trend Munni and Sheila gave a new fillip to item numbers, spiralling the production cost and remuneration of actresses. Will the audience still be amused, wonders sangeetha devi dundoo

C irca 2005. Childhood buddies Rohan Sippy and Abhishek Bachchan came together for the second time for Bluffmaster (their first on screen outing being Kuch Na Kaho) and Sippy Jr convinced Bachchan Jr to croon Ek Main Aur Ek Tu Hai. The hip hop promotional video, featured during the end credits of the film, went on to be roaring hit and set the trend for a slew of promotional videos.

In 2011, when Rohan and Abhishek await the release of their third film together, Dum Maaro Dum, on April 22, the focus is not on Abhishek Bachchan who has again sung a hip hop number… Goa Aana Ka, Khana Ka aur Chill Maarne Ka. The film's visibility largely lies on Deepika Padukone swaying to the remix of Dum Maaro Dum. The flower power and hippie culture of Zeenat Aman's 70s have given way to ‘in your face' lyrics that have drawn criticism.

If 2010 belonged to Sheila ki Jawani and Munni, Dum Maaro Dum tries its luck in 2011. Item numbers have been around for decades but of late, the budgets have gone Northwards. Elaborate sets are constructed, a leading actress is roped in for a hefty sum and the team goes all out to ensure that the music is peppy, lyrics catchy and choreographers give the best possible moves to make the video a sensation.

Rohan Sippy defends having spent Rs. 1.5 crore for the DMD song and hopes it would translate to money at the box office. “There is a lot more to the film and this song is meant to draw the initial attention at the promotion stage. At the end of the day we want to entertain people and get them to watch the thriller that explores the drug-mafia criminal nexus in Goa. The song comes at the pre-climax and livens up the proceedings. We procured the rights from Sa Re Ga Ma and thought of making the song catchy for this generation. Who wouldn't like to watch the gorgeous Deepika Padukone?”

Insiders state that apart from the budget of the song costing Rs. 1.5 crore, Deepika Padukone was also paid to the tune of Rs. 1 to 1.5 crore for the song. Now, a Rs. 3 crore budget is something a number of small filmmakers would be happy with to make their projects see the light of the day.

Katrina and Malaika are also said to have struck gold with Sheila and Munni and with the songs becoming a sensation, more moolah poured in for the actresses to perform the numbers for New Year's Eve bashes.

A few years ago, Aishwarya Rai made an exception to dance to Kajra Re ( Bunty Aur Babli) before she became Mrs. Bachchan. Mallika Sherawat followed with a special appearance in Maiyya Maiyya in Mani Ratnam's Guru. Strangely enough, many of Mani Ratnam's earlier movies have had item numbers and at far lesser budget compared to the recent films. Sonali Bendre's Humma Humma ( Bombay) and Sophia Haque's September Maasam ( Sakhi) came much before Guru.

This year, the war of item numbers gets bigger with Mallika Sherawat returning with not one but two numbers — Razia in Anees Bazmee's Thank You and Jalebi Bai number in Double Dhamaal. Bipasha Basu is considering an item number for Murder 2. The budgets for item numbers have gone up to Rs. 2 to 3 crore, and this excludes the hefty fee to the actresses. Is it worth the gamble? Choreographer Bosco who worked with Deepika in DMD states that the dance numbers aren't easy at all: “It's not an easy job. The moves have to be tough and catchy and the song as a whole has to work. The competition is getting only tougher.”

Trade analyst Komal Nahata points out to the failure of Tees Maar Khan at the BO despite Sheila becoming a hit: “On the other hand, Dabanng did not ride solely on Munni. The song was an added attraction to an otherwise entertaining film.”

The initial response towards both Deepika's DMD and Malaika's Jalebi Bai are divided and the trade is not sure if the videos will manage to get the audience to the theatres.

There is a lot more to the film ( Dum Maaro Dum)and this song is only meant to draw the initial attention at the promotion stage. Rohan Sippy