Diwali or Deepavali both come from the Sanskrit Dipavali literally translating as row of lamps. From the earliest times, Indians have celebrated this festival wherever they are, often being called Indian Christmas for it’s brightness and colours. Bollywood also has not been shy in releasing films directly targeted toward Diwali audiences and it is a time in which the music directors revel as they get a chance to show off how much illumination they can deliver with their vibrant often dance sounds. As an example, here we are going to look at the most Diwali song from Diwali releases since 2010 and in doing so showcase the beauty of Bollywood cinema.
2010’s big smash hit Diwali release was shared between Action Replay done by Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Golmaal 3, a franchise remake starring Ajay Devgn. Specifically concentrating on what Diwali needed, it wasn’t necessary to go past the Golmaal 3 Title Song. The main tune focuses on an indoor scene with chairs, lights and nothing but digital colour as a background to light and easy dance moves by the stars. Very dancy beats with all the expected synth and drums but stays under the singers who even though there are a few, each one seems to take his or her chance at centre stage with aplomb. This is both fun and potentially loud.
For 2011, Diwali came in a bit earlier and was greeted by Bollywood with Shah Rukh Khan in Ra One. From this sci-fi action flick, we got a special song by the well-known Akon – Chammak Challo. An Arabic based hip-hop beat was the perfect backdrop to Akon’s West Indian vibes. Opening in English, Akon surprises with a good grasp of Hindi and in doing so gives Shah Rukh and Kareena Kapoor a very different sound to what is essentially a love song. The scene itself could be any party but with the number of colours, dresses and ornaments in the room, this is certainly for the Diwali crowd.
2012 brought to Diwali an angry Pathan to look out for his best mates in Jassi and Billu in Son of Sardaar. The Pathan was Salman Khan, Jassi and Billu, Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt. The song that most encapsulates the festival was Po Po, Salman’s fun number that was used for the promotional material. Lyrics all in Punjabi and bhangra in classic style mixed in with large horns to emphasise the chorus, this was all about Punjabi-style Diwali. This was less about lights as much as colours and some bright moves from some very good dancers in Salman and Sonakshi Sinha. Facial expressions are what’s lit up in this song and each is comic in its own way.
In 2013, it was time for Hrithik Roshan with Krrish 3. From this film we have the party song Raghupati Raghav. While this is not a typical Diwali song, in that its set in a dark room with only a few lights, the lights really stand out. The lyrics point towards a more spiritual aspect of this time of year, choosing to focus on thanking the gods for the celebration in the classic mantra but with a serious beat. Of course, as the star Hrithik is still at the centre of all things, showing off the classy dance moves that makes him one of the finest dancers in Bollywood films. Priyanka joins him after the initial build up verse and even the DJ gets involved in making both the religiosity of the words and the atmosphere in the club a hit.
Ironically named Happy New Year, Shah Rukh Khan was back in 2014 with Indiawaale. Two versions of this song featured in the film, one on stage as part of the final dance off but here we focus on a party previous to the climax where the main characters show up in different coloured dinner jackets to take over a party for all the competitors. Like the previous song, the lyrics are not specially geared toward Diwali but look to speak to the hearts of all Indians, reminding audiences of what makes both this time of year and Indians in it so much fun to be with. The music itself is not new or special as the aim is to show off the dance moves far more so, but overall, it’s a good feeling at a good time.
Salman Khan took centre stage for 2015’s Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo. While this was specificially a Diwali flick, it was really the conglomeration of 20 years of work between Salman and Sooraj Barjatya, making some of the best wholesome family dramas ever done in Bollywood history. In celebrating Diwali, we have the scene of Salman at a market stall in Aaj Unse Milna Hai. Even though he plays a very rich crown prince, he has come to the streets to find something for the girl of his dreams. Again, this is not specific to Diwali as it is obviously a one-sided love song, its real beauty is in highlighting the colours and lights of ordinary folk as he jumps out of his expensive car to look at trinkets and knick-knacks of all varieties.
From a story more associated with the darker sides of love comes The Breakup Song from 2016’s Ae Dil Hai Muskhil. This is all about new starts just like Diwali and doesn’t fail to cover the necessities of light and colour, even though in digital form. Just like Raghupati Raghav it’s a club number set in the dark but given plenty of light by Ranbir Kapoor and Anuskha Sharma who both get their dance moves on at a silent disco. The singers Arijit Singh, Baadshah, Jonitha Gandhi and Nakash Aziz all did brilliantly well in this song and it led to awards all around. The dance moves are distinctively folk Indian and Baadshah’s rap break has only become more popular after this.
Aamir Khan took over 2017’s Diwali with Secret Superstar and specifically the song Sexy Baliye. Sung by Mika Singh with music from Amit Trivedi, this is visually everything that would be expected from Diwali with colours everywhere most prominently on Aamir Khan’s jeans and jacket. However, the music is a mixture of club and bhangra that works very well with Mika’s strong voice and yet doesn’t seem at odds with Aamir Khan’s completely changed look for this film. There’s plenty going on here and this seems to highlight the aspect of variety that makes Diwali so much fun. While not necessarily one of Amit Trivedi’s most memorable hits, there is no doubt this song is off-beat and fun.
Finally, Aamir is back with Amitabh Bachchan this time in Vashmalle from Thugs of Hindostan. This song literally means get up and dance, and who will debate that with such great stars. This song is about the aspect of community that is so important in Diwali and the lyrics and dance moves are not at the level of Hrithik Roshan they are still definitely perfect for getting on with a fun time with friends whether indoor or outdoor. How well the song does is yet to be seen but there will be no loss of fun in it as both Amitabh and Aamir play to each other’s strengths while having some good jokes at each other.
The Diwali songs of the 2010s have all been different from each other and found ways to put great messages about all the aspects of Diwali in hidden but easily accessible ways. They have all held the colour, lights and spirit of the festival while weaving their own tales. Even if not specifically about Diwali in their lyrics, they each have found a way to visually and musically make the message of Diwali heard: be new, be heard, be alive, be happy!