As the long (really long) summer bids goodbye, the weather of pleasant breeze, gloomy feelings and constant longing sets in. Rains have always been a welcome change in life as it heralds a shift in moods. In films and literature too, rains hold a thematic resonance be it to represent unhappiness, rebirth, foreboding, determination, hope, or even a pause for introspection.
There’s just something hopeful about watching Aamir Khan and his troop gleefully dance and sing in Lagaan for the rains to come through, arguably, one of the best monsoon moments ever made to the Hindi celluloid. There was a certain sadness to the phone booth scene from Say Anything, a sweet tingling sensation for the kiss scene from Wake Up Sid, and the sudden surge of exhilaration to see Tim Robbins break out of prison in The Shawshank Redemption tasting freedom for the first time in many years.
Though rains have often been a tool to depict joy and romance for decades now, filmmakers have now begun to implement it in a more gradual and pressing manner. Rain may now proceed with a deluge of feelings – passion, loneliness, or mystique, but now they contrive to be reflective of the times we live in.
Monsoon moments in films: Of destruction
Bong Joon Ho’s daunting observations of capitalism in Parasite are apparent. The film, with chilling use of metaphors, goes beyond in exploring the depths of our society. Parasite’s major highlight was the use of rain to depict the idea of class conflict and wealth disparity. The torrential rains caused only a minor issue to the rich Park family, who were living on the higher echelons. However, it floods their employees Ki-taek’s semi-basement home, almost threatening their lives. With their residence inhabitable, the Kims seek refuge in a school gym for the rest of the night.
In the morning, the Parks’ mother Yon-Kyo cheerfully prepares an impromptu garden party for her son Da-Song and requires the Kim family to attend. While on the phone with her friends, she ignorantly calls the heavy storm a ‘blessing’ and jokes about how they “traded camping for a garden party” because of the clear sky while the Kims’ father Ki-Taek listens resentfully.
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Closer home, Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath was an inter-faith love story set in the pious valley of the Himalayas unfolding against the backdrop of Uttrakhand’s 2013 flash floods. Mandakini (Sara Ali Khan), the daughter of a Hindu priest, falls in love with Mansoor (Sushant Singh Rajput), a good-humoured porter who ferries devotees up the steep climb to the temple. However, their blissful romance is cut short when the town goes into a mass protest against their match.
As ominous dark clouds gather and the incessant rain gains momentum, we find the catastrophe is woven organically into the plot. What if nature has unleased its fury after the pair is denied their right to be together?
Of heartbreak and regret
Not much of rain is visible in Rituparno Ghosh’s film Raincoat but the play of light and shadows, the delicate rhythmic noise of monsoon makes for a great cinematic evocation of crumbling romance and lingering regret. Former lovers Manoj (Ajay Devgn) and Neeru (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) meet after six years on a fateful rainy day and share stories about their lives in a damp, dark room crammed with antiques. While the two are busy creating their make-believe world out of nothing, you might feel uncomfortably amused witnessing the pile of lies they tell each other. However, their rain-soaked afternoon isn’t about amends or confessions. It is a glimpse of the love they left behind, revisiting the aching feeling of lost possibilities and envisioning a life that could have been.
In Wong Kar-wai’s sonorous In Mood For Love rain is a recurring metaphor to evoke feelings of unrequited love. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung play the protagonists, Mr Chow and Mrs Chan, who form an unusual friendship as they bond over the infidelities of their partners.
Wong constantly reinforces romance in symbols through cramped interiors, tight hallways, and narrow stairways—even outside, characters are trapped by the rain or framed behind bars in an alleyway, figuratively imprisoned—to reflect the unfulfilled desire.
Shoojit Sircar’s October was a lyrical exploration of love through the passage of time. This unconventional love story follows Danish “Dan” Walia (Varun Dhawan) and Shiuli (Banita Sandhu), two hotel management trainees, who find a rare emotional connect as a sudden turn of events throw their lives out of gear. Sircar’s masterful emotive imagery is set in Delhi against the dance of seasons, from moist foggy winters, spring flowers, to the rains. When Shiuli’s terrible fall from the third floor of the hotel slips her into coma, Dan, who till now was a malcontent drifter, has suddenly found a purpose: caring for Shiuli. Though rain doesn’t hold a significant prominence, we find the movie’s landscape quietly witnessing the changing seasons and the consequent transformation in the young man.
Gary Ross’s time-travelling film Pleasantville (1998) sees two teenagers from the 90s, David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), magically enter into a 1950s television show. Standing in for existing characters Bud and Mary Sue, the pair find it hard to retain their modern-day attitudes and personalities. Their very presence in the thinly sketched town begins to inevitably strip away its innocence, revealing things like sex and books, and even rainstorms to the fictional residents. As soon as parts of the monochrome environment start turning to Technicolor, certain characters protest to preserve the town’s pleasantness. However, when they experience rain for the first time, it is as if they are washing their old lives away and opening arms to change, signifying rebirth.