The scene is from a black-and-white film that became the first ever Hindi motion picture to gross Rs. 2 crore at the box office.
A Chaplin-esque trickster, dressed in ankle-length trousers, a tattered coat and a bowler hat, bravely sets off to proclaim his love for a demure, virtuous woman, modestly draped in a cotton sari, on a dark, rainy night.
He opens an umbrella for her, looks into her eyes and asks earnestly, Pyaar hua ikrar hua hai, pyaar se phir kyun darta hai dil?
Her cotton sari now wet and clinging to her body, her confusion shining in her eyes, her lips quivering with apprehension, she replies, Kehta hai dil rasta mushkil, maloom nahi kahan manzil.
Welcome to Bollywood's love affair with the wet sari. Starting from Shree 420, the wet sari has been the epitome of a woman's sensuality.
In its many avatars through the years it has also exemplified the liberty and modernity that women stood for through those times.
We bring you a timeline for the wet sari in Hindi movies.
1955 - Nargis - Shree 420 (Pyaar hua ikrar hua hai)
In one of the most iconic rain songs ever, the unassuming wet sari on a shy Nargis acts as an extension of her conservative values and contradicts her repressed longing.
1958 - Madhubala - Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si)
An anxious Madhubala whose car has broken down in the middle of a rainy night is confronted by the harmless flirting of Kishore Kumar, the mechanic. Her apprehension and distrust, as she pulls the wet pallu of the sari around her, turn to a grudging interest in the goofy mechanic, and she drops her armour and smiles.
1979 - Moushumi Chatterjee - Manzil (Rimjhim gire saawan)
Sweet, homely Moushumi in a printed cotton sari, gets wet in the rain while out on a date with Amitabh Bachchan. The simplicity of the wet sari on her represents the excitement of first love and the beauty of the restrained romance of those times.
1982 - Smita Patil - Namak Halaal (Aaj rapat jaye toh)
Dusky beauty Smita Patil tries to detach her white and red wet sari from Amitabh Bachchan's coat button, but only half-heartedly. The white of her sari represents her innate need to preserve her modesty while the red shows her wild streak.
1987 and 1989 - Sridevi - Mr India (Kaate nahi katke yeh din yeh raat) and Chandni (Lagi aaj saawan ki phir woh jhadi hai)
Sridevi in Mr India in a wet blue chiffon sari, with expressions on her face that would make any man (or ghost) go weak in his knees. It was one of the most seductive numbers of the decade. Her subsequent yellow wet sari scene in Chandni was more subdued, perhaps in tune with the ominous mood of the song.
1994 - Raveena Tandon - Mohra (Tip tip barsa pani)
Raveena in a wet yellow chiffon doing those extremely bold moves was a sign of the times to come - when women would become increasingly comfortable in their sexuality and bold in their outlook.
1994 - Manisha Koirala - 1942: A Love Story (Rim jhim rim jhim)
While Raveena seduced Akshay in her wet yellow sari, a coy Manisha was romancing Anil Kapoor under a bougainvillea arch in a wet yellow sari as well. But Manisha's avatar was concordant with the time the film was set in and hence more passive.
1998 - Kajol - Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Title song in a gazebo)
Kajol in a simmering hot red wet sari and Shah Rukh Khan in a wet black and translucent shirt, dancing to imaginary music under a gazebo created a scene that coloured the dreams of all '90s kids. It is perhaps the most sexy rain scene in the history of Bollywood, thanks to the chemistry that the two shared.
1999 - Sonali Bendre - Sarfarosh (Jo haal dil ka)
When an otherwise timid Sonali Bendre, mostly dressed in churidar kameez throughout the film, fantasises about wearing wet sari-like garments in bright blue, yellow and red, and romancing Aamir Khan in the rain, you tend to believe that there is a wild side to every woman.
2003 and 2009 - Kareena Kapoor - Chameli (Bhaage re mann) and 3 Idiots (Zoobi doobi)
In the first, Kareena's character, a prostitute, finds exhilaration in the rain in a vivid red sari and dares to free her mind. In the other, a serious, bespectacled doctor escapes into a fantasy world where, wearing a stunning orange saree, she dances on a swing in the rain. Two very different settings in two very different films, yet with one thing in common - the desire to let go.
2009 - Katrina Kaif - De Dana Dan (Gale lag jaa)
All the leading ladies were dancing in wet saris in the rain or under a waterfall, so Katrina had to do it too. We couldn't find any deep meaning in this wet sari song from this Priyadarshan-directed comedy.
2013 - Shraddha Kapoor - Aashiqui 2 (Tum hi ho)
The latest to join the wet sari bandwagon, Shraddha Kapoor, wearing a turquoise blue saree and a golden blouse, walks away in the rain after a tiff with her leading man, Aditya Roy Kapoor. He pursues her and, in that old-school romantic gesture that we based all our teenage fantasies on, takes off his jacket and shields her from the rain. They spend a few intense seconds under the jacket, each wanting to take a step further but both holding back. Welcome back, pure, unadulterated romance of the good old times. We hope you are here to stay!
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From HT Brunch, July 13
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