‘Aaj Na Chhodenge’ To ‘Balam Pichkari’ – How Holi Became The Most ‘Filmy’ Indian Festival

Colour drenched, intoxicated and shedding all inhibitions, the festival gave the shy heroine an opportunity to proclaim her love or for the amorous hero to finally make the move, sometimes it helped break the monotony or accelerate the story line, on other occasions, it was the twist in the plot, a sign of impending gloom, or a flashback of memories, or the lull before the storm.

The many shades of Holi – from lust, love, angst, revenge, loss, joy, separation, reunions, and even tragedy – set the tone of the narrative in Hindi films.

Holi Aayi Re Kanhai – the classic number composed by Naushad in Mother India, As Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt are filmed enjoying the festival only to have the younger sibling played by Dutt misbehaving with a girl; the song sets in motion the plot, as the errant son is banished and has his own mother bring justice to the victim.

Celebrating the essence of colours, the song Arey Jaa Re Hat Natkhat from Navrag remains a timeless number, as Sandhya the actress shows her inimitable talent as a dancer playing both – the male and female characters at once.

Asha Parekh, who dons the grieving widow act, sworn to a colourless life in Kati Patang – the festival of Holi could well be her one chance to forget her woes, as Rajesh Khanna sings Aaj Na Chodhenge Bas Humjoli, could the stark canvas of her life finally change for the better?

As Gabbar the dacoit asks ‘Holi Kab Hai?’, setting in motion his plan to demolish a village in Sholay. Unbeknownst, the village of Ramgarh celebrates the festival singing Holi Ke Din Dil Mil Jate Hain – the song, a welcome break in the high octane drama. As Veeru unabashedly flirts with Basanti, it is also the moment when Radha silently acknowledges her love for the brooding Jai. As the song reaches a crescendo, the village is ravaged by Gabbar’s men and Thakur’s secret is known to all. And we all known how the rest of the drama unfolds.

A time for confessions, for skeletons to tumble out,  secrets to be unraveled, the iconic Rang Barse from Silsila. Two married ex-lovers, openly flirt with each other in front of their spouses. As Amit, played by Amitabh Bachchan, flirts with his married ex-girl friend, Chandni, played by Rekha, their respective spouses, played by Jaya Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar, exchange helpless looks. It’s teasing lilting lyrics, Rang Barse is the iconic Holi songs of all times.

But Holi can spell doom as well, as in Damini, it was the twist in the plot. The protagonist Meenakshi Sheshadri witnesses the rape of her maid by her brother-in-law. She turns into a lone crusader seeking justice for the victim with the help of a lawyer who has fallen onto hard times.

An obsessed Rahul played by Shah Rukh Khan, smears his face with colour to get close to the object of his affection, Juhi Chawla in Darr. To the strains of the dhol and the song Ang Se Ang Lagana, he tries to reach out to her and smear her face with colour. As he whispers K-K-K-K-K-Kiran, her shock at seeing her stalker sets the alarm, and what follows is a chase between her lover played by Sunny Deol and the villain of the piece.

Holi is also the perfect festival to shed all inhibitions, as the shy reticent Naina, played by Deepika Padukone, with the help of a pichkari and gulal, dances with graceful abandon. The song Balam Pichkari in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is the moment when Ranbir’s character realises that the bespectacled Naina is actually a ball of fire.

On the other hand, Holi is the perfect excuse for two lovers, who belong to warring families to get up close and intimate with each other, as was in the case in Ram Leela.

A time for families to come together before the bad times befall, as witnessed in Baghban, as Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini celebrate the festival to the strains of Holi Khele Raghubeera, it’s the last of the happy moments. Soon after, the parents are caught in the cross-fire between their errant children.

But then for some there was no reason, it was just a day to get into the mood and swing of things, after all Do Me a Favour Lets Play Holi remains a popular anthem – there need not be an agenda to have fun, right?!

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