Veteran actor and activist Shabana Azmi has criticised the item numbers culture in Bollywood and said that they lead to the sexualisation of children. Citing the lyrics of the song Fevicol Se picturised on Kareena Kapoor in Salman Khan-starrer Dabangg 2, Azmi said, “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.”
In a panel discussion at the ongoing FICCI Frames 2018, Azmi said that a woman surrenders to the male gaze in item numbers. “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,” she added.
Vani Tripathi Tikoo, CBFC member, Gayatri Yadav, president and head, Consumer Strategy & Innovation, Star India, Apurva Purohit, president, Jagran Prakashan Ltd and Tavleen Singh, political columnist and author were also present at the discussion. Azmi also said that it is problematic when people are shown a woman’s “fragmented bits of her body, heaving bosom, swinging navel, shaking hip”, it robs her whole autonomy.
Citing another example, the actress said, “In Zoya’s film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, a scene shows leading lady Katrina Kaif coming out of the water wearing a bikini and wear her bathrobe. The camera does not go close to her, does not show her bosom. But on that very shot, if the director had decided to go over the top, it would have been objectification. So the intention needs to be clear.”
She also said that people in India are simultaneously living in different centuries in various parts of the country. "Firstly, let's acknowledge the fact that India is living in many centuries in different parts of the country simultaneously. Yes, we have a woman President, woman Prime Minister, woman politicians, but at the same time there are several girl children being killed because they are girls... both the realities co-exist," Shabana said.
"We talk about education, but often education re-enforces the gender stereotype and role play," added the actress.