Criticising Bollywood item songs, veteran actor Shabana Azmi says that while many might see them as “celebration of women’s sensuality,” she feels they are another example of women surrendering to male gaze.
This is not the first time that the actor has criticised item songs. At a panel discussion two years ago, the actor came down heavily on these song sequences, particularly the
number “Fevicol Se” from Dabangg 2.
Today at the Ficci Frames 2018 during a session titled “Against All Odds: Women leaders revisit their journey”, the actor once again expressed her opinion on item songs as the moderator put an argument that many female actors call dancing to such numbers a matter of choice.
“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.
“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,” said Azmi.
The actor, known to be opinionated on the depiction of women on screen and treatment meted out to female artistes in the film industry, said a director’s perspective matters the most when it comes to showing a woman’s sexuality on camera.
“When you see a woman’s fragmented bits of her body—heaving bosom, swinging navel, shaking hip—you are robbing her off whole autonomy.”
In Zoya’s film (Zoya Akhtar) Zindagi Na Milega Dobara, comes out of the water in a bikini, the camera doesn’t go close to her. It doesn’t linger on her bosom or the droplets falling. The camera in mid (frame) sees her coming out of the water. She picks up her bathrobe, wears it and you immediately accept that she is an instructor who is coming and doing her job.
“If the director had decided to go overboard with the shot, it would be objectification. So it’s the intention. There’s a difference between sensuality and objectification,” the veteran added.
Concluding her response with another harsh remark on the song “Fevicol Se”, Azmi said that one of the worst effects of such songs is sexualisation of children.
“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,” the actor said.