Songs Of Patriotism
Not until too long in the past regardless of the subject-matter or the theme of a film songs played a vital role in the progression of the story because there is no aspect of human relationship that has not only been explored threadbare in mainstream Indian cinema, especially Hindi cinema, but, perhaps, also done to death. And that, indeed, has both been the strength or weakness whether the film is pure fantasy, real or unreal segment culled out of history or just make-believe. In many cases, the intent being to carry the story forward, without deploying too much of repetitive sentiment or emotion that could prove jarring. It has also been used as a creative cinematic device to jump-cut from one place to another, one situation to another, one kind of emotion to another.
Mainstream Hindi cinema, or for that matter Indian cinema, throughout its century-old existence has been accused of pandering to laser elements in its attempt to entertain, whether through tearjerkers or ridiculous romcoms, and not playing a positive role in nation building. But it cannot be accused of failing to discharge its duty to not focus on taking up issues and causes, or arousing a nationalistic fervor in times of need. And whenever it couldn’t hit directly, it used song and dance as a device to produce the desired results. This was particularly in times of crisis, whether before or after Partition, even when draconic laws imposed by the British administration made directing message across. One of the earliest examples of this was Kavi Pradeep (best remembered later, even till now for Lata Mangeshkar-rendered Aaye mere watan ke logo, zara ankh mein bhar lo paani, joh shaheed hue hai unki, zara yaad karo qurbani (after the Chinese aggression) Aaj Himalaya ki choti se phir humne lalkara hai, dur hato aye duniya walo Hindustan hamara hai (Ashok Kumar starrer Kismet in 1943) when the freedom struggle was at its zenith. And there is a whole story behind how it got through the censors. Later he also wrote Aao bachchon tumhe dikhayen and De di hame azaadi bina khadag bina dhaal (Jagrati, 54), and many other nationalistic and patriotic songs. And who can forget Geeta Bali singing Vande mataram vande mataram, sujalam suflam from the film Anand Math (51).
There must not be less than a hundred songs that celebrate the spirit of freedom in both pre-and-post independent eras but almost non-existent after the Manoj Kumar Kranti in the 1981, though situations have surely been devised, once in a while like in a Subhash Ghai’s Karma: Dil diya hai jaan bhi denge aai watan tere liye or Chak de Chak de India also from Shah Rukh starrer, Chak De!India or Ashutosh Gawarikar’s Swades with Yeh jo des hai tera picturised on Shah Rukh Khan; Sarfaroshi ki shama dil mein jala lo yaron from Sarfarosh (99). Similar other songs invoking fervor, to name just a few, have been in Bimal Roy’s Kabuliwala (57) with Balraj Sahni essaying the title role, Aaye mere pyare watan; Mehboob Khan’s Son of India (64): Nanha munna rahi hoon; S Mukherjee’s Dilip Kumar-Vyjanthimala starrer Leader (64) which had Apni azaadi ko ham hargiz mita sakte nahin; Sunil Dutt singing away Chodo kal ki baten kal ki baat purani in Hum Hindustani (60); Jahan dal dal per sone ki chidya karti hai basera in Sikandar-e-Azam (65); Yeh desh hai veer jawanon ka albelo ka mastano ka from BR Chopra’s Naya Daur; Kaifi Azmi-Madan Mohan’s Aab tumhare hawale watan sathiyo in Chetan Anand’s war saga, Haqeeqat (64)or Taaqat watan ki hum se hai, a battlefield number by SD Burman in Prem Pujari (70). Then there were the AR Rehman composition Bharat humko jaan se pyara from Roja; Baar baar haan (Lagaan), Sandeshe aate hai (Border)
A film under the title of Shaheed has been made thrice, though the original Dilip Kumar-Kamini Kaushal starrer (48) stands out not only for Ramesh Saigal’s treatment but also Qamar Jallalabadi’s heart-rending lyrics set to immortal music by Ghulam Haider : Watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawan Shaheed hon and Badnaam na ho jaaye mohabbat ka fasana. There have been as many as six fictional accounts of Bhagat Singh’s life from Prem Adib-starrer Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh (54) to Shaheed Bhagat Singh with Shammi Kapoor which for the first time used Bismal’s Sarfaroshi ki tamana ab hamare dil mein hai and Mera rang de basanti chola (63); The Legend of Bhagat Singh starring Ajay Devgn; the less celebrated Shaheed Bhagat Singh with Harbhajan Mann; and 23rd March 1931: Shaheed (02) with Bobby Deol. Though Aamir Khan starrer Rang De Basanti (06) has also been mentioned as another one on the subject, apart from the title it only had oblique references to the martyr. And in-between had been Manoj Kumar’s take on the subject, titled Shaheed (65) which was, probably the most lyrical as well as authentic, matter-of-fact attempt.
Manoj Kumar, however, took patriotism into another stream altogether with Mere desh ki dharti sona ugley ugley heere moti (Upkar, 67), a sort of anthem that plays everywhere on both Republic and Independence days and followed it up with extremely popular compositions like Hai preet jahan ki reet sada main geet wahan ke gata hoon, Bharat ka rehne walla hoon Bharat ki baat sunata hoon, Zero hi diya mere bharat ne, Dulhan chali o pehan chali teen rang ki choli. If Hai preet song from Purab aur Paschim (70) celebrated patriotism in post-independence India, Yeh mera India, I love my India from Subhash Ghai’s Perdes (97) or Yeh jo des hai tera Swades hai tera from Gowarikar’s Swades (04) were the culmination of that euphoric spirit that did not quite jell with the ground reality.
Unfortunately, with the kind of technically savvy cinema that is being churned out from Bollywood it has little or no scope whatsoever for another round of patriotic songs, and it is doubtful that even if a situation arises that demands such songs, the state of degeneration that the country is facing will inspire even a diehard patriotic to pen lyrics that will arouse the nationalistic spirit, not even the growing menace of terrorism or yet another armed confrontation. The new Hindi cinema inspires only Jawan Sheelas, Badnaam Munnis, Chikni Chamelis, and Jalebi Bais.
By Suresh Kohli