Sholay Jaya Bhaduri

In most cultures, men do not wear a certain colour to show that they have lost their wives.

South Africa widows
Films such as Sholay, Mohabbatein, Choker Bhali and Maidan-e-Jung remind me of growing up in Durban, where we would spot a widow by her black weeds. As time went on, women stopped wearing full black and had a black collar on top of the blouse or dress for the bereavement period. This was later abandoned for just a piece of cloth pinned on the jacket or sleeve to indicate a death in the family.

Mourning usually takes a year. A cleansing ceremony is held after that and the widow starts wearing colourful clothes again and can also get married. It is now very rare to see a woman who has lost a husband dressed in black from head to toe.

Colour of Mourning
As a student of Indian cinema, I think it will be correct to say that widows in India wear white, but I don’t know for how long. Sholay, Ramesh Sippy’s film is popular for many reasons. My favourite character is Radha the widow, played by Jaya Bhaduri.

She is attracted to Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) one of the thieves hired by her father-in-law Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar) to find the man who murdered his family including her husband. She escaped because she was at the temple, with one of the servants. Radha and Jai’s feelings are conveyed in a smile here, a haunting song Jai plays on his harmonica or helping her catch a goat.

Father-in-law wants widow to re-marry
Thakur, her father in law goes to her father and convinces him to let her marry Jai. He said something to the effect that she will have somebody to protect her when they die. Radha’s father agrees but Jai dies before they can marry.

There is a painful scene where she is standing at an open window watching the cremation ceremony. She slowly closes the window. I suppose she accepted her destiny that she will always be a widow.

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