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By Bollywood has always been colourful, wild and wet. But here?s to the hatke Holis. By Subhash K. Jha
  • Published 25.03.05

?Do me a favour, let?s play Holi,? Akshay Kumar urges Priyanka Chopra in Waqt: Race Against Time. Holi can?t be complete without songs. And as the masses believe, it remains incomplete without Amitabh Bachchan. But a lot is being said about the latest Holi song from Waqt A Race Against Time which in fact leaves out the Big B. The song doesn?t allow the Rang barse Big B to shake a leg with Do me a favour, let?s play Holi....but the song has already caught on.

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 dil khil jaate hain signalled the joy of spreading colours before the bandit Gabbar Singh struck down the village.

In Yash Silsila Chopra?s Rang barse bheegi chunarwali 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 marriages 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 epicentre was Holi. Holi Aayee Re had the heroine Mala Sinha getting impregnated during Holi. And in Rajkumar Santoshi?s Damini, the protagonist sees her in-law?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 kismat hai yeh koi hanse koi roye while the exuberant hero sings, Aaj na chhodenge bas humjoli. At the end of the song sequence Rajesh 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 weekend, Bollywood gets into an especially groovy mood. The best rendezvous for Holi is at the Bachchan residence where almost the entire film industry converges every year. As it used to be with the Holi celebration at Raj Kapoor?s house. The whole industry would land up at his place for the famous dunking in his little swimming pool and be regaled by the celebrated mast Kathak dancer, the irrepressible Sitara Devi. And there were just no ?rival? Holi get-togethers in Bollywood then, in deference to the Showman?s Show.

This year the Bachchans have 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.?

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 coordinated by Nitin Desai or Sharmistha Roy.


Mother India: Holi aayee re Kanhaai (1957)
Lyric: Shakeel Badayuni
Music: Nausad
Singer: Shamshad Begum

Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt get into the Holi mode. After the song finishes, the twist to the tale occurs when Sunil Dutt is accused of getting unruly with a village girl and is exiled from the village.

Navrang: Arre ja re hat natkhat (1959)
Lyric: Bharat Vyas
Music: C. Ramchandra
Singers: Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor

V. Shantaram?s wife Sandhya dances to the beats of the mischievous song.The uniqueness of the song lies in actress Sandhya?s inimitable dance steps where she plays the role of both the male and female characters by just turning round a full 180 degrees and wearing a mask.

Kohinoor: Tan rang lo ji aaj mann rang lo (1960)
Lyric: Shakeel Badayuni
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd Rafi

Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari flirt playfully in true Holi tradition.

Guide: Piya tose naina laage re (1965)
Lyric: Shailendra
Music: S.D. Burman
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

This is not exactly a Holi song, but Waheeda Rahman sings remembering her beloved on a Holi celebration, Aayee Holi aayee, sab rang laayee/Bin tere Holi bhi na bhaaye/Bhar pichkaari, sakhiyon ne mari,/Bheegi mori sari haaye haayei/Tan badan mora kaanpe thar-thar...

Kati Patang: Aaj na chhodenge bas humjoli /Khelenge hum holi/ Chaahe bheege teri chunariya, chaahe bheege re choli.... (1971)
Lyric: Anand Bakshi
Music:R.D. Burman
Singer: Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar

Another film that plays up the white factor, here with Asha Parekh. Rajesh Khanna in the song woos Asha Parekh and gives heavy hints to forget her colourless widow?s life and move into the Holi mode.

Phagun: Phaagun aayo re (1973)
Lyric: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Music: S.D. Burman
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

In the Waheeda Rehman-Dharmendra-Jaya Bhaduri starrer, Holi formed an important backdrop to the narrative of the film.

Sholay: Holi ke din dil khil jaate hain (1975)
Lyric: Anand Bakshi
Music: R. D. Burman
Singers: Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar

Played up the white factor with widow Jaya to contrast the festival of colours. Just before the song it?s Gabbar Singh who growls, ?Holi kab hai?? and the song opens in Ramgarh village. The song comes to an end when Gabbar Singh has the first face-off with Jai and Veeru.

Zakhmee: Aayee re aayee re holi (1975)
Lyric: Gauhar Kanpuri
Music: Bappi Lahiri
Singer: Kishore Kumar

Sunil Dutt sets out to take revenge against the villain, with his toli, banging menacingly on the dafli. Zakhmee dilon ka badla chukaane...Dil mein Holi jal rahi hai...

Silsila: Rang barse beegee chunarwaali (1981)
Lyric: Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan
Singer: Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan?s dance movements and the wicked essence of the song qualifies this number as the ideal Holi song as it has ruled the festival of colours for the past two decades. With his on- and off-screen wife Jaya taking the backseat in the song and tghe hubby Sanjeev Kumar being made a fool of, Amitabh milaos taal se taal with the ravishing Rekha.

Mashaal: Holi aayee Holi aayee dekho Holi aayee re (1984)
Lyric:Javed Akhtar
Music:Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mahendra Kapoor

The song is filmed on Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Anil Kapoor and Rati Agnihotri.

Aakhir kyon?: Apne hi rang mein rang de mujko...yaad rahegi holi re (1985)
Lyric: Indeevar
Music: Rajesh Roshan
Singers: Amit Kumar and Anuradha Paudwal

It has Smita Patil, Rajesh Khanna, Tina Munim and Rakesh Roshan at a Holi party where Rakesh Roshan again plays the bad guy romancing Tina Munim who is his wife (Smita Patil?s) sister.Raakesh previously had another Holi song in Kamchor (1982) along with jaya Prada, Mal de gulal mohe.

Darr: Ang se ang lagaana sakhiri (1993)
Lyric: Anand Bakshi
Music: Shiv-Hari
Singers: Mohd Rafi

The song has Juhi Chawla and Sunny Deol dancing to the tune while the obsessive lover Shah Rukh Khan gatecrashes, with face smeared in colour so that no one recognises him.

Mohabbatein: Soni soni akhiyonwaali (2000)
Lyric: Anand Bakshi
Music: Jatin Lalit
Singers: Udit Narayan, Jaspinder Narula, Udhbhav, Manohar Shetty, Ishaan, Shweta Pandit

In this Holi song it?s Shah Rukh again, a teacher encouraging his youthful pupils to play Holi with the girls. While Amitabh Bachchan is sidelined from the celebration.

Baghban: Holi khele Raghuveera Awadh mein (2003)
Lyrics: Sameer
Music: Aadesh Shrivastava
Singers: Sukhwinder Singh, Amitabh Bachchan, Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan

Amitabh Bachchan, who else, dips into the Holi aura singing for the gorgeous Hema Malini.