So is ‘Gangster Guriya’ an item number or an empowerment anthem?

Mehwish Hayat’s name has been splashed around the internet for one reason or another, as of late. It all started from her Tamgha-e-Imtiaz and now, the most recent controversy stems from her cameo in the upcoming film Baaji.

Mehwish is seen rocking to the newly released song ‘Gangster Guriya’ that has been in the news for certain similarities to her B-town counterpart, Katrina Kaif’s style but you can read all about that here.┬áThe newest issue arises from the nature of ‘Gangster Guriya’. The web is divided on whether or not the song can be classified as an item number.

What is an item number?

As per the definition, “an item number or item song is a musical number inserted into a film that does not have any relevance to the plot. Although, the origin of the term “item number” is obscure, it is likely that it derives its meaning from objectification of women.” But how apt is this description when most songs featuring women are labeled as item numbers whereas a man dancing to the same beat would be performing a dance number.

Tons of songs featuring dancing women ultimately lead to their objectification in our cinema where the main interest is for men to ogle them. The same liberties may be enjoyed by women but somehow, those songs still don’t generate controversy.

‘Gangster Guriya’: An empowerment anthem?

‘Gangster Guriya’ has started a debate over whether the song should be considered an empowerment anthem or a tribute to a women owning and expressing her sexuality as she pleases.

The song features empowering lyrics like ‘mann marzi ka apna maza hai‘ and ‘don’t touch me boy, mein nahi toy’ which seek to establish female control over their own body and actions. The title in itself is a rebellion, ‘Gangster Guriya’ inspires an image of a beautiful woman who won’t be silenced easily by anyone and can fight for herself. The music video also features Mehwish on top, looking tough and in charge of herself. While this seems like a step in the right direction, it evades the seemingly more effective route. Perhaps showing more intellectual, strong female leads with a good backstory would do better for women empowerment than scantily clad gyrating vixens.

On the other hand, there’s an issue of a woman owning her sexuality. From Billi to Chirya, Mehwish has never shied away from item numbers. In a recent tweet, she responded to the backlash following ‘Gangster Guriya’ saying these dance numbers are a part of her job and that she finds her work empowering. So, owning her sexuality has never been an issue for the queen of item songs. As a progressing nation, we should be able to admit that there’s nothing wrong with a woman owning her body, flaunting what she’s got and expressing herself however she pleases. Our viewers, however, may not share the same ideals.

A final word

A huge portion of the target demographic, Pakistani cinemagoers, are not yet ready to see sexuality so openly celebrated. Religion, societal views and years of ingrained traditional values form a barrier for this sort of artistic freedom. Therefore, the addition of such songs may be doing more harm to the notion of women empowerment than good. And that just begs the question, is it wise to create something an audience would rather not watch or understand?

Gangster Guriya’ has a different vibe from Mehwish’s previous item numbers and yet, it is no average dance number either. Looks like we’ll just have to wait for Baaji to see if it has anything vital to add to the plot or is truly, just a filler song and a beautiful face.

What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments.

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