With Holi round the corner, APS Malhotra looks at the way our filmmakers have used the festival to good effectIn the vast plains of North India, there is a brief period, between a freezing winter and a scorching summer, when Mother Nature showers her bounty on us and swathes the entire landscape under a blanket of flowers, in celebration of life and living. It is to participate in this unbridled festivity of nature that Holi is celebrated, with colour, bonhomie and a bit of religious fervour, though, like other festivals - Christmas, Eid, Diwali and Dussehra - Holi too has surpassed the barriers of religion and region, assimilating everybody.And where else can this be more evident than Bollywood which has used the festival to good effect, over decades, across genres. It has been used to express emotions that go far beyond the superficial gaiety that may be mistaken to be its mien, albeit, mostly in the form of song and dance sequence.Today switch on any television channel and you will find Rohit Roy inviting Neha Dhupia to play Holi in the promos of the forthcoming Delhii Heights.It is another matter that they are talking of ` rang de choli'when Neha is clad in jeans and top.The heart goes back to times when in Mother India, made not long after the trauma of Partition, the song "Holi Aayee Re Kanhai" symbolised the aspirations of a nation that was still struggling to free itself from centuries of oppression, now from within. The festival had its heyday, when an entire movie (with good performances by Waheeda Rehman and Dharmendra) Rajendra Singh Bedi's Phagunwas made. The story evolved around an incident that took place during Holi festivities. Waheeda gave one of her more sensitive portrayals, what to say of the song "Phagun ayo re".
The elementsOther elements associated with the festival have found echo in some memorable films, like the consumption of bhaang, portrayed by an inebriated Rajesh Khanna and Asrani in Namak Haram. That life for everyone isn't a fiesta of colours was shown in Kati Patang, when the redoubtable Khanna sprays colour on a widowed Asha Parekh, challenging long standing social taboos that forbade widows from participating in festivals. Sunil Dutt in Zakhmidisplayed that Holi could also be a manifestation of anger with "Dil Main Holi Jal Rahi Hai." But it has been the shahenshahof Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, on whom the most remarkable Holi scenes and songs have been shot, which, with his Allahabadi background, he has managed to infuse with such finesse and realism that it transcends the frontiers of cinema into the heart of the common man. From a remote and mute longing, expressed through Jaya Bachchan's melancholic eyes for the likeable conman, Jai in "Holi Ke Din Dil Khil Jate Hain" in the monumental Sholayto an unabashed acceptance of passion for a beloved in Silsila. Here the Big B was riotous as he sang "Rang Barse". The song has been a must in every Holi programme on television and radio. In fact, it became a genre that he has perfected with age - evident in Baghban, where as a mature husband he serenaded his lovely better half with "O Holi Khele Raguvira."
A modern touchBut when the shahenshahis there, can the badshahbe far behind? The element of fear, and bizarre passion, bordering on obsession, was portrayed by Shah Rukh Khan through his empty eyes, as he trails a frightened Juhi Chawla in front of her fiancée Sunny Deol in "Ang Se Ang Lagana" in Darr. Very much like Delhii Heights,recently Vipul Shah tried to bring a modern touch to the traditional festival when in "Waqt", Akshay Kumar serenaded Priyanka Chopra with "Do Me A Favour, Let's Play Holi." Surely, Bollywood has used Holi very judiciously, as part of the story line and with appropriate cinematic sensibilities. So, once again, Holi hai!