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9 June 2016

My Favourites: The Rain in Ten Moods

Painting by Suresh Sandal
Source: allmagnews
So the monsoons have hit India, bringing relief from the scorching heat of the summer. Three years ago, around this time, I wrote a post on rain songs. Then, I wrote another. So when regular reader Nalini mentioned in a comment on my previous post that the monsoons have made their appearance in Kerala, and wondered if I would do a post on rain songs, I demurred. I had already exhausted my quota of 'favourite' rain songs; I had also written extensively about what the monsoons mean to me.

However, nestled among my various lists is a list of rain scenes from Hindi films, and in honour of the monsoons – and Nalini –  I thought I would make a post of those instead. (Especially since we'd a thunder storm here this evening, and S and I got drenched while walking the dog!) 

The weather, especially the rain, plays a huge role in Hindi cinema. If the hero and heroine are walking along in the rain, they are sure to have only one umbrella, which doubles as Cupid. It is a given that they will fall in love. Have the hero and heroine get caught in the rain, and make sure there is an abandoned hut in the vicinity (and there always is!) and sure enough, the heroine will end up pregnant. Things happen during the rains. Or rather, when something important happens on screen, it will rain. 

Funnily enough, in real life, the rain affects my moods.* If I'm not feeling particularly happy that day, the rain just makes me feel more depressed. If I'm fine, then I exult in the force of the storm. So here, in this season when it's so tempting to curl up with a hot chai, samosas, and a good book or movie, here are some scenes that have left a lasting impact on me.

1. Suspense: Madhumati (1958) The case of the strangely familiar haveli
An old haveli, an interrupted journey, past births... 
 
If Mahal was the mother of all supernatural suspense thrillers, Madhumati ran it a close second. At the beginning of the film, a whimsical fable about separated lovers and reincarnation in which the rain is an integral character, Devendra (Dilip Kumar) and his friend (Tarun Bose) are driving through the hills, on their way to pick up Radha, Devendra's wife. It is a rainy night, and the road is deserted. A fallen tree halts their journey, and the driver offers to go find help. Unwilling to remain on that deserted road in the rain, his friend exhorts Devendra to seek shelter in a haveli on top of the hill. Devendra is inexplicably reluctant, but gives in to his friend's insistence. It is difficult to figure out who is more surprised when they enter the haveli; Devendra seems to know it very well indeed, and remember things that he couldn't have experienced. At least... not in this lifetime. Spooky! 

2. Supernatural: Woh Kaun Thi (1964) In which Anand meets a 'real' ghost.
A car, coming slowly down the winding, deserted road, a handsome young man, a beautiful woman, and the rain... one doesn't quite expect ghosts. 

It is eerily silent, the only noise being the slight swish-swish of the wipers working overtime. Suddenly, Dr Anand (Manoj Kumar) swerves and screeches to a halt in the blinding rain, barely missing a beautiful, young woman (Sadhana) standing in the middle of the deserted road. His questions elicit only enigmatic silences and cryptic answers from the mysterious woman. His good samaritan instincts overriding his common sense, he offers the young woman a lift. She accepts, on condition that he doesn't ask her any further questions. She claims to see the road perfectly well despite the rain making visibility almost nil. That is not the only mysterious happening that eerie night – when she steps into the car, his wipers stop working. Her destination? A graveyard. And she likes blood. If all that is not enough, his car wipers begin to work the minute she steps out of the vehicle and the graveyard gates open on their own when she nears them. Ghost? Or not? Who is she?

3. Romance: Kaala Patthar (1979) A strange friendship turns into love.
The rains, a shared umbrella, an unspoken understanding. What is love, if not friendship and acceptance?

The rains in Hindi cinema seem to encourage accidental encounters that turn into love at first sight. Not here, however. Vijay and Sudha have run into each other before. She's the new doctor in a tiny mining town; he's the mine worker with the death wish. She understands more than he says, but keeps her own counsel. She also keeps her nascent attraction to herself, offering Vijay an unconditional friendship. Until one night, when she's called out to a house visit. Vijay is there at her clinic, and offers to escort her. It's dark, and rainy. On their way back, sharing an umbrella, their conversation peters out as they unconsciously walk closer to each other. Then, engrossed in thought, Sudha stumbles. And Vijay automatically puts out his arm to steady her. It is all very understated; without much fanfare, they know they are in love.

4. Passion: Dhool ka Phool (1959) The rain made them do it!
Two lovers, a shelter conveniently deserted, the rain...the perfect conditions for filmi disaster.
 
Meena (Mala Sinha) and Mahesh (Rajendra Kumar) are college-mates who, after their initial clash, fall in love with each other. Soon, they are singing and dancing hand-in-hand, when a sudden downpour, instead of dousing their spirits, makes them take shelter in a deserted hut. Apparently, the downpour, instead of chilling their libido, actually lit the fire of their desire. (That's as euphemistic as I can get!) And as the storm rages outside, the couple commit the ultimate 'sin', for which they are duly remorseful the next morning. However, the rains have succeeded in providing the film with its crucial plot point. (The movie, however, takes unexpected turns, so don't be put off by what is tantamount to a cliché.)  

5. Horror: Amar (1954) It's a matter of trust
Another dark, stormy night. A night of betrayal. And horror.

A young girl, Sonia (Nimmi), escaping the unwanted attentions of Sankat (Jayant), the village bully seeks shelter in the house of Amarnath (Dilip Kumar), an urbane young lawyer. Sonia had met him earlier, and he had been both attracted and repulsed by this young village girl. He is in love with, and engaged to be married to the wealthy, educated, sophisticated Anju (Madhubala). For a moment, he's sane enough to tell Sonia to go away. The next, uncharacteristically, Amar gives in to his baser instincts.  

The act is all the more horrifying because Sonia was escaping from the man she didn't trust, and had sought sanctuary in the house of a man she did. Besides, Amar is 'hero', not villain, and so it is totally unexpected that he succumbs to temptation and molests one woman while loving another. Amar showed that even 'good' people could sometimes do 'bad' things  Amar is both principled and a coward.  (So far, the film was rather unexpected. That Mehboob Khan lost control of the plot after this point, is another matter altogether.) 

6. Terror: Ittefaq (1969) Sane or insane? Murderer or cat's paw?
A mad man, accused of murdering his wife. A midnight escape from the lunatic asylum. A lonely bungalow, with a young beautiful woman. Pouring rain. These form the foundation of Ittefaq

Dilip Roy (Rajesh Khanna), a painter, is arrested for the murder of his wife, Sushma (Alka), on the say-so of his sister-in-law, Renu (Bindu). His behaviour then, and in the courtroom, lead to his being sent for a psychiatric evaluation. Dilip, protesting his innocence (and his sanity), grabs the first opportunity to escape. The night is dark and stormy, the police are in pursuit, and Dilip breaks into a nearby bungalow to elude the police. The sole occupant of the bungalow is a beautiful young woman (Nanda). Then begins one night of terror, as Dilip and Rekha play a cat-and-mouse game. Only – who is the cat, and who is the mouse? 

7. Despair: Sujata (1959) Oh, the tragic irony of a name... 
Does a person become 'acchut' (untouchable) because of an accident of birth? Why, if she is such a burden to her foster parents, should she live?

Forced by circumstances to take care of an 'untouchable' baby, Upendranath and Charu Choudhary (Tarun Bose and Sulochana Latkar) bring her up along with their own daughter, Rama (Sasikala). Sujata (Nutan) has become inured to Charu referring to her as 'beti jaisi' ('like a daughter') but she is ignorant of her origins. To her, they are her family, and Rama is her sister. 

Until one day, when a distant friend of the family, affectionately called buaji ('aunt'), visits them with her grandson, Adhir (Sunil Dutt). When Charu chides her for making tea (Sujata usually takes care of all the duties of the house) and tells her to ask the cook to remake it, Sujata is taken aback. Their guests can drink tea made by the maharaj (cook), but they will not drink the tea she made? Why? Her persistence in wanting to know who she is, irritates her foster mother. Partly out of guilt at her treatment of this young girl, and because of the anger arising from that guilt, Charu snaps and tells her she is not their daughter (Sujata already knows that), not even of their caste, but an untouchable, born of untouchables. So where are her untouchable parents? They are dead, snaps Charu. If they weren't, would they have had to take on the burden... Charu regrets those words almost as soon as they are spoken, but their sting pierces Sujata's soul. Quietly, she walks out of the house into the pouring rain. She finally ends up at the river ghat, where she and her father love to sit, with only one thought in mind put an end to this burden of a life. Will she?

8. Fury: Ye Raste Hain Pyar Ke (1963) Dead, by his own admission
A besotted husband, who is a commercial pilot. A beautiful wife, who is unused to alcohol or the ways of the world. A playboy friend, who takes 'look after her' a bit too seriously. Seduction, murder, death. As always, the rain, when the fatal incident occurs. 

Anil Sahni (Sunil Dutt) introduces his beautiful young wife, Neena (Leela Naidu), to his best friend, Ashok (Rehman). Soon after, Anil is stationed in Europe for four months. In the interim, Ashok befriends Neena and, one night, after getting her intoxicated, seduces her. When Anil returns and learns about his perfidy, he is furious at the double betrayal. So he leaves, despite his wife's entreaties, in the pouring rain to confront his supposed friend. Ashok's responses make it clear that he is not in the least repentant. Their argument turns physical, and soon, Ashok is dead, and Anil is on trial for his murder.     

9. Revenge: Awara (1951) Revenge is a dish best served cold...
Deserted cobblestone streets, wet and slick. A helpless woman. A man waiting in the shadows. He's been waiting a long time. Nine months, to be exact, and when a baby's cries break the silence of the night, he smiles. Mubarak ho, judge saheb, aapko beta hua hai. ('Congratulations, Mr Judge; you have a son.')  Old sins have long shadows.   

Jagga (KN Singh) had been sent to prison by Judge Raghunath (Prithviraj Kapoor) for a crime – he swore  – he hadn't committed. When he's released, it is to find that the doors of respectable society are barred to him. He is forced to turn dacoit. To avenge the injustice, he had kidnapped the judge's wife (Leela Chitnis). When he's told she's pregnant and that the judge doesn't know about it yet, he changes his original plan to dishonour her. Instead, he keeps her prisoner  for several days, and sends her back, unharmed. It's a masterstroke. 

Though the judge happily embraces his wife, suspicion raises its ugly head when she tells him about her pregnancy. Doubts about the baby's parentage arise, and eventually, the judge throws his hapless wife out of the house – and his life. Weary and helpless, the woman gives birth to a son, as the clouds shed tears at her misery. And her nemesis is waiting. The judge will soon know that it is not nature but nurture that turns people good or bad. His revenge will soon be complete.

10. Redemption: Guide (1965) Fake sadhu, real rain
A drought-stricken village. An ex-convict who is mistaken for a holy man. A man trapped by the faith of the multitudes. A fast unto death. And unforgiving clouds.  

In Dev Anand's film version of RK Narayan's novel of the same name, Raju (Dev Anand), a guide-turned-embezzler-turned-accidental-Sadhu is forced to play the role of saviour to a desperate village reeling under the vagaries of drought. Entrapped by their faith, he's forced to fast to supplicate the rain gods. As death draws near, Raju, surrounded by the villagers who have pinned all their hopes on their Sadhu's tapasya, is forced to confront his own mortality. Then, suddenly, magically, the skies open, and reward his renunciation with a deluge, accompanied by thunder and lightning. The villagers are ecstatic, as they turn their faces to the relief of the cooling rains. Even Rosie, who had finally traced the man who had once helped liberate her, joins in to rejoice in his redemption. Then, she whirls around, to tell him the rains have come... they've finally come... 

What moods have you seen the rain in? 

*ETA: For the purposes of this post, I've used 'moods' to mean both moods and genres.

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