When the Kapoor family announced to sell off Mumbai’s iconic RK Studios in August last year, the Hindi film industry was glum with memories. Many of them flashed back to the delightfully uproarious ‘RK Holi Parties’ thrown by Raj Kapoor, who is credited as the founding father of Holi celebrations in Bollywood. As with all things Kapoor, these parties were not restricted to the immediate clan and extended to the entire film fraternity.
Archival pictures capture Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Jeetendra, Prem, Shankar-Jaikishan, Rishi and Sashi Kapoor in varying postures of delirium, their faces splattered with colour and arms arched in dance. Among the ladies, Nargis, Hema Malini, Vaijayanti Mala, Zeenath Aman, Sridevi and Rekha were said to be devout attendees. Another notable recurrence was the Kathak dancer Sitara Devi, a regular guest and performer at the RK Holis. However, missing from the frolic was superstar Dev Anand, whose absence from these bashes fed gossip columns but was eventually chalked up to the actor’s distaste for playing with colours.
The yearly pilgrimage of the RK Holi parties was wound up in 1988, when Raj Kapoor passed away. The tradition was carried forwarded by the Bachchan family, whose glitzy Holi celebrations were matched by the iconic festive songs featuring Amitabh Bachchan. From actors to politicians to industrialists, everyone showed up for the Bachchan bashes.
A highlight remained the 2004 Bachchan Holi bash where Shah Rukh Khan and Amar Singh were said to make amends after a heated exchange at an awards ceremony. In 2018, however, the Bachchans called in a respectfully low-key Holi following the demise of late actor Sridevi. “The Holika has been burnt and the prayers are done, the tilak colours put.. and the special sweetmeat for the occasion gujiya consumed,” Big B had tweeted with pictures.
Other literal ‘watering holes’ for celebrities over the years have been Shah Rukh Khan’s Holi parties at his residence Mannat, filmmaker Sanjay Gupta’s soirees, and producer Ekta Kapoor’s gatherings that would bring together the film and television industry.
As we eased into the present decade, the trend of throwing effusive Holi parties took a massive dip. At present, veterans Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi are the few celebrities continuing the tradition of celebrating Holi with the industry, competing with media and corporate events that have bucked the long-held familial nature of these parties. Even as Bollywood sustains its spot as the culture melting pot of India, a society shot through with festivity and colour, we wonder how long — and how well — would the magic of Holi retain its spell on tinsel town.