A Broad Spectrum: Colors in Hindi Cinema

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Akshay Kumar and Parineeti Chopra in Kesari, which released on Holi 2019. Photo: Hype PR

The Holi festival makes us look back on how colorful Hindi film titles and songs have always been. Almost every significant hue has been used in film titles alone, let alone songs, as we shall see! The colorful panorama began in 1935 with a film named Neela (blue).

Kesari (Saffron) was a patriotic drama that even released on the day of Holi 2019, a patriotic drama featuring Akshay Kumar and based on the historic Battle of Saragarhi. Saffron is the color of bravery, abstinence and sacrifice in Hindu and Sikh religions, and Kesari was about the incredible 9-hour battle of just 21 Sikhs against 10,000 Afghan invaders.

Let us now see how Hindi films explored the spectrum (pun intended) of colors down the decades. Lal (red) Patthar, Lal Salaam, Lal Kothi, Laal Badshah, Lal Quila, Lal Bangla, Red Rose, Neela Akash, Neel Kamal, Kaala Pani, Kala Bazar (and the 1989 film spelt Kaala Bazaar), Kaala Patthar, Kala Aadmi, Hare (Green) Kanch Ki Chooriyan, Hari Bhari, Gulaab (Pink) Gang, The Girl In Yellow Boots, The Sky Is Pink, Safed (White) Haathi, Safed Jhoot and White Rainbow were among the films in which colors became a part of the title.

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Some of the titles above were not necessarily about the color though: Lal Salaam is a Communist / Maoist greeting, while Safed Haathi and Safed Jhoot respectively spoke of a symbolic white elephant and a white lie.

However, and interestingly so more in the millennium, single colors, including Kesari, formed the titles by themselves, often again with a metaphorical or other relevance.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black, on the black world of the blind protagonist (Rani Mukerji) was released in 2005. The film was a massive hit globally and won awards as well, including the National award for Amitabh Bachchan.

Black & White (2008) remains director Subhash Ghai’s first and only attempt at a modest-budget directorial that was a mid-stream subject. The Anil Kapoor film simply did not connect with its story of good and bad values (black and white).

Blue (2009) was a fiasco of an action drama that capsized like the ship that played a major role in this thriller on the high seas. ‘Blue’ here represented the color of the sea for this star-heavy film with Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif and Sanjay Dutt. The film pioneered its music album on a Pen Drive, but the score, like the film, was a disaster.

Rajkumar Santoshi’s Khakee (2004) is arguably his career-best after Ghayal and Damini (wherein Holi played a crucial role!). The twists-laden action drama had khakee, the color of the cops’ uniform (a mix of beige and brown), as its title. Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Aishwarya Rai and Tusshar starred in the film that pioneered one more technology—it was the first Indian film to have Digital Intermediate (DI) in India, a process that color-corrects and gives uniformity to the backdrop of sequences on screen.

The 2016 film Pink was yet again top-lined by Amitabh, who, as a counsel with a back-story, fought for the honor of four girls in court. And Red: The Dark Side (2007) featuring Aftab Shivdasani, Celina Jaitley and Amrita Arora, was an erotic love triangle and thriller. Unlike Pink, it was a washout.

The Aankhen song Lal dupattewali was a chartbuster. Photo: Music Video Grab

10 famous songs on Colors

Gore rang pe na itna / Roti (1974)

Gori gori gaon ki gori /Ye Gulistan Hamara (1973)

Gulabi ankhen / The Train (1970)

Hare kanch ki choodiyan / Hare Kanch Ki Chooriyan (1967)

Kesariya baalma / Lekin (1991)

Krishna o kaale Krishna / Main Bhi Ladki Hoon (1964)

Lal dupattewali tera naam / Aankhen (1993)

Lal lal honthon pe / Najayaz (1995)

Neele neele ambar par / Kalaakaar (1983)

Yeh lal rang / Premnagar (1974)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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