Angry students, clueless teachers and the colour red: Ketan Mehta’s ‘Holi’

The 1984 movie, based on the Mahesh Elkunchwar play, resonates with the situation across college campuses in the country.

How should dissent be addressed? Holi (1984), based on Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play of the same name, begins with Jehangir Choudhary’s handheld camera peering into the squalid rooms of a hostel where students have gathered for an all-night drinking session. The camera moves stealthily like a private investigator through the hallways of the college campus, filming students who are waking up after a night of revelry. The apparatus appears to be looking for evidence of their immorality, just like the politicians who believe that the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in Delhi is a hotbed for anti-national and libidinous activities.

The students in Ketan Mehta’s movie find out at the break of dawn that they don’t have a holiday on Holi. Instead, they are supposed to attend classes and a function to honour the founder of the college. They are in no mood to comply. So what do these rebels without a cause do?

They rant against the educational system, which they term a slave factory, they indulge in petty scuffles in the canteen, they rag fellow students, they destroy campus property. They seem to have no direction, are fed up with a didactic curriculum and uninspiring teachers, and loiter around the campus seeking romance.

In real life, such a situation would involuntarily allow politicians to meddle with college management committees. In an early scene in the movie, an agitated Om Puri, who plays the college principal, challenges an idealistic professor played by Naseeruddin Shah: “Will you be teaching me how to run the college?”

In a recent interview about Holi, Mehta said he was inspired by a strike at his alma mater, the Film and Television Institute of India. “I made Holi in 1984 which was about internalised violence which society imposed upon students,” he said. “There was a strike at FTII when I was a student there. I was reliving the experience through the movie.”

Aamir Khan and Kitu Gidwani.
Aamir Khan and Kitu Gidwani.

What was true then is also true now of the current state of student politics. Holi paints a grim picture of the consequences of challenging an educational system in which the liberty to pursue a creative vocation is stifled and dissent is firmly discouraged as a form of expression.

The film encapsulates in a day’s events the many anxieties of young men and women who are dissatisfied with their socio-political environment. Their protests lead to a dramatic climax that puts an even bigger question mark on their future.

Apart from starring Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Deepti Naval and Paresh Rawal, all of whom are stellar, the movie launched the careers of several raring young actors, including a loutish Aamir Khan (credited as Aamir Hussain), Neeraj Vora, Ashutosh Gowariker, Amole Gupte and Raj Zutshi, and Kitu Gidwani as Khan's girlfriend.

Filmed in fluid long takes, a style that was later used by Gus Van Sant in his school tragedy Elephant, (2003), Holi is an early entry in the campus docu-drama genre and worth revisiting on a day of merriment.

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It’s the new year and it’s already time to plan your next holiday

Here are some great destinations for you to consider.

Vacation planning can get serious and strategic. Some people swear by the save and splurge approach that allows for one mini getaway and one dream holiday in a year. Others use the solo to family tactic and distribute their budget across solo trips, couple getaways and family holidays. Regardless of what strategy you implement to plan your trip, the holiday list is a handy tool for eager travellers. After having extensively studied the 2018 holiday list, here’s what we recommend:

March: 10 days of literature, art and culture in Toronto

For those you have pledged to read more or have more artistic experiences in 2018, Toronto offers the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomising vending machine for old books. You can find the Biblio-Mat, paper artefacts, rare books and more at The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookseller. If you can tear yourself away from this eclectic bookstore, head over to The Public Library in Toronto for the Merril Collection of over 72000 items of science fiction, fantasy magic realism and graphic novels. With your bag full of books, grab a coffee at Room 2046 – a café cum store cum studio that celebrates all things whimsical and creative. Next, experience art while cycling across the 80km Pan Am Path. Built for walking, running, cycling and wheeling, the Pan Am Path is a recreational pathway that offers a green, scenic and river views along with art projects sprinkled throughout the route. You can opt for a guided tour of the path or wander aimlessly for serendipitous discoveries.

Nothing beats camping to ruminate over all those new ideas collected over the past few days. Make way to Killarney Provincial Park for 2-3 days for some quiet time amongst lakes and hills. You can grab a canoe, go hiking or get back to nature, but don’t forget to bring a tent.

If you use the long-weekend of 2nd March to extend your trip, you get to experience the Toronto Light Festival as a dazzling bonus.

June: 10 days of culinary treats, happy feet and a million laughs in Chicago

Famous for creating the deep-dish pizza and improv comedy, Chicago promises to banish that mid-year lull. Get tickets for The Second City’s Legendary Laughs at The UP-Comedy Club - the company that gave us the legendary Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Key & Peele. All that laughter can sure work up an appetite, one that can be satiated with Lou Malnati’s classic deep-dish pizza. For dessert, head over to the Ferrara Original Bakery for mouth-watering treats.

Chicago in June is pleasant and warm enough to explore the outdoors and what better way to soak in the sunshine, than by having a picnic at the Maggie Daley Park. Picnic groves, wall climbing, mini golf, roller blading – the park offers a plethora of activities for individuals as well as families.

If you use the long weekend of 15th June, you can extend your trip to go for Country LakeShake – Chicago’s country music festival featuring Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

August: 7 days in London for Europe’s biggest street festival

Since 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrating London’s Caribbean communities with dancing, masquerade and music ranging from reggae to salsa. Watch London burst into colours and sparkle at the Notting Hill Carnival. Home to Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens Museum, London is best experienced by wandering through its tiny streets. Chance encounters with bookstores such as Foyles and Housemans, soaking in historic sights while enjoying breakfast at Arthur’s Café or Blackbird Bakery, rummaging the stalls at Broadway market or Camden Market – you can do so much in London while doing nothing at all.

The Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising can send you reminiscing about those old ads, while the Clowns Gallery Museum can give you an insight in clown-culture. If you’d rather not roam aimlessly, book a street-art tour run by Alternative London or a Jack the Ripper Tour.

October: 10 days of an out-of-body experience in Vegas

About 16 km south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, lies a visual spectacle. Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by Ugo Rondinone, stands far away from the wild vibe that people expect in Las Vegas and instead offers a sense of wonder. Imagine seven pillars of huge, neon boulders, stacked up against one another stretched towards the sky. There’s a lot more where that came from, in Las Vegas. Captivating colour at the permanent James Turrell exhibit in Louis Vuitton, outdoor adventures at the Bootleg Canyon and vintage shopping at Patina Décor offer experiences that are not usually associated with Vegas. For that quintessential Vegas show, go for Shannon McBeath: Absinthe for some circus-style entertainment. If you put the holiday list to use, you can make it for the risefestival – think thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, right above you.

It’s time to get on with the vacation planning for the new year. So, pin up the holiday list, look up deals on hotels and flights and start booking. Save money by taking advantage of the British Airways Holiday Sale. With up to 25% off on flight, the offer is available to book until 31st January 2018 for travel up to 31st December in economy and premium economy and up to 31st August for business class. For great fares to great destinations, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.