The rains have always been important to India. Take Indra, for instance. He’s one of the main gods in the pantheon of Indian deities and is also the King of the gods. He’s handsome and has a roving eye. The rains also signify relief and joy in agrarian areas where the entire economy depends on a fruitful harvest. And they say art imitates life – hence, it comes as no surprise that the rains play a major role in Indian cinema.

While, of late, the monsoons have been wreaking havoc across the country (Kaziranga, Vadodara and of course, Mumbai), Bollywood’s idea of the season is very different. It’s erotic and an ally to the romantics of the world. I remember a movie starring Mumtaz where she is raped by the antagonist and hangs herself. The scene where she is being raped is interspersed with clips of thunder and lightning. In Hindi cinema, the rains have either been used to depict a budding romance or a cataclysmic event.

 

Then, we come to Bollywood’s love for the rain-soaked saree. From the Pyaar hua ikraar hua sequence in Shree 420 to Raveena Tandon’s iconic sequence in Tip Tip Barsa Paani to Kareena Kapoor Khan and Aamir Khan’s dance in Three Idiots, the rains were the ultimate sign of Bollywood erotica and romance. It had a voyeuristic quality to it – raise your hands if you remember the Amitabh Bachchan unravelling Smita Patil’s saree in Namak Halaal. It gave the viewer a look into another couple’s romance and while we’re used to terrible odour and traffic jams in real life, a Bollywood monsoon smelled of attar or what is now called petrichor.

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In an article in the Times of India, Srijana Mitra Das talks about our connection to 5th-century writer, Kalidasa. In Kumarsam-bhava, she says, Daniell Ingalls translates, Kalidasa describes rain gently drenching his heroine, ‘‘With momentary pause, the first drops rest, upon the highland of her breast, across the ladder of her waist, then slowly, at her navel, come to rest.”

 

Most importantly, the rains weren’t just for the man to soak in the heroine’s figure, clad as it was in yards of wet silk. It was a masturbatory experience for the heroine herself. From Kaate nahin kat te to Tip tip barsa paani, the actress explored her sensuality under the showers of rain pouring down on her. Here, the rain became a friend and an ally helping the actress to break the conventions of a conservative society and reach her climax.

Even today, when we have full-blown sex scenes, there’s something to be said about the rain-soaked saree. It was a tease, a treat that left the viewer wanting more. In pornography, we’d call it edging. In Bollywood, it’s just another iconic sequence that should never go out of vogue.

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