Wish you all a very happy and prosperous Holi. This is one of the most important festivals for us as it marks the victory of good over evil. Yes, Dussehra/Diwali are not the only festivals celebrating the end of sin/sinners; but Holi also is celebrated for the same reason. If we go back to mythology, Prahlad sat on the lap of Holika, the evil sister of Hiranyakashyap, on the pyre and she was burnt to death while Prahlad was unharmed due to his devotion to Lord Vishnu. We still re-play this in the form of Holika Dehan.
Hiranyakashyap had been granted a wish that he would neither be killed by man nor creature, neither in the day nor night, neither inside the palace nor out, neither on sky nor on earth and neither by knowledge/debate nor by weapons. Vishnu then appeared as Narsimha, and killed Hiranyakashyap at dusk with his clawed hands, laying him on his lap with each leg on either side of the mukhya-dwar.
Ok, now that we are through with mythology lets get down to films. Although the festival is marked with wonderful colors, its usage in our cinema has always been as a dark plot or as a turning point. The cheerfulness around is lost due to some gruesome incident, its probably the air which does it. People are so high on emotions that they end-up being a part of some life-changing events.
The most disturbing Holi sequence I have seen was in Damini, where a bunch of rich-spoilt-brats rape the maid-servant of the house. And although Damini[Meenakshi Sheshadri] is a witness to this horrific incident, they try to shut her up to maintain the dignity of the family, khandan ki izzat ka sawaal. What an irony, if they did have some dignity to begin with, such an incident would not have occured. From hereon, the whole movie revolves around this event and Damini’s fight for justice. Some of the sequences in the movie are repulsive, like the court-room sequence where the opposition lawyer Chadha[Amrish Puri] asks awkward questions to Damini.
Silsila was another movie which had a brilliant Holi sequence. The song Rang Barse is legendary, and any Holi is incomplete without this song. The song is a part of the narrative and brings out beautifully the relationship that Amit[Amitabh Bachchan] and Chandni[Rekha] share, which otherwise would have been difficult to disclose. The song penned by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, is so suggestive:
Bela chameli ka sej bichhaya
Soye gori ka yaar, balam tarse, rang barse
Rang barse bheege chunar wali, rang barse
It might have taken lots of scenes and dialogues, but this one song did the trick. The body language of all the characters involved in this song is marvellous; Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar as the helpless spouse, Amitabh as a poet lost in their celebration of love, and Rekha caught in-between the reality of the situation and the fantasy world of endless love.
Another Amitabh Bachchan movie Baghban had a lovely Holi song holi khele raghubeera awadh mei holi khele raghubeera. The song was sung with great gusto by Amitabh himself, but what followed the celebrations was heart-breaking. Amitabh’s children decide that the aged couple must live separately with each of the brothers for a period of 6 months, thereby helping them reduce the financial burden. The happiness of the moment is marred by the heartless call taken by the very kids he brought-up with such love and affection. This culminated in him writing a book, and changing the course of their lives.
Of course nobody can forget Gabbar Singh roaring Holi Kab Hai? Kab Hai Holi? He plans an attack on the Ramgarh village on that day, spoil the festive mood, and to teach the villagers a lesson that Gabbar se tumhe ek hi admi bacha sakta hai, khud Gabbar! His plan is thwarted, but not before some action, some gunshots, some cleverness by Amitabhsome cleverness by Amitabh and some blood to add more colors to the already colorful day.
In stark contrast with the many hues of the festival is the presence of a widow in a white saree. This has been captured many-a-times in movies like Kati Patang, Mohabbatein and Sholay. Holi is the symbol of free spirit and boundless joys, and film-makers have juxtaposed this with the colorless world of a widow who is constrained by society and she has no freedom whatsoever. In Sholay, this festival is showcased twice; both with a marked difference. While the first Holi was shot with Jaya Bhaduri making merry on the occasion and sparing nobody; the second Holi was a colorless bland affair as she was a widow then. These contrasting images stay with us for a long time.
Holi marks the breaking of shackles in the song Aaj Na Chhodenge Bas Humjoli where a gushing Rajesh Khanna sings to Asha Parekh in Kati Patang. The sorrow and loneliness of a widow is brought out well in the simple words of Anand Bakshi as Lata Mangeshkar sings the following lines:
Apni apni kismat hai
koi hase koi roye
rang se koi ang bhigoye
koi Asuan se nain bhigoye
Holi brings the winds of change in Gurukul of Mohabbatein where it was never celebrated before. SRK adorns Amitabh Bachchan’s forehead with a tilak and its followed by a Holi song Soni soni aankhiyon wali. Here, the widow played by Preeti Jhanghiani is caught-up in the persuasion of playing Holi :
Gam ho ya koi khushi, Purva ka jhonka hai.
Ek aaye ek jaayega, Kyon dil ko roka hai.
Is dil ko humne nahin, Hame dil ne roka hai.
Koi bata de zara, Kya sach kya dhoka hai?
Ye duniya saari, Badi hai pyari,
Yahi ek sach hai, Ye sab rang bade suhaane hain.
The movie Darr also has a famed sequence involving Holi where an obsessed lover is trying to get a glimpse of his beloved, wants to share the happiness and joy of Holi with his object of affection. Rahul, played by SRK, takes up the challenge of showing himself up at Kiran’s door and smearing gulaal on her face. Juhi Chawla, playing Kiran, is totally engrossed in the festivity; while paying money to the bandwala guys, Rahul applies gulaal on Kiran’s cheeks and wishes her in his menacing words KKKKKiran. There begins a chase where a furious Sunil, played by Sunny Deol, is after Rahul. The scene which starts with gulaal, ends in blood with Sunil smashing a bottle on SRK’s head.
Holi ke din dil khil jaate hain, rangon mein rang mil jaate hain
Gile shikwe bhul ke doston, dushman bhi gale mil jaate hain
Although the above lyrics were from Sholay, it was totally justified in the case of Saudagar. The two friends-turned-enemies, Veer Singh played by Dilip Kumar and Rajeshwar Singh played by Rajkumar, get back together on Holi festival. Rajeshwar declares that nobody dare throw color on him, thats when Veeru takes a handful of gulaal and hurls it at him, thereby ending ages of hatred between them and brings them together once again.
The above sequence is what I wish for everybody around, heal the world. Lets take this opportunity to make love, not war; win friends and not create enemies; that’s the true spirit of Holi.
This post was first published on PFC