they can reach perfect and beautiful contradiction, thanks to the possibility in the songs
of shifting the emphasis of the look. Going far beyond highlighting a womans to-be-lookedat-ness, cinema builds the way she is to be looked at into the spectacle itself. It is these
cinematic codes and their relationship to formative external structures that must be broken
down before these item songs and the pleasure it provides can be challenged.

28
There is no way in which we can produce an alternative out of the blue, but we can begin to
break by examining patriarchy with the tools it provides, of which psychoanalysis is not the
only but an important one. We are still separated by a great gap from important issues for the
female unconscious which are scarcely relevant to psychoanalytic theory. But at this point
this theory can at least advance our understanding of the status of the patriarchal order in
which we are caught.
The creation of a new form of cinematic pleasure and non-gendered look cannot be accessed
so easily. Everyday accepted images must be dissected in order to advent new roles of
spectator and spectacle. It is crucial to understand the processes of male gaze and female
spectacle. Without a comprehension of the forces at work beneath dominant popular culture
and the realization that women really are represented as objectified spectacles, there is little
hope of developing a non-objectified female subject.

29

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Gamble, Sarah, ed. The Routledge Companion to Feminism and Postfeminism. New York:
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Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: a selection. United Kingdom: Routledge, 2001. Print
Mazumdar, Ranjani. Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the city. New Delhi: Minnesota Press,
2008. Print
Whitely, Sheila. Women and Popular Music: Sexuality, Identity and Subjectivity. New York:
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