5 Questions We Have About The Bollywood Holi Song, Film Companion

The first Indian technicolour film, Aan (1952), had a Holi song. This is hardly surprising for Holi, a festival of colour, cadence, drama, and dance, lends itself beautifully to the medium of cinema. Over the decades the “Holi song” would become a trademark, fit, sometimes uneasily and forcefully into the narrative. Any excuse to bring in some colour. Think ‘Rang Barse Bheege Chunar Wali’, ‘Holi Ke Din’, ‘Holi Khele Raghuveera’, or even the insanely popular ‘Balam Pichkari’.

But through the decades, the song has also become an excuse for lyrics that border on the ludicrous, wardrobe choices that are at best questionable, and choreography that is, at worst, harassment. We ring in the Holi spirit by lurking through Hindi Holi songs, armed with more questions than answers.

1. Silk miniskirts as optimum Holi clothing?

Holi is supposed to be about cheap, old, disposable, white clothes. Well, Yashraj didn’t get the memo. Mohabbatein has a 9-minute ‘Holi Song’ called ‘Soni Soni’ with Shamita Shetty and her entourage dressed in mini-skirts, tennis shoes, or heels as they compete with men in fresh denim pants. It doesn’t help that the chaperones are wearing silk.


2. Why is the gulaal in Bhansali’s Holi songs so well behaved?

Before Gangubai Kathiawadi, Bhansali’s three films had distinctive Holi songs- ‘Lahu Munh Lag Gaya’ (Ram Leela), ‘Mohe Rang Do Laal’ (Bajirao Mastani), and ‘Holi Folk Song’ (Padmaavat). They gave Bhansali’s canvas a chance to explode with colours, shades, and patterns. We are yet to find the exact shade of peacock-blue on Ranveer Singh’s neck in Ram-Leela, or the arched perfection of flinging gulaal into the air.

3. Is this a Holi song or a bro-duet?

In the 2019 action epic War, to fulfil the quota of ‘customary foot-tapping party song in big action movie’ the film abruptly burst into ‘Jai Jai Shivashankar’To ‘celebrate’ the success of their first mission together, Hrithik, Tiger and team dive into a Holi celebration in a strange undisclosed location. Still, the suddenness and illogic of it all quickly faded away as soon as we saw the two dancing legends trade moves in painful fluidity and synchronicity.

Also Read: Has Yash Raj Finally Embraced Gay Desire With War?

4. What’s up with these weirdly sexual lyrics?

A character in Darr’s ‘Ang Se Ang Lagana’ sings, “Upar upar rang lagaiyo, na tariyo kuch neeche (Apply colour only on the exterior, do not go beyond that). In a song where Anupam Kher makes odd faces staring at a woman’s exposed stomach, it is understandable to lay some ground rules. But the sanctity of this festival has been often been besmirched. With lyrics like “Padte hi water, lage baby hotter” from Jacqueline Fernandez’s Holi song, that reputation has been burnished.

5. Is Holi a flirtation excuse in the narrative?

What is it about the Bollywood Holi song that lends itself to declarations of love and attraction?

There is Mohabbatein’s ‘Soni Soni Ankhiyon Wali’ and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’s ‘Balam Pichkari’ where the leading lovebirds celebrate how they feel without a care in the world, before reality sets in, as it always does. In Raanjhanaa, Dhanush plays an uncomfortably passionate suitor, imagining Sonam Kapoor’s character approach him in the midst of Holi celebrations, a shock of unsullied lime green in the midst of the rainbow riot. Then, there is Ram Leela’s ‘Lahu Munh Lag Gaya’ where both leads (and real-life couple in the making) Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone are mid-flirtation, palpably attracted to each other, limbs flinging in impending lust.

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