By Tulsidas Mishra*
But for our belligerent neighbors, we would perhaps not be half as patriotic as we are. Incorrigible as they are, they howl along our frontiers at regular intervals. And what they witness in return is a supreme display of solidarity and patriotism. Soldiers lay down their lives. Civilians rise up, close ranks and come forward to extend both moral support and material help.
And predictably enough, after a short resistance, the enemies buckle and backtrack, before a splendid spectacle of power and valor.
And in such difficult times, to wake up the dormant patriot in all of us, Indian films – and more particularly Hindi films – have played a great role.
Since its advent in the early decades of the last century, the Hindi film medium has developed not only as a mode of entertainment but as an alternative form of chronicle as well. So in all these years, it has both entertained the masses and championed the socio-political issues of the time too. And along the way, it has become fairly successful in playing the role of alert watchman, hollering ‘Jaagte Raho’ at regular intervals.
Not only during the freedom struggle, but during other wars as well, Hindi films have both commemorated victory and condemned the enemies of the people. So down the years, what we have reaped is a rich harvest of war flicks and a treasure trove of patriotic songs.
”Dekho Veer Jawano Apne , Khoon Pe Yeh Ilzaam Na Aaye,
Maa Na Kahe Ki Mere Bete, Waqt Pada To Kaam Na Aaye”
(Anand Bakshi/Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Kishore Kumar)
This was how a lame Rajesh Khanna, leaning on a pair of crutches, exhorted the platoons of soldiers going to the battlefield in J Omprakash’s ‘Aakraman’. Using military band in the orchestra and their signature group violin and vocal chorus, Laxmi-Pyare took Kishore Kumar’s singing to a sensational height.
Forty years have elapsed in the meanwhile, but this pulsating composition does not cease to provoke, prompt and inspire the listeners. In this war movie of 1973, the enemies whom the sapoots were out to slay were Pakistanis. Only the issue was not Kargil. Rather it was the liberation of Bangladesh. So what we witnessed in Kashmir a few years back was nothing but the repetition of the same old story.
But it has not always been Pakistan that has provoked war frenzy in us. Before it, it was the prerogative of the ‘firangs’. During the pre-independence days, Akhand Bharat was the fondly cherished dream of the freedom fighters. Hence during the Quit India movement, Kavi Pradeep , the great patriot as he was, wrote ‘Dur Hato Aie Duniyawalo, Hindusthan Hamara Hai’ (Kismat, 1943).
It is said that the producer of this film, Sashadhar Mukharjee, was very skeptical about the reaction of the British rulers. But Pradeep somehow persuaded him to include the song in the film. At the same time, he managed to convince the British rulers that the song was actually targeted at the Japanese and the Germans, who were foes of England at that time. But when the Indian freedom fighters lapped up the song and used it as a slogan against Britishers, the real design behind it dawned on them. By then, it was too late.
When India got its much awaited freedom after a long drawn out struggle, its euphoria stayed with the people well beyond a decade. Each successive anniversary was celebrated with increased enthusiasm and fervor. Films were made reliving the days of struggle and enumerating the dreams and ambitions of a young India.
In Anandmath (1952), Hemant Kumar set Bankim Chandra’s Vande Mataram to a racy and rabble rousing composition (which was unlike the slow, solemn classical composition that our radio stations play in the morning every day.) And Lata Mangeshkar from her side complimented Hemnant Kumar’s chorus by singing it with feeling and a rare flourish.
Talk of patriotic numbers and many more film songs of such caliber come to mind. Songs like ‘Aye Watan, Aye Watan, Watan Ki Raha Main’, ‘Mera Rang De Basanti Chola (Saheed)’, ‘Apni Azadi Ko Hum’ (Leader), title track of ‘Hindusthan Ki Kasam’ and ‘Kar Chale Hum Fida’ (Haqeeqat) still make the listeners nostalgic and fill the heart with nationalistic fervorl.
But all the patriotic songs of the Hindi films don’t sound like war cry. Hence, before dubbing our filmmakers as jingoists advocating feverish nationalism and fierce fanaticism, critics should think twice. Hindi film songs include a cache of cool compositions that neutralize the opprobrium. Songs like ‘Aao Bachchon Tumhe Dikhaon’ (Jagruti) ‘Jahan Daal, Daal Par’ (Sikandar-E-Azam), ‘Mere Desh Main’ (Jigri Dost), ‘Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawano Ka’ (Naya Daur) are all meaningful and benign compositions. These songs highlight the great social traditions and moral values of our ancient civilization and give a glimpse of our history and heritage.
‘Chhodo Kal Ki Baaten’ (Hum Hindusthani).This patriotic number can very well be called one of the best compositions of ‘not so prolific’ lady composer Ms. Usha Khanna. The youthful and spirited playback singing of Mukesh is suitably complemented by the gentlemanly screen presence of a handsome Sunil Dutt. The sleek use of mandolin and accordion in orchestration, the pleasant chorus track laced to the lead voice, all enhance the musical value of the song and leave a lasting impact on the listener.
If Raj Kapoor was a diehard optimist, Manoj Kumar was a hard core pacifist. Needless to say, songs of their films like ‘Honthon Pe Sachchai Rahati Hai’, ‘Mera Naam Raju’ (Jis Desh Main Ganga Bahati Hai) and ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’ (Upkaar), ‘Hai Preet Jahan Ki Reet Sada’ (Purab Aur Pachchim), preached non-violence and advocated peaceful co-existence. The above numbers extolled at the same time other virtues of this land of the Ganges and the Himalaya.
When showman Subhas Ghai made ‘Karma’, the country had come a long way since its independence. The freedom struggle looked like a far off event, a sepia toned memory. Even the euphoria generated by the Indo-Pak war of 1971 had long died down.
Instead, it was the aftermath of ‘Operation Blue Star’ and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, a difficult juncture for the country. The society was ravaged by terrorist activities and insurgency. The people were dazed and demoralized. Ghai’s magnum opus could not have come at a more appropriate time. ‘Karma’ is a film where three reformed convicts, led by a police officer, fight traitors and terrorists.
Ghai wanted to make it a protest film. So he conceived the song ‘Aye Watan Tere Liye’ as a slogan against violence, bloodshed and terrorism. Incidentally, this song turned out to be a monumental chorus. Anand Bakshi’s meaningful lyric and Laxmi-Pyare’s lavish composition bracketed it among the all time best patriotic songs. Try these lines –
Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai , Humkaram , Humnaam Hai
Jo Kare Inko Juda, Majhab Nahin , Ilzaam Hai .
Loot Rahen Hain Aap To
Apne Gharon Ko Loot Kar
Khelte Hain Bekhabar
Apne Lahoo Se Holiyan
If the top stanza decries communalism, the second stanza is a poignant revelation of the absurdity of violence and bloodbath.
Admittedly, today’s youth are more interested in pads, pods and plugs and almost hop, jump and skip over the Mahatma and the motherland. There is no point ripping them apart as a generation of denim clad, mobile flaunting bike maniacs because the ‘Bermuda Brigade’ has its own body of songs, propagating spaghetti patriotism. Well, songs like ‘Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyaara Hai’ (Roja), ‘East Or West, India is the Best’ (Judwa), ‘It Happens Only In India’ (Pardesi Babu) and ‘I Love My India’ (Pardesh) do sound like ‘hinglish homage’ to Hindustan. But they are homage nonethelessl.
So it will be unfair to call gen-next youth callous. And if they are out to buy desh bhakti as a consumer brand, then the media-market nexus is equally at fault. Anyway, so long as they love their motherland, one can very well overlook their noise and nuisance, their fixation with Facebook and tryst with Twitter.
The roll call of patriotic songs will be incomplete without recalling the songs dedicated to Bapu. After Mother India, perhaps it is the Mahatma, who is eulogized and venerated the most by almost all of us. That is perhaps why the Father of the Nation has inspired quite a few wordsmiths to wax lyrical. The most memorable Mahatma-centric lyrics are ‘Suno Suno Aie Duniyanwalo Bapuji Ki Amar Kahani’, ‘De Di Hame Aazadi’ (Jagruti) and ‘Sun Le Bapu Yeh Paigham’ (Baalak) .
Along with film songs, a number of non-film patriotic songs also make the rounds of radio stations and celebration pandals during national days. Songs like’ Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Hamara’, ‘Saare Jahan Se Achcha’ and ‘Hum Honge Kaamyab’ have by now become cult numbers.
A song that deserves special mention here is Pradeep’s ‘Aie Mere Watan Ke Logo’ sung by Lata Mangeshkar under the baton of C. Ramchandra. Pradeep wrote it in the wake of Indo-China war of 1962, to pay homage to the martyrs in the said ‘uncalled for’ war. Pandit Nehru was so moved by this profound and poignant composition that it brought tears to his eyes. During the recent Kargil conflict, the citizens paid homage to the slain soldiers by quoting lines from this immortal ‘shradhanjali’ song.
A new millennium ‘desh bhakti’ song that strikes a different and defiant note is ‘Watanwalo Watan Na Bech Dena……..Saheedon Ke Kafan Na Bech Dena’ (Indian). In this hard-hitting and heart-touching song, lyricist Anand Bakshi hints at the moral decay and sickness of soul that we the people are battling with in recent times. He tells us not to mortgage the motherland. He cautions us further against sly subjugation and camouflaged colonialism. Anand Raj Anand’s chorus-laced composition and Roop Kumar Rathod’s soulful rendering make this song sound like an anthem.
Over the years, the aforementioned songs have become part of our collective consciousness. Thanks to their mass appeal and nostalgic value, they overwhelm us with patriotism.
*The author, a film maker, is an alumnus of FTII, Pune and is active in Film and Television sector for last twenty years. Presently he is based in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. He can be contacted at [email protected]