Choli Ke Peeche

More often than not if I hear a Bollywood song I like it – a lot. But it’s a musical genre I know nothing about. Last weekend Gilles Peterson on 6 Music played a great track and – via the tracklistings – I was able to follow up. At first it was just a jumble of letters. But the – still – extraordinary thing about google / wikipedia / youtube is that when you start to type a – l – k – a it’s recognised before your eyes.

So it didn’t take me long to learn that Alka Yagnik is the singer, and Choli Ke Peeche is the song.

Alka’s 46 from Kolkata (Calcutta). She’s extremely well known, over time, and received numerous awards. She’s a ‘playback’ singer, meaning that although she’s the actual singer she doesn’t appear, as the (more glamorous) actress lip-syncs.

The film is Khalnayak, a 1993 action thriller. Choli Ke Peeche became instantly recognisable and acquired a certain notoriety for suggestive lyrics. And the actress is Madhuri Dixit, again a hugely popular superstar over a long period.

Choli Ke Peeche is an ‘item number’. This refers to a song and dance that doesn’t necessarily develop the narrative but showcases beauty and glamour – marketing, trailers, and soundtracks being the aims. Madhuri Dixit has numerous examples to her credit: Choli Ke Peeche (‘what’s behind the blouse’) being specially well known. As usual a possible ban only added to its popularity.

For me it’s a brilliant example of Bollywood at its best

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