Friday morning I woke up to grey skies. By the time I left for work, the heavens had opened up and the streets had clogged. Our car crawled forward and an hour’s ride stretched to two. I looked longingly at the rain and wondered if I could play hooky.A friend suggested doing a ‘Chaiya chaiya…’ on the roof of the car. I pointed out that we couldn’t mess around with ‘filmi’ transport, I needed a train for that.
Ever practical, he vetoed the idea saying, “You could get electrocuted.” Since I’m in no hurry to bid adios to the world, I settled instead for the Chameli charttopper, ‘Behte hai mann kahin, kahan jaante nahin, koi rok le yahin, bhaage re mann kahin, aage re mann chala, jaane kidhar jaanu na…’
Of course, it had to be a virtual fantasy since bunking was out of question.My thoughts scattered, reeling back to an afternoon at Rajkamal Studio with Rahul Bose and Kareena Kapoor. Kareena made for a sassy lady of the night and when she serenaded the studio showers, I was as wowed as the stiff-lipped exec covertly watching her from afar. What if Chameli returned home with you, I asked Rahul, and he deadpanned, “Let’s just say that in a Hindi movie, a bee would be sitting on a flower.”
Kelly classic I can trace the roots of Kareena’s monsoon melody to her grandfather Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420 and the evergreen ‘Pyaar hua ikraar hua, pyaar se phir kyun darta hai dil…’ My own ‘baarish’ fixation dates back to 1952 and the Gene Kelly classic, Singin’ In The Rain. To my surprise, I found a fellow songmate in Shahid Kapoor. Once, when grooving down memory lane, Shahid admitted to being a huge fan of Gene Kelly’s. “I’m told he shot the title track of Singin’ In The Rain while running a temperature of 103 degrees,” he told me sounding suitably awed. “The director wanted to pack up for the day but Gene stayed on, wrapped the song up in one take, then, went home to recuperate.”
Singin’ In The Rain has been lifted and parodied in innumerable movies, from Paddington Bear to Tom Hanks’ Punchline. Peter Sellers sang it with a French accent in Revenge Of The Pink Panther, Cary Grant whistled the tune in the shower in the Hitchcok thriller, North By Northwest, and Jackie Chan fought off a band of baddies with an umbrella in Shanghai Knights while humming it."
Monsoon jadoo" I was reminded of it when watching Hrithik Roshan and Priety Zinta sliding and swinging to ‘Idhar chala main udhar chala...’. It’s my ‘Jadoo’ moment in Koi...Mil Gaya even without the ET-like alien.Hrithik admitted to me recently that it was one of his most challenging dances, not for the choreographed moves but the childlike innocence and uninhibited exuberance he had to project.
Acid rain..While on the subject of Singin’ In The Rain, how can I forget Brawl In The Family where during an episode of The Simpsons, groundskeeper Willie goes ballistic in the acid rain. Reminded me of the first rains of this season. Like hundreds of Mumbaikars I too was caught unaware and returned home dripping wet, still humming ‘Rim jhim gire saawan...’ from Amitabh Bachchan’s Manzil. I was greeted by my daughter’s horrified shriek, “Mommy, you got soaked in the acid rain, what’s going to happen to you?” I assured her that I still had plenty of singin’ in the rain to do before going the Mehbooba way. “Mehbooba?” she frowned, and I flashbacked to ‘Mere naina saawan barse phir bhi mera mann pyaasa...’ The ‘saawan’ in this case was more metaphorical but the song is memorable for the story that inspired the film.
Producer-director Shakti Samanta’s friend Vrajendra Gaur lost his wife during the birth of their second child and was forced into marrying her sister. After that, on occasions, the second wife would go into convulsions, as her dead sister possessed her body. “And I’d find myself being drawn into a conversation about her husband, children and day-to-day happenings with a woman who was no longer alive, till I’d gently point out that her sister was in a lot of pain and the spirit would reluctantly withdraw, sighing that she enjoyed chatting with those she’d known,"Shaktida reminisced during an interview, while keeping track of cricket scores.The end.The recollections leaves my 12-year-old goggle-eyed. Thanks to all the telly shows she is hooked on, death for her is never The End. After life continues through spirits with blood dripping fangs and ghoulish shrieks. For me, death is a three-minute sitar recital by Pandit Ravi Shankarwas that has kept Pather Panchali alive all these years. Today, when I think of the monsoon masti, I also think of Satyajit Ray’s Song Of The Road and the heartbreaking ‘raag desh’ that brought the curtains down on the Durga chapter. Life and death, think of one and the other inevitably follows…