By Murtaza Ali Khan
Holi celebrations have been a part of Hindi films for as long as one can remember. Right from the early 1940s, Indian filmmakers have tried to include Holi songs in movies in order to embellish the stories so much so that some of the most popular songs of all time happen to be Holi songs. In fact, Holi has always been an important festival for the Indian film fraternity, not just on-screen but off-screen too. RK Studio hosted some of the biggest Holi parties in Bollywood with the legendary Raj Kapoor serving as a great host to the who’s who of the film industry. And it remained so for decades. The photos from the time reveal how Holi was an integral part of the studio’s celebrations. In fact, taking a leaf out of RK Studios, many others started hosting similar Holi parties and the trend continuestill date.
One of the earliest Holi songs that we come across in Hindi cinema is a song called “Jamuna Tat Shyam Khele Horee” from the 1940 film titled “Aurat”. As we move into the 1950s, we come across more and more of these songs with “Holi Khele Nandalal Biraj Mein” from the 1953 film titled “Rahi”, “KheloRang HamareSang” from the 1953 film titled “Aan”, “Mat Maro Shyam Pichkari” from the 1956 film “Durgesh Nandini”, “Holi AayiRe KanhaiRang Barse” from the 1958 film “Mother India“, and “Are JareNatkhat” from the 1959 film “Navrang” amongst the most famous ones.
In the 1960s, Bollywood unleashed evergreen Holi songs such as”Tan rang lo ji aaj man rang lo” from the 1960 classic “Kohinoor”, “Holi KhelatNandlal” from the 1963 film “Godaan”, “PiyaToseNaina” from the 1965 Vijay Anand masterpiece “Guide”, “LayiHain HazaronRang Holi” from the 1966 classic “PhoolAurPatthar”. As Hindi cinema moved into the 1970s, the writer duo of Salim-Javed injected a new kind of rage and angst in the depiction of the hero that catapulted Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young Man to superstardom even as the likes of Rajesh Khanna, Dharamendra, Dev Anand and others continued to play more conventional romantic heroes.
Some of the most popular Holi songs from the 1970s include “AajNa Chhodenge” from the 1970 Shakti Samanta classic “Kati Patang”,”Holi AayiRe” from the 1970 film”Holi AayiRe”, “Holi Re Holi Rangon Ki Holi” from the 1971 film “ParayaDhan”, “Nadiya Se Dariya” from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1973 classic “Namak Haram”, “PhagunAayoRe” from the 1973 Rajinder Singh Bedi classic “Phagun”,”Holi AayiRe MastanoKi Toil” from the 1975 film “Zakhmee” and”Holi KeDin” from Ramesh Sippy’s epic magnum opus”Sholay”.
Bollywood’s craze for Holi songs continued in the 1980s with hits like “Rang BarseBheegeChunarwali” from the 1981 Yash Chopra classic “Silsila”, “BhagiRe BhagiBrij Bala” from the 1982 film “Rajput”, “SaatRang Main Khel Rahi Hain” from the 1985 film “Akhir Kyon”, and “Diwani Tum Jawanon Ki Toli” from the 1988 film “Dayavan”. The 1990s saw Hoi songs like “Ang Se Ang Lagana” from the 1993 Yash Chopra blockbuster “Darr”, “Rang Di Rang Di” from the 1993 film “Dhanwaan”, and “JhankaroJhankaro” from the 1994 film “Krantiveer”.
The turn of the millennium witnessed Amitabh Bachchan successfully embarking upon his second innings after a few hiccups. The song “Hori Khele Raghuveera” from the 2003 film “Baghban” went on to become one of the biggest hits of Bachchan’s stellar career. Some other popular Holi songs from the decade include “SoniSoni” from the 2000 Aditya Chopra film “Mohabbatein”, “Do Me A Favour Lets Play Holi”from the 2005 Vipul Amrutlal Shah directorial “Waqt: The Race Against Time”. The most recent superhit Holi number include “BalamPichkari” from the 2013 Ayan Mukerji film “BalamPichkari”, “LahuMunh Lag Gaya” from the 2014 Sanjay Leela Bhansali blockbuster “Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-leela”, and “Jai JaiShivshankar” from the 2019 Siddharth Anand blockbuster “War”.
With the death of Raj Kapoor in the year 1988, RK Studios stopped having these Holi parties but others continued hosting these Holi parties. In the recent years, the likes of Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar, Ekta Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra, Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, etc. have kept the tradition alive.
The growing concerns over use of chemical colors and water shortage have led to a few changes in the way the festival is celebrated but the spirit has pretty much kept alive. This year, however, with the ongoing pandemic, the Holi celebrations in the B-town are expected to be little mellow. So it appears that one would have to wait for at least one more year to see the same old zeal in B-town’s Holi celebrations once again.
(Murtaza Ali Khan is a Delhi-based Film & TV Critic / Journalist who has been covering entertainment for over 10 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)