How do you instill pride and patriotism in a diverse country like India without getting jingoistic and blasé? The national anthem penned by Rabindranath Tagore did it in 1911. And Mile Sur, in its humble way, did it in 1988.
Buoyed by the success of the ‘Freedom’ film, Doordarshan commissioned the late Suresh Mullick to do a magnum opus on the unity of India to be unfolded on August 15, 1988. And thus began a creative journey.
It was a stroke of genius of Mullick sa’ab (as he was affectionately and reverently known in the advertising world) to come up with the concept of fusion in India—bringing diverse music and stars together in a film that could be an anthem. The execution coup was to get music—Hindustani, Carnatic classical and popular, traditional and modern, 13 languages and regions into one piece that was harmonious to the ear and the eye.
Raga Bharavi, a sampoorna raga, was chosen as the base for the music. And getting the words right was a story in itself. After trying with some of the Hindi virtuosos, Mullick sa’ab briefed a young account manager to have a go at it—thinking that he could bring some innocence to the lyrics. At his eighteenth attempt, the young lad got it right and from this emerged the now famous line Mile sur mera tumhara. (The young account manager grew up to become today’s Piyush Pandey.)
To get the right fusion of music, Mullick sa’ab enlisted the help of two geniuses from two different streams—Louis Banks and the late P Vaidyanathan, a classically trained musician. Working together, they created the magical score—rendered by three doyens of music—Bhimsen Joshi, Balmurli Krishna and Lata Mangeshkar.
Getting the celebrity artistes to do their bit on screen was the output of some very detailed planning and assiduous hard work of the production teams—of Ogilvy films and the producer Kailash Surendranath’s unit. When the concept is inspiring and the cause noble, getting celebrities to co-operate and participate is not so difficult. Yet to align with over 30 busy people in 20 locations across
India within their own professional schedules and yet ensure a sense of uniformity, requires a ‘big picture’ visualisation and this was the genius of Mullick sa’ab, Kailash, his production team and the never say die spirit of Vicky Bangera, Ogilvy’s film man.
Every film has its ‘intentional yet accidental great shots’. Louis Bank’s hand on the keyboard is