“Do me a favour, let’s play Holi,” Akshay Kumar urges Priyanka Chopra in Waqt: Race Against Time.
Just over a year ago the indomitable Amitabh Bachchan threw heaps of `abeer` and `gulal` on Hema Malini in Baghban.
Hard to believe, a year has gone by since Big B pulled out all stops to celebrate that time of the year when everyone is allowed to show his or her true colours.
And why not? Holi has always served as a moment of reckoning in our films. Whether it was Baghban or the forthcoming Waqt, a Holi sequence almost invariably indicates a turning point in the narrative.
Songs about the festival of colours have always been special. They profile every film’s own dramatic personality as much as Rajesh Khanna’s ‘Guru’ shirts and Amitabh Bachchan’s long strides towards the enemy’s throat.
Sholay’s evergreen `Holi ke din khil jaate hain` signaled the joy of spreading colours before the bandit Gabbar Singh struck down the village.
In Yash Chopra’s Silsila’s `Rang Barse bheege chunaria` the much-married couple Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha blissfully take to the dance floor during Holi. Unhappily they aren’t married to each other in the film. And as they cavort in Holi-induced oblivion their respective spouses (Jaya Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar) look on with embarrassment.
It’s a decisive moment in the marriges of the two couples.
Even more decisive is the Holi song in Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Phagun where Waheeda Rehman dances with her snobbish clan singing `Phagun aayo re`. When her proletarian husband Dharmendra sprays her expensive silk sari with colour she taunts him only to please her disapproving parents. “If you can’t buy a sari like this for me, what gives you the right to ruin it?”
The `ghar damaad` leaves home humiliated, never to return again. Holi was never the same again.
Phagun wasn’t the only film whose dramatic epicenter was Holi. `Holi Aayee Re` had the heroine Mala Sinha getting impregnated during Holi. And in Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Damini, the protagonist sees her inlaw’s maid being gang raped by a bunch of men from the house.
In Shakti Samanta’s Kati Patang the widow Asha Parekh stands in spotless splendour crooning, “Apni apni kismet hai yeh koi hase koi roye” while the exuberant hero sings, “Aaj na chodenge bas humjoli..”
At the end of the song sequence Khanna sprays some of that all-embracing colour on the widow’s forehead. Widowhood is supremely challenged.
In Kati Patang as well as in Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay the colours of Holi were used to accentuate the contrast between the spotless white of widowhood and the flamboyant festivity of ‘normal’ people.
Our films have constantly used Holi to bring some much -needed colour into the stagnant shades and colour schemes of Hindi films. As the nation prepares to go colour-crazy this Saturday, Bollywood gets into a specially groovy mood. The best rendezvous for Holi is at the Bachchans residence where almost the entire film industry converges every year.
And this year they’ve a lot more to celebrate. Abhishek has suddenly gone from being a prominent aspirant to one of the hottest stars on the block. And the patriarch himself is soaring at a supreme stratosphere after Black.
“It’s true,” smiles the Big B. “God has been very kind to us. And what better way to share our happiness than to open our doors to all our friends? This is an opportunity that comes once a year. However this year we’ve decided to do away with Holi because of the Tsunami ravages.”
Strangely, Hindi cinema always sees Holi as a time to create drama in the plot. But in Bollywood, all the dramatic tensions of celluloid are forgotten on that one day when the colours aren’t co-ordinated by Nitin Desai or Sharmista Roy.