The originals will always remain embedded in our hearts as golden memories, but the revival of songs enables the new generation to associate with faces of today.
For those born in the 80s or early 90s, there’s a fair bit of nostalgia associated with unity and freedom songs. Some of the most uplifting and memorable lyrical tributes of the nation have made Indians proud. A sense of social harmony and independence is regained, especially when Doordarshan telecasts some landmark songs and short films that have made Indians unite as a nation.
Over the years, the new or re-engineered versions of unity songs intend to capture the soul of the original version and reinforce the core values of a secular, diverse India. But do these really have the power to resonate and strike a chord among the public, or revive emotions? And despite a decent outing, is there more scope in the original version?
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The originals will always remain embedded in our hearts as golden memories, but the revival of songs enables the new generation to associate with faces of today. This month, a brand new version of the Mile Sur Mera Tumhara song has been doing the rounds on the internet. The song does evoke a sense of nostalgia because of its larger-than-life tribute to Indian diversity and its original theme of national integration, yet in a different style this time.
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s iconic 1988 song Mile Sur Mera Tumhara has been recreated by the Indian Railways dedicated to all its employees. The song starts with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying a country would gain speed as well as progress through the railways, followed by videos of various railway stations and the picturesque locations most trains cover. The six-minute clip has been sung in 13 different languages, and is part of the initiatives being undertaken by the ministry of railways to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence—Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav— and showcase Indian Railways’ achievements, developments and integration on a pan-India basis.
The video is interspersed with clips and winning moments of the Tokyo Olympics sportspersons including PV Sindhu, Mirabai Chanu, Neeraj Chopra and Ravi Dahiya, as well as the hockey team and the minister of railways Ashwini Vaishnaw singing the national anthem.
A sneak peek into the 1988 version is a tribute to Indian diversity featuring stalwarts Bhimsen Joshi, M Balamuralikrishna, Lata Mangeskhar, Shabana Azmi, Sharmila Tagore and Amitabh Bachchan. The signature song was created by acclaimed ad film-maker Kailash Surendranath, who has to his credit commercials like Liril and the Wah Taj! featuring tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain. This was played on Doordarshan after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Independence Day speech from Red Fort. It became the anthem for national integration. However, the new version this month is already a sensation on social media with over 35,000 views from netizens.
Earlier, a revived version called Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara was released as a Republic Day special song by Zoom TV. Another soul-stirring track created in 2010 which came 20 years after the debut song, re-recorded with an updated cast for telecast on January 26, 2010. It was also created by director Kailash Surendranath, and music composer/arranger Louis Banks, who produced the original version too. It featured personalities like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Anoushka Shankar, Amaan Ali Khan, Shaan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Rituparna Sengupta, Shilpa Shetty, Salman Khan, Deepika Padukone, Shah Rukh Khan, Mary Kom, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar and Pullela Gopichand, to mention a few.
Many such inspiring and lyrical spectacles of national unity and brotherhood have reigned in the era of 80s and 90s. Earlier in 1974, it was an animated short film Ek Chidiya Anek Chidiya that explored themes like national integration and social harmony. Later, another charming tribute to 1985 national integration film, ‘Torch of Freedom’, also known as ‘Freedom Run’, featured India’s top sports people in a relay travelling the length and breadth of the county. It featured Sunil Gavaskar, PT Usha, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Kapil Dev, Prakash Padukone and Milkha Singh, besides others.
In 1997, musician AR Rahman created Maa Tujhe Salaam, a video that broke many records, followed by a film of 1980s Baje Sargam, another national integration campaign with noted musicians like Shiv Kumar Sharma on santoor, Ram Narayan on sarangi, Zakir Hussain and his father Allah Rakha on tabla, Hariprasad Chaurasia on flute, besides classical dancers and spanning multi-cultural background.