Monsoons, through the lens of cinema

The rains bring forth more than just a sense of nostalgia.

Harper's Bazaar India

Monsoon was coming—storm clouds in hues of grey and gentle winds had given it away. It was a Sunday evening and the city could hardly wait to get down off its sweltering heat with its first rains. It poured and thundered, and a sense of warmth and nostalgia made its way to the Maximum City. I made a cup of chai, sat by the window, and watched Ayan Mukherji’s Wake up Sid. There is something magical, romantic and bitter-sweet about the monsoon—a perspective certainly shaped by cinema and its tryst with the rains.

For a long time now, filmmakers have used rains as a poetic device to symbolise and foreshadow emotions, a turn of events, and so much more. Think about The Notebook’s iconic kiss—would it feel the same if not for the heavenly downpour? Or would it have evoked the same sense of loss, had it not rained when Apu’s sister passed away, in Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali

We take a look at some of the most iconic and memorable movie scenes with the rain playing the third character on screen. 

The rains and romance 

Being in the rain with your loved one is thrilling and romantic. The rains can exaggerate any mood within the realm of romance. It evoked joy during the montage of Tumse Hi in Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met, elicited a much-needed relief in its downpour when Noah and Allie kiss after seven years in The Notebook, and inched us towards the end in Wake up Sid, bringing completeness to the scene—the end of a more than tepid summer and the advent of a new season of love, rains, and magic. The 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain directed by Gene Kelly is an ode to the get-out-and-dance mood that the season sometimes evokes. In the rains, we find sensuality in Sridevi’s iconic number in Mr India. From Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai—the rains, in all its torrential glory have made certain moments of cinema, more iconic than others.  

A sense of foreboding 

The greatest of filmmakers have used rain as a symbol of ominous foreboding. Think of the Shakun Batra-directed film, Kapoor and Sons—a sense of uncertainty and uneasiness is felt as the thunderous clouds cast a shadow over the Kapoor household. A scene later, we see the death of Harsh Kapoor in a tragic car accident. Coincidental? We suppose not. The rains bring about a sense of mystery, fear, and even an impending disaster. The Mark Herman-directed, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas foreshadows Bruno's impending doom when it begins to rain as his parents find out that he is now in one of Poland's concentration camps. The theme of foreboding is also apparent in the Tom Cruise-starrer, The Last Samurai, where the loss of the fight is foreshadowed by rather gloomy weather. 

Rains and rebirth 

Perhaps the most poetic and symbolic meaning of them is rain being used to imply renewal and rebirth of an idea, a person or an emotion. In Lagaan, the 2004 film starring Aamir Khan, rains after a torrid, dry, and horrific summer brings with it a sense of victory and a sign of celebration. The return of Simba in Disney’s Lion King brings forth a downpour, setting the tone for a new beginning full of growth after a grim reign by his uncle, Scar. The Stephen King-written Shawshank Redemption shows a broken yet unbelievably grateful Andy Dufresne crawling out of a sewer and is greeted with a downpour symbolic of a foregone past and hope for a better future. The birth-giving scene amid torrential floods in Raju Hirani’s 3 Idiots will be ingrained in the minds of most for a long time to come. The downpour that lasts for a whole night, becomes gentler by morning and what we see is the transformed heart of a once stubborn and strict professor. 

Rains with a touch of melancholy 

For most people, rain brings with it a sense of melancholy and an overbearing sadness. It often gives gloomy energy to experiences or situations. Think Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. A poverty-stricken-household is met with further grief when their daughter Durga gets drenched in a downpour and passes away the next morning. The downpour heightens the emotions of loss and grief and perhaps wouldn’t have the same impact without it. Even in Karan Johar’s otherwise feel-good film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie  Gham, the death of Anjali’s father takes place with heavy downpours in the wee hours of the morning. Salaam Bombay, directed by Mira Nair would not have been the same without the gloomy tone of the film shaped by dark clouds and rains in the (not so) quiet by-lanes of Mumbai.