Amitabh Bachchan speaks out on ‘item numbers’ and hooliganism in Indian cinema

The actor’s upcoming film Pink tackles the subject of molestation and its aftermath.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sonal Pandya

In recent years, Hindi films that depict a sense of accountability have found their way into cinema halls. How these films are being interpreted by the audience is also being seriously looked at. Actors and producers backed films like NH10, Titli and Talvar, all of which released to acclaim last year.

On Aamir Khan’s social talk show Satyamev Jayate in 2014, several stars from the Indian film industry stopped by to give their views on the disturbing trend of life imitating art. The host openly admitted to making those errors on screen in his own films and expressed regret at some of them. Actresses Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and Parineeti Chopra all said they wouldn’t tolerate any kind of misbehaviour in real life and would take action.

Ranaut also spoke out on turning down at least six ‘item numbers’ for three to four years. Amitabh Bachchan, who also appeared on that episode, talked about raising his daughter Shweta and son Abhishek equally. Bachchan’s upcoming film, Pink, shows the other side of the fight. What happens when women speak up?

Pink depicts three roommates who file a complaint with the police after they are molested by a group of young men. Bachchan plays a lawyer who takes up their case. Recently, during press interviews, he was asked about cinema and its power to influence the way women are treated in society, especially with the way ‘item numbers’ and hooliganism are depicted in Indian cinema. He replied that cinema, while showing villainy, also metes out justice within the same runtime.

“Cinema is a 20th century phenomenon. Anyone that lays emphasis on its power of negative influence must necessarily possess the power to look back at the earlier centuries and conclude affirmatively to us whether what they consider impressionable now through film was not accorded presence earlier too, when there was no film. Which medium can assure us poetic justice in three hours? Which medium gives justice to the wronged through punishment within three hours?”

Bachchan went on, "If item songs incite and encourage hooliganism, eve-teasing and rape, then we must all know that such horrific acts shall also invite sentences behind bars for years and at times for life. Which film has not depicted that? You know and I know that in reality and in life and everyday existence, not always has the process succeeded, or been exercised in its entirety! But in cinema it does. Sensuality does not only hibernate in ‘film item numbers’. Nature, climate, music, flowers, the classics in poetry and writing have the power to be sensuous too. How will that be prevented or cured if such a cure is being sought?”

Pink, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, releases on 16 September 2016.