We could be perpetually be in an argument about what an item number, or even, what an item girl is. Does it exist purely to titillate and excite? Had you asked this question a couple of decades ago, the item number might have held completely different connotations. It was essentially rooted as a dance form, and the few women who indulged in it were revelled and known nationwide. While many people know of Helen and her mentor Cuckoo Moray, very few may know of their mentor, the late Madame Azurie.
Born Anna Marie Gueizelor, the lovely ‘item girl’ who many believe to have spawned a genre grew up with a German father and Indian mother. While she was initially discouraged from pursuing Eastern dance forms for being too frivolous, she spent her years studying ballet, eventually making a name for herself in Hindi movies. Her lithe, graceful dancing became the initial dalliance we had with an item girl, whose graceful classical steps were a far cry from the jhatka-matka style of dancing today. At the time, an item girls wasn’t as well-defined a concept as today, and the item girl acted as a stand in to the cinematic development to entertain, much like the item girls of now. It was certainly not necessary to be sexual in order to be qualified as an item girl either. Azurie’s classical dancing gave way to Cuckoo Moray, another woman who brought dancing as an artform in cinema to the forefront. By the time Helen came and usurped Cuckoo’s title, the idea of an item number and what it entailed was well established in the mind of the Indian audience. Here are some images of the expressive Madame Azurie, and how she began a movement of decades.