Kalidasa, said to be born in the 4th century AD, is widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language. Had he been alive today, he would have been a very busy man, possibly assisted by a huge team of research assistants, dishing out scripts, dialogues and lyrics for a vast majority of our dream merchants in Bollywood.
His emphasis on capturing the innate beauty of nature might not have enthused many of our present day producers and directors. However, his evocative portrayal of female beauty and the passionate depiction of the affairs of the heart would have surely had the Bollywood movie makers in enthrall.
In his ‘Ritusamhara’ (Medley of Seasons), Kalidasa describes six seasons in his inimitable style: Summer (Greeshma), Monsoon (Varsha), Autumn (Sharad/Patjhad), Pre-winter (Hemant), Winter (Shishir) and Spring (Vasanta). Each one is dealt with evocative descriptions of the elements of nature. The seasons form a backdrop for the affairs of the heart and the sensuous pleasures of the skin.
The four seasons of Bollywood
Bollywood movies also capitalize on the affairs of the heart. But these use primarily four seasons as a backdrop: Summer, Monsoon, Winter and Spring. Autumn and Pre-winter do not get covered so very explicitly, though the landscape and the situation in the story can often give the viewer a clue about the same.
The following songs readily attest to the concept of four seasons expounded by Bollywood.
Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955, Director: V. Shantaram)
Aap Ki Kasam (1974, Director: J. Om Prakash)
Some Bollywood songs and the lens of Kalidasa
Even though Bollywood explicitly speaks of four seasons, it is tempting to use the lens of Kalidasa to view Bollywood songs.
Bollywood lovers court each other with gay abundance in all the seasons. Seasons often act as a complimentary backdrop to the mood of the hero and the heroine.
Moonlit nights of Summer facilitate singing of melodious songs in gardens with swaying palm trees.
Love Marriage (1959, Subodh Mukherjee)
Monsoon invariably induces a bolder expression of love. Hormones get all charged up.
Shri 420 (1955, Raj Kapoor)
Autumn is the season when lovers pine for each other.
Arzoo (1965, Ramanand Sagar)
Pre-winter is the season of renewed hope for the lovers.
Silsila (1981, Yash Chopra)
Winter ushers in a season of warm embraces and closer encounters of the amorous kind.
Aap Ki Kasam (1974, J. Om Prakash)
Spring is decidedly the season when thoughts of the young ones turn to romance.
Aandhi (1975, Gulzar)
For each of the seasons, a wide variety of songs can be mentioned. In the following posts, we shall review the six seasons of Kalidasa in some detail and try to see if Bollywood has willy-nilly celebrated these in the same spirit as that of the great Sanskrit poet.
Kalidasa’s challenges in the 21st century
Kalidasa, had he been around in our materialistic times, would have surely been laughing all the way to the bank, thanks to the insatiable appetite of Bollywood producers and directors for bolder and raunchier item numbers year after year. Commercial success being the motto, the demand for situations which justify an erotic twist to their scripts would have kept him and his team overworked at all times.
Nevertheless, one doubts if he would have been a happy man. Feminists of all hues would have hounded him no end, perhaps charging him with objectification of women’s anatomies. The delicately nurtured might have taken offence at the graphic details of their intimate affairs. Even those belonging to the tribe of the so-called sterner sex would have registered strong protests, demanding equal rights for their muscular and brawny anatomies also to be covered in the future editions of ‘Ritusamhara’.
Kalidasa might have taken a jaundiced view of the cinematic liberties taken with his scripts. He would have surely protested at being asked to pen inane soulless songs to suit whacky situations – that too with his lyrics expected to fit into a melody which would have already been composed and decided upon.
He would have lamented the lack of reference to nature, flora and fauna in Bollywood’s present day offerings. He would have fervently wished for yet another V. Shantaram to have burst upon the scene, with a delectable offering like this one from the movie Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti of 1967 vintage.