What’s Bollywood without baarish? A dry wasteland without possibilities. Sprinkle a little rain, just a wee spell, and watch plot-lines blossom with the promise of song, love, action, accidents, and the occasional abandoned child. Now, you’ve got yourself a film!
Rain outside of 70mm is just muck and water-logging and unbelievable rates in radio cab services. Rain in a Bollywood film is meta in a way — a drop of fiction in a make-believe world — and will have you think that Swachh Bharat has been a reality for ages. Otherwise, why would Amitabh Bachchan and Smita Patil frolic on the ground in Aaj rapat jaye (Namak Halal, 1982); a song that begins with a kiss behind an umbrella, and a sitar taan that is positively shivering in anticipation? They’re both wearing white, which is the unofficial colour code for rain scenes, and works for most people. But not for Aamir Khan and Sonali Bendre, who carry matching outfits in orange, yellow and blue in Jo hal dil ka (Sarfarosh, 1999) to their private waterfall. They jump in and out of the river, now swollen with rain; unafraid of being washed away and meeting a watery end. That stuff just happens to Rishi Kapoor. Because if it is raining, sometimes it is also paining.
In Henna (1991), Chintoo was driving to his wedding in the rain, dutifully singing his part of the song (Der naa ho jaaye kahin), when he crashed into a barrier that broke on impact. His Jeep dropped into the Jhelum, and he found himself in Pakistan. He was discovered by Zeba Bakhtiar, so that couldn’t have been too bad, eh? At any rate, it’s nothing compared to what happens to Shah Rukh Khan’s character in Baazigar (1993) — Papa and Munni both die in the rain, his mother loses her mind, and he grows up to be a vengeful sociopath. Amar (Vinod Khanna) was also galti se orphaned in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), and separated from his brothers, no thanks to the rain. But look at him — he grew up to become a police officer, so all this criminal nonsense is just because barsaat ka bahana accha hai.
Which is also the name of a song in Platform (1993). The rain has robbed a young Tisca Chopra of all her inhibitions and common sense, and she sets out to seduce a sullen Ajay Devgn (his default setting since 1991) who is too busy drinking to even look at her. Nobody looks more pained about this situation than Chopra, but itne mein itnaich milega!
Ladies, if you must get some, you better be like Raveena Tandon in Tip tip barsa paani (Mohra, 1994). She chooses an under-construction building — now she’s dry, now she’s not — and throws herself at a thunderstruck-looking Akshay Kumar, who reacts after a full three minutes. Just carry protection, else you’ll be like Sharmila Tagore post-Roop tera mastana (Aradhana, 1969); or wake up like Meenakshi Seshadri in Gangaa Jamunaa Saraswathi (1988). She escaped death by hypothermia thanks to Bachchan’s body heat — he saved her life but gave her another one to carry.
So what are you waiting for? ’Tis the season to be Shraddha Kapoor! One suspects her contracts stipulate a song in the rain, but tip of the chhatri to Kapoor: she’s updated the sequences for teens and millennials alike. For decades, the chiffon sari in pastel shades has been a staple in the Bollywood heroine’s monsoon wardrobe, but Kapoor has shown us that rain dance can be performed in any outfit, all you need is (presumably) some cough drops at the end of the session (Baaghi, ABCD 2, OK Jaanu).
Just walk out into the rain and look up at the sky with emotion. Make sure to turn in a circle very slowly because there are no cameras in real life to capture you at every bheegi angle. Lock eyes with the object of your affection at some point and just stare, even if it looks like you’re crying. Barsaat mata ki kasam, if only Kapoor had been cast in Lagaan (2001) — teen guna lagaan ki aisi ki taisi!