Silsila: A complex love triangle with a touch of simplicity 

After colours and bhaang, Holi celebrations are incomplete without ‘Rang barse’, the Holi anthem from Yash Chopra’s Silsila. Picturized on Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha (While Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar passively look on), sung by Amitabh Bachchan (with complete abandon), shot by Kay Gee and edited by Keshav Naidu, ‘Rang barse’ captures the essence of Holi in its true splendor, so much so that no ‘Balam pichkaari’ or ‘Do me a favour let’s play Holi’ could dilute its magic even after over three decades of its release in 1981. 

“Launga ilaachi ka beeda lagaaya…”

For the trivia buffs, the song, ‘Rang Barse’ was penned by Dr. Harivanshrai Bachchan. It was based on a Rajasthani folk bhajan revolving around Meera. The original lyrics were: ‘Rang barse O Meeran, bhawan mein rang barse…’ The lyrics were tweaked to suit the flavour of the film’s story. ‘Rang Barse’ is pivotal to Silsila purely because it appears at precisely the moment when Amit Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan, who else can play ‘Amit’?) and Chandni (Rekha at her sensuous best) are caught red-handed, quite literally. 

“Neeche paan ki dukaan, upar gori ka makaan…”

The camaraderie between the characters of Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor (As the affable Shekhar) is something yet to be replicated in our times. The scene where Shekhar and Amit recall their past crushes in drunken stupor and the silly ditty, ‘Neeche paan ki dukaan’ sung by the duo is infectious enough to make you hum it subconsciously all through the film’s first half. Despite not playing the lead, Shashi Kapoor makes his presence in a brief role and must be commended for adding humour to an otherwise ‘serious film’. 

Dekha ek khwaab to yeh silsiley hue…

Silsila marked the debut of Javed Akhtar as lyricist. In one of his interviews, Javed saab stated, “I should thank Yash Chopra and keep thanking him forever because I was very reluctant and I did not want to become a lyricist. Perhaps he was so sure that I would be able to do it to his satisfaction that he really forced me into it and I must thank him for that.” True indeed, as Silsila, without ‘Dekha ek khwaab’, ‘Yeh kahaan aa gaye hum’, or ‘Neela aasmaan so gaya’ would have been a bland love triangle with no poetry as its soul. 

“Phool khamosh rehkar bhi apne rang aur khusboo se bahut kuch keh jaate hai…”

There’s a scene in Silsila where the characters of Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha decide to meet up at a flower exhibition. The choice of this venue speaks volumes on the aesthetic sense of Yash Chopra. We seem to have become so conscious about the ‘running around the trees’ and visual euphemism of a kiss being depicted as ‘flowers kissing each other scene’ that we have abandoned the flowers. These days, we don’t get to see enough of flora and fauna in our films. 

“Kab tak yunhi khamosh rahein hum?”

No matter how much one would admire those ‘flower exhibitions’, ‘Holi celebrations’, ‘Shashi-Amitabh camaraderie’, ‘Javed Akhtar’s lyricis’, but Silsila will always remain about the hushed relationship that Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha once shared or perhaps didn’t.  

In an interview, Yash Chopra said that Rekha and Amitabh were very much in a relationship before Silsila. He had decided to cast Smita Patil and Padmini Kolhapure along with Amitabh Bachchan but later changed his mind. When Yash Chopra approached Amitabh Bachchan, he remained tight-lipped about the casting of Rekha and his wife, and suggested Yash Chopra to approach the both ladies on his own.  The veteran director admitted to constantly being on tenterhooks while filming the three. The atmosphere was evidently tense for all. Once Silsila was completed, Amitabh is said to have completely ignored Rekha till this date.

Rekha, however, had this to say about his denial in one of her interviews: “Why should he have not done it? He did it to protect his image, his family, his children. I think it is beautiful. I don’t care what the public thinks of it. Why should the public know of my love for him or his love for me?” 

Silsila didn’t do well at the box office and the ‘traditional approach’ of the director seemed to have disappointed the audience, who were keen to know the ‘truth’ behind the Amitabh-Rekha affair. Amitabh Bachchan once tweeted: ‘Silsila was written off by the critics as ‘Silly-Sila’, and is now called a classic’. 

Silsila, with its real-life chemistry of the lead actors, maturely handled subject of extra-marital affair, its confrontation and its consequences, indeed leaves us with a question: Does art imitate life or life imitate art? Go figure.

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