Holi in Bollywood Adding a splash of exclusivity to the colours

Satish Singh Lalotra (Retd)

‘The world needs more colours of happiness and joy to paint out the canvas of gloom and doom surrounding today’s enviorns”-Anonymous.

Holi ( Hindi pronunciation: ho:li) one of the most popular Hindu festivals to be celebrated in the Indian sub-continent is one of those grand human congregations that erupts with a spontaneity of colours, and adds vibrancy to human emotions which lie subdued due to the onslaught of months of winter inactivity preceding it. In one single stroke the festival of colours announces the arrival and invocation of good spring harvest season, it lasts for a night and a day starting on the day of Purnima ( full moon day) falling on the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna which occurs around the middle of March as per the Gregorian calendar. In the Braj region of India, where the festival is celebrated until ‘Rang panchami’ in commemoration of their divine love for each other the festivities officially usher in spring, with Holi celebrated as a festival of love. ‘Garga Samhita’ , a Puranic work by sage Garga was the first work of literature to mention the romantic description of Radha and Krishna. Beyond India, the festival of Holi ( Phagwah) is quite commonly celebrated in some Caribbean communities of Indian origin such as Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. It is also celebrated with great fervor in Mauritius, Fiji and South Africa. But nothing to beat the long association of this so called ‘Festival of colours’ Holi with that of the film industry of India.
Bollywood, thy name for being a trend setter in all matters concerning style with a special quotient reserved for the discerning lot, never forgets to set the stage on fire every time on the occasion of Holi festival. It is as if the entire filmdom is waiting with a bated breath to upstage the apple cart of entrainment of the country with release of some foot tapping musical extravaganza riding high on the expectations of millions of their fans with its effect often cutting geographical boundaries and slipping on to neighbouring countries too. Bollywood itself becomes a lively platform for parties and Holi bashes during these tumultuous times. Since the proverbial ‘Small screen’ TV serials are now giving a run for money to these Bollywood blockbusters they too are not far behind in showcasing their colourful best in becoming the cynosure of the masses of this sub-continent during the Holi bashes across the country. Leading the colourful bashes in the country during these Holi festivities were the ‘Peshawar brothers’ of Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Sashi Kapoor in Mumbai’s ‘R.K Studio’ where Raj Kapoor commemorated the festival with his close family and friends. The Kapoor family gregarious by nature left no stone unturned to ‘Stone’ all and sundry participants in their fun filled activities during this festival of colours. The sheer riots of colours mixed with a copious amounts of ‘Bhang’ filled eatables were enough to make the most level-headed individual go kaput with his sensory faculties to comprehend as to what was going on during these celebrations.
This tradition of celebrating Holi was further carried on by other famous Bollywood personalities including superstar of the millennium – Amitabh Bachchan who still has not put curtains down on his zeal towards these celebrations. His famous abode in Mumbai -‘Pratiksha’ transforms into a veritable den of fun filled activities that has the ability again to cast a spell bounding effect on the participants. Nowadays all super stars can be seen partying and wishing their friends and fans on Holi with no holds barred visuals of their antics during these festivities. It is as if the so called ‘Mad bug’ of outdoing & outreaching has bitten even the nonentities in this Bollywood industry who for momentary pleasure go overboard in these ostentatious activities beckoning the onlookers with a single call of -‘Follow me and my style of celebrations’. From the last few years the so called ‘Zoom Holi Party’ has gained tremendous traction in this industry where many models and stars can be seen rubbing shoulders and bumping into each other at this colourful and lively bash. It is not just the off-camera Holi parties that have been the talk of the town long after the dust and splash of Holi has settled, but the very bread and butter of this glamour world i.e the films too have taken a resounding hit with many of the yesteryears blockbusters depicting these festivities as the proverbial ‘Sine quo non’ of the story-line. Many Hindi movies of the ilk ‘Bhakt Prahlad’ are solely based on this iconic festival of Holi. The all too mesmerizing movie of the mid-1970s ‘Sholay’ that has seeped deep into the sinews of Indian movie goers had a famous song dedicated to this festival-‘Holi ke din dil khil jaate hain ,Rangon me rung mil jaate hain’. The all too great film icon Amitabh Bachchan’ sang ‘Rung barse bheege chunar waali’ and ‘Holi khele Raghuveera Awadh mein’ which are one of the most popular Hindi songs till now on this very festival. On the other hand many of the yesteryear movie hits like the famous ‘Kati Patang’ had Holi themed song ‘Aaj Na chodenge bas humjoli’ sang by Rajesh khanna that tried to make a common cause of social evils of widow remarriage quite simple and do-able.
The early 1950s had their share of Holi hit songs wherein the movie ‘Mother India’ the song ‘Holi ayi re kanhiya rung chalke suna de zarra bansuri swept the cine-goers off their feet. Cutting back to the present times, the new version of movie ‘Waqt’ starring Akshay kumar’ and ‘Priyanka chopra’ singing the song-‘Do me a favour, Let’s play Holi’ goes to show that some flavours of the Indian past just refuses to go and actually reappears in its new avatar every time we think our past is a dead horse not to be flogged time and again. Many a time the very lyrics of the movie song itself invokes the spirit of Holi festival in its entirety. For example the song ‘Balam Pichkari’ sung by Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in the movie ‘Yeh Jawani hai Dewani’ encapsulates the essence of this festival of colours in a very unmistakable form. Since the time Modi government has helmed the affairs at New Delhi with effect 2014, the very essence of celebrations of major festivals of the country have donned a new hue altogether.
With the prime minister, defence minister and sometimes even the supreme commander of the armed forces i.e the president heading towards the borders of the country to be amongst the sentinels of our country during these festivities; it seems the bug of putting nationalism ahead of personal revelries has bitten even these Bollywood stars and starlets. Few years back leading the pack of such Bollywood big wigs was the iconic ‘Akshay kumar’ who went to the borders for celebrating Holi festival with the troops deployed on the frontier guarding our national sovereignty. Even during the release of his famous movie ‘Saragarhi’ in the year 2019 it was timed around the festival of Holi thus conveying to the country that his heart beats for the country’s rich past as well as its unsung heroes of the yesteryears and not getting swayed by the tinsel town attractions of Mumbai. The biggest take away from these Bollywood celebrations on the occasion of Holi is the gay abandon with which even the heroes and heroines from minority communities (read muslims, Parsis etc) partake in this Hindu festival thus conveying to the world at large that they have long broken away from the shackles of communalism. The rubbing of Gulal and wet colours with their Hindu counterparts in the film industry on the occasion of Holi have made these Bollywood actors unwittingly ambassadors of India’s multiculturalism both off and on films of their choice. This has narrowed down their criticism from the masses to a very large extent putting them up on a pulpit of well-deserved accolades thus adding a splash of exclusivity of colours during this festival.