Malaika Arora recently shared her thoughts about performing in item dance numbers. She, too, had an outburst when she was compared to Helen. At a period when few people were sympathetic to the idea, the actor characterised doing’special item numbers’ in films as a ‘liberating’ feeling. Being likened to Helen, she claimed, was the “biggest” compliment she had ever received.
The item dance sequences in Dil Se’s Chhaiya Chhaiya, in which she co-starred with Shah Rukh Khan, were the start of her item dance career. When choreographer Farah Khan contacted her with the offer, she couldn’t say no, she told Namrata Zakaria on the Tell Me How You Did It podcast.
She said no one had ever filled Helen’s shoes as a dancing diva like she had, Malaika responded, “Firstly, to be compared to Helen aunty is always the biggest, nicest, and most lovely compliment She was one of a kind.”
The actor elaborated on the concept of ‘item number’ in films and said, “That’s what our films are all about, let’s not hide that fact, let’s not be shy about the fact. That’s what we celebrate in our films. Our films are a celebration of life, they’re larger than life. Yes, the concept now, in today’s day and age, has really dwindled. Because there’s just so much emphasis on not having to objectify, etc. But when I did it, and when I was a part of all those songs, for me it was liberating. It really was.”
She said she never felt ‘objectified in the songs because of her portrayal, “I felt that I could just be on screen, as this woman and this object of desire. For me, it was very liberating. I never looked at it as, ‘Oh my God, you’re being objectified’. For me, it felt like was in control. I’m anyway one of those women, I like being in control, I like being the master of my own destiny. I don’t like being told what to, how to, where to. It felt amazing.”