Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rain according to Bollywood

 Sullen clouds are gathering fast over the black fringe of the
O child, do not go out!
The palm trees in a row by the lake are smiting their heads
against the dismal sky; the crows with their dragged wings are
silent on the tamarind branches, and the eastern bank of the river
is haunted by a deepening gloom.
Our cow is lowing loud, ties at the fence.
O child, wait here till I bring her into the stall.
Men have crowded into the flooded field to catch the fishes
as they escape from the overflowing ponds; the rain-water is
running in rills through the narrow lanes like a laughing boy who
has run away from his mother to tease her.
Listen, someone is shouting for the boatman at the ford.
O child, the daylight is dim, and the crossing at the ferry
is closed.
The sky seems to ride fast upon the madly rushing rain; the
water in the river is loud and impatient; women have hastened home
early from the Ganges with their filled pitchers.
The evening lamps must be made ready.
O child, do not go out!
The road to the market is desolate, the lane to the river is
slippery. The wind is roaring and struggling among the bamboo
branches like a wild beast tangled in a net.  

- The Rainy Day
Rabindranath Tagore

~ ~ ~

If this was the way Indian people experienced rain in the time of Tagore, that view has certainly changed under the influence of not only Bollywood, but surely also the South Indian film industries.

Living in a country where I feel it rains a lot, especially at this time of the year (though, compared to the UK and Ireland, it probably isn't that much), I thought of the reason why most of us North Europeans don't like rain . I think that first of all, it's because the rain is mostly cold, in contrary to what I've experienced in Mexico, for instance. But it also has to do with our literature and films industry - rain is often present in "bad" situations, when a person feels sad and lonely. Of course, that doesn't count for all the time, we do have those films where two madly in love people dance and sing in the rain, but I must admit they're a rarity. The reason why "Singin' in the rain" is such a fun song is that no one sings in the rain in real life (except sometimes in summer, or when you're really, really happy).

Bollywood, however, has a different relationship to rain. I suspect that Bollywoods weakness for rainy love songs developed from the phenomena of rain being one of the few possibilities to flavour a film with some sexiness without seeming obnoxious or vulgar. When it rains, saris turn sheer and close-fitting, steam arises, two lovers take shelter in a little place or under a small umbrella.
As a conclusion, I set up this formulae that applies to every Indian film I've seen yet:

Indian film + rain + music + lonely soul/ person in love²  =  sexiness +/- love

Right? You can try it out yourself. Also, please tell me if you found a film to which this formulae does not apply - I'd love to see it.

My personal relationship to rain is... mixed. I often hate it, when I get drenched on my way to school/ home, and when I have to wear the same (rain-) coat for weeks. Still, I love the Danish summer rain - if there's not more of it than sunshine - and sometimes I also love talking a walk in the stormy rain, or staying inside with a cup of cocoa while it's raining. Oh, and I love warm rain, like the one in Mexico (and India, I guess). 

... And of course, like all true Bollywood-girls do somewhere in their very hearts, I adore [kitschy] filmy rain songs. Here's a list of my favorites – please excuse the lack of oldies, as I haven't come around to watch as many of them as I would like to. Also, the list is very, what do I say... emotional? I mean, one song might be more professional or somehow better than the other, and still be on a lower rank, because I haven't seen it very often, or it doesn't mean that much to me.


Koi Ladki Hai - Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)
One of the classics. I admit only having seen the film once, because even though I think it's one of the better 90s films, there are some things about it I don't like that much. However, I've known this song since I began watching Indian films, as it was included in a documentary about Bollywood. 


Taal Se Taal Mila - Taal (1999) 
Good example for what I meant by "emotional". I know that this song, and even the choreography (not to talk of the film) is better than "Aankhon Se Tune", but the latter means much more to me. I don't remember that much of Taal anymore, but all the songs are fantastic, this one in particular. Only thing I don't like about it is Akshaye.


Aankhon Se Tune - Ghulam (1998)
I just realized that already three of my songs are from the 90s. Maybe that decade wasn't as bad as I usually think it was. Ghulam... what I remember about it, is a lot of blood, the fact that Rani was dubbed, and two of the songs (including this one). My sister and I used to watch it almost every single day - we were simply crazy about it. Listening to it today makes me feel like a child again, wanting to be able to dance properly and be in love with someone... Sweet.


Main Yahaan Hoon & Aaya Tere Dar Par - Veer-Zaara (2004)
Both songs aren't complete rain songs, but the parts that are rainy, I adore. The rain scene in "Aaya Tere Dar Par" is one of those I remember the most, it's like a keyword for the whole film. Re-watching the songs reminds me how much I miss Preity, once my favorite actress. Please come back, Preity! 


Bhage Re Man - Chameli (2004)
What a lovely small film. I think it's a little underrated, even though many critics praise it. One of Kareena's best performances, in my opinion. In this song, she radiates so much joy and happiness... I always get very happy by watching it, or listening to it. 


Dilbara - Dhoom (2004)
This is starting to get weird - four favorite rain songs from 2004? And I heard that there was another famous one in Masti. Well, "Dilbara" makes me even more happy than "Bhage Re Man". It's so addictive - and, if I'm allowed to say that, one of the best things Uday Chopra has achieved in film (yeah, we all know that he hasn't really achieved much). Aw... you just have to dance that "Dilbara"-move in front of your laptop or TV while watching it. "Apun ki tu... apan teraa... haha..."


Dekho Na - Fanaa (2006)
Kajol's big comeback - I remember it, as had it been yesterday. Many people didn't like Fanaa, I was quite crazy about it. My favorite song is "Mere Haath Mein" - probably even more kitschy than this one, haha. But honestly, isn't this song aesthetically hyper-satisfying? Those rain-drops falling down in slow-motion - who doesn't go crazy about that? (And forgets all about Aamir's horrible hair cut).


Barso Re - Guru (2007)
Another Aishwarya song. This one also won the Filmfare Award for Best Choreography (even though we don't trust those Filmfare Awards anymore). It's a very innocent song, but still sexy. I didn't like the song itself as much as I'd thought, still the choreography is superb. 


Idhar Chala - Koi... Mil Gaya (2003)
Oh my God, I had forgotten just how hilarious this song is. I should really re-watch Koi... Mil Gaya. The best thing about it is that the song is just as cool as the choreography. Hehe, we used to dance this every time it started to rain as kids. I even got my hair cut the way Preity had hers in the film. And I wanted a dress and some shoes like those so badly. A well-deserved #2 on my list.


Musical Rain Scene - Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
This scene is so classic, and so beautiful. And... so 90s, admittedly. Sorry, I had to say that. It is, but we can still love it. We can still learn all the steps by heart, and melt by the view of this utterly magnificent scene.  
The Ultimate Musical Bollywood Rain Scene. 


  1. Those are some very interesting thoughts on rain's symbolism - I don't know much about Bollywood but that makes total sense. Great post! :D

  2. I've probably only seen one Bollywood film in my life, Jab We Met, had some nice tunes I remember, I liked it mostly for the music, did you watch that film?

    Thanks for sharing all these songs

  3. Maria Sofia - The films that have those rain songs are probably not that suitable for persons who aren't familiar with bollywood, as they belong to the more kitschy side of the... "medal". Glad you liked the post.

    Chris - I watched Jab We Met on my flight to Mexico two years ago, and I quite liked it. It was a more fresh take on a romantic comedy in Bollywood, though a bit forgettable. Yes, the songs were nice, and I even think there was a rain song in it.

    To both of you: I appreciate that you read this post and even commented on it, even though you aren't that into Bollywood (funny, I feel like I get more comments from people who don't watch Bollywood than the opposite :D).

  4. I've never seen any of these films but I just watched a few of these clips and have to say I enjoyed the Ghulam one the most.

  5. Bonjour Tristesse - Cool! It was hard to decide between the clips, as they're a very small selection of my very favorite ones.

  6. Oh my god, this list is after my heart. Great choices, though the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai part still makes me feel queasy. Guess you never grow out of somethings.

    And your Bollywood+Rain formula is perfect.

  7. Nikhat - Yeah, another one who likes both Bollywood and other films...
    It might be queasy, but... it's childhood to me.

  8. I was practically born in the Indian theatres. Bollywood films run in my blood :P

    The KKHH scene is very interesting because I can like watch explicit sex scenes in films and not feel anything as such, but growing up with the film and SRK and Kajol, and their intensity in that scene, I always feel like I am watching something I am not supposed to see.

  9. Nikhat - I have that feeling in other films too, but only if the scene is extremely convincing and seems real and powerful... like in this one.
    I'd love to go to India and visit a film theatre there, especially in Mumbai.


Let the discussion begin!