Aug 152012

Again a piece of Lazy Blogging- here is something adapted from a post I did last a few years on the Idea of India – through songs.

I had earlier posted a version of this post on Blogbharti, as a part of the spotlight series . Today, on the 58th Republic Day 65nd Independence Day, I thought that it may be appropriate to post it on my blog… This version has pics… and a few more songs…
One of the things that interest me is this entire concept of Indian identity. After all, there is nothing that we really have in common – not language, nor culture, not religion or even gods, or even a common philosophy, theology, or even a view of the world. (We think we do. But, if you probe even slightly you realise that we dont. ) Our multi-party democracy and our zillion paths and our seeming anarchy will drive any one seeing the country right up the proverbial wall. Yet, we know who we are. We may not be able to define it in specific words, but most of us know what we mean when we say we are Indian.

On  Independence Day – the day, we the diverse people of India became Independent and united – in this shape and form for the first time in history, I thought it would be nice to have a list of songs from Hindi Film Music that represent this Indian-ness;not the national identity or the citizenship part of us but something that we recognise in ourselves and others as being Indian. Why only Hindi Film Songs? well because I have limited exposure to songs in other languages. Here is my top 16, do add to the list.

1) Sare Jahan se Achcha Hindustan Hamara – Written by Iqbal way back at the turn of the last century, the song that, I hope, really defines India. Not just the nation state, not even the geographical land mass, but the spirit of the space. There is a stanza in the song,

Mazhab nahin Sikhata, aapas mein bair rakhna….
Hind hi hai hum, Hind hi hai ham vatan hai,
Hindustan hamara

More than anything else this symbolises secularism in India for me. Not secularism in the western sense of separation of organised state and organised religion, but secularism in the sense of mutual tolerance, acceptance and co-existance. The irony is that Mohammed Iqbal became one of the strong proponents of division on religious lines. I am not really sure if it was ever used in a film, in its entirety. The new version of it for the Incredible India campaign is also worth hearing. I couldn’t find the video of the one we all heard we were in school, so here is the one from the Incredible India campaign.

Gateway of India

The Gateway of India, Mumbai

2) Chino Arab Hamara, Hindustan Hamara Rehene Ko Ghar Nahin hai, Sara jahan hamara. Written by Sahir Ludhianvi and sung by Mukesh, for the film Phir Subah Hogi the song possibly is an anti thesis to Sare Jahan se Achcha. It captures the dispossession of the dispossessed. Written for the film made in 1958, the songs lyrics are still valid today. The song was not given playtime on AIR (the only medium on which the song could be heard). Check out this stanza

Jitni bi buldinge hai, Sethon ne baant li hai,
Footpath Mumbai ke hai aashia hamara

While the number of home owners has definitely increased since the film was released, so has the number of homeless footpath dwellers. There is another song in this film, also sung by Mukesh, that deals with similar feelings – Aasman Pe Hai Khuda, aur Zameen pe hum.


The Little Beggar Girl, Mumbai

3) Sajan re Jhooth Mat Bolo, Khuda ke paas Jaana Hai – Mukesh waxes philosophical in this folksy number from Teesri Kasam. Picturised on Mukesh, the lyrics are by Shailendra, and music by Shankar Jaikishen. Check out this stanza

Bhalaa Kije Bhalaa Hoga
Buraa Kije Buraa Hoga
Wahi Likh-Likh Ke Kya Hoga
Yahin Sab Kuch Chukana Hai

At a very core level this is so true. I remember a ricksahawaalah telling me when HKL Baghat died, aise log na aise hi saad saad ke marenge. But, the flip of it is true too. You hear of people giving complete strangers shelter after a downpour, people who risk life and limb to help strangers, water being given away on streets to pilgrims & passers-by.

4) Aurat ne Janam diya Mardon Ko, Mardon ne use Bazaar Diya. Lata Mangeshkar in a rant against a system that is male skewed. At the core, India is still very much a man’s world, with women as an after thought. It is still a country where a Prinyanka Todi is not allowed to exercise her choice, and a Priyanka Bhotmange is gang-raped to teach her a lesson, it is a society which is OK with terminating a girl child and a system where women are offered the chance to marry their rapist. There are success stories, but by and large she is still property. This has Sahir at his revolutionary best, music by N.Dutta. This film also contains the great Geeta Dutt number Ramji ke Dwar Pe, Tora Manva Kyon Gabraye Re…. Lakh deen dukhiyaare saare, Jag mein mukti paaye. Check out this stanza for its poignancy

mardon ne banaayee jo rasmen, unko haq kaa farmaan kahaa
aurat ke zindaa jalane ko, qurbaani aur balidaan kahaa
kismat ke badle roti di, aur usko bhi ehsaan kahaa

(woman – Marathwada)

5) Vande Maatram.The film Anand Math, Music by Hemant Kumar and sung by Lata Mangeshkar. There are many versions of this song, including the one on All India Radio, and later by A.R.Rehman but, this remains my favourite rendition. It takes a rare genius to take a song about the beauty of the mother goddess and convert it into a marching song.

sapta koti kantha kalakala ninaada karaale
nisapta koti bhujaidhruta kharakarvaale
ka bola ka noma eith bole
bahubal dhaariniin namaami taariniim
ripudalavaariniin maataram
vande maataram …

What does it mean –Aurobindo translates its as –

Glory of moonlight dreams, Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees, Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet! Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low! Mother, to thee I bow.

6) Yeh Mehlon, Yeh Takhton, Yeh Tajon Ki Duniya – Mohd. Rafi singing for Guru Dutt in one of the most famous scenes from Hindi Films. A silhouetted Guru Dutt singing to a bunch of men and women who have sold their souls for something else Yeh Duniya Agar mil Bi Jaaye to Kya Hai. One of those songs that resonate deep within your soul. The other great songs in this film were – Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind per woh Kahan Hai Kissi.

read all about it

The newspaper vendor

7) Kissi Ke Muskurahato pe Ho Nisaar – Bringing joys to those around you. Mukesh in the film Anari. India is full of men and women who just give up material things to bring happiness to others. Look at the number of NGO’s and the good that they are doing at the grassroots – the people who serve without recognition, because they want to. People who help those less fortunate than themselves:

Maana apni jeb se fakeer hain, Phir bhi yaaron dil ke ham ameer hain

I remember a Dalit activist telling me that he works with the Pardhi’s because they have even less than him. And those stories abound, people who just help each other.
Pardhi School
(A Pardhi school – Maharashtra, run by volunteers. Read more – here)

8) Chodo Kal Ki Baatein, Kal Ki Baat Purani, Naye daur mein likhenge milkar nayi kahaani Sung by Mukesh for the film “Hum Hindustani”. At a very basic level this epitomises our view of history. While it is a great philosophy to move on, it also means justice sometimes doesn’t get delivered. Check out this stanza:

Aaj puraani zanjeeron ko tod chuke hain
Kya dekhe us manzil ko jo chhod chuke hain
Chaand ke dar pe jaa pahuncha hai aaj zamaana
Naye jagat se hum bhi naata jod chuke hain
Naya khoon hai, nayi umangein, ab hai nayi jawaani

Innocence, Naughtiness, Friendship & Mirth

Children LS - Bikaner

9) Chitthi Aayi hai – Sung by Pankaj Udhas, music by Lakshmikant Pyarelal, lyrics by Anand Bakshi. I remember hearing this song when I was a student abroad, and for some peculiar reason, my eyes filled up. For as long as I lived abroad, this song moved me and on my return I found it cloyingly sentimental. There is something about India as ‘home’ that draws us back. How many of us know people who still call India home after living for donkey’s years in firangland and with firang citizenship? This is the stanza that used to reduce most people to tears :

Saat Samundar Paar Gaya Tu, Humko Zinda Maar Gaya Tu
Khoon Ke Rishte Todh Gaya Tu, Aankh Mein Aansoo Chhodh Gaya Tu
Kum Khaate Hain Kum Sote Hain, Bahut Zyaada Hum Rote Hain
Chitthi Aayi Hai


10) Mera Jootha hai Japani – Mukesh for Raj Kapoor in a song that is us. In a modern era it may be educated in London, with an Australian citizenship and a home in Spain. But phir bhi dil hai Hindustani. I love the modern reworking of this song too. Udit Narayan sings for Shah Rukh Khan in Phir bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. Check out this stanza for the new Indian chutzpaha

Thode anari hain thode khiladi, Ruk rukke chalti hai apni gaadi
Humein pyaar chahiye, Aur paise bhi
Hum aise bhi hain, Hum hain vaise bhi


11) Mera Rang De Basanti Chola – I love practically every version of this song, utilised in the Hindi Cinema. From the Mukesh & Mahendra Kapoor version in Shaheed to the Sonu Nigam version in the Legend of Bhagat Singh. While the title track from RDB is not strictly mera Rang de Basanti Chola, it too, for me, fits in. Somehow the song represents that part of us that revels in Independence. The modern Indian republic is the first time all of us have been equal stakeholders, and this anthem for me represents not just that part of us that knows that we are free, equal, and independent but the part of us that is willing to fight to keep it that way.

13) Choti si Aasha. We all hope, and we will wish for a better tomorrow. Small little hopes that we wish would come true. Sung by Minmini for the film Roja, the music director is A.R.Rehman. For me this song was more the Indian ethos than the patriotic Bahrat hamko jaan se pyaara hai. This is a new India, where everyone can hope, dream and hopefully can make it. It is the India, where the maid sends her children to an English medium school, where sachets rule the roost in rural India, and where the gardener, the carpenter and the milk man own a mobile to boost their own business, it is an India where we all have small dreams that can be realised.

I will be a pilot — says the girl to her brother….

14) Aao Bache Tumhe Dikhaye -We had just moved from Delhi to Bombay. I was 7 or maybe 8. There was this school in the lane in which we lived in Vile Parle (E). The PT teacher (he could have just been the NCC in charge) would get the kids in the school to sing this song after their march. It was, surprisingly harmonious. Today when I travel India and I come across some place ordinary, I am struck by its timelessness & beauty. this song echoes in my ears.Goosebumps time…

mornings ...

15) Allah tero Naam, Iswar tere Naam – Lata Mangeshkar in one of my favourite Bhajans from Hindi Films. Music by Jaidev, for the film Hum Dono. Tolerance as secularism – a very Indian ethos. And despite bombs, terror, and a fatwa per minute, despite Khalistan, Khaps, and moral police and the hardening of stands across the board — that value still persists. Watch ordinary people of all shapes, sizes, and all persuasions passing by religious monuments or on festival days … they still share …. the elite have moved away from this, but the bulk are still ‘secular’ – in their faith.

16) Chak De India – the Indian way of saying Just Do It. This is the India not of the class system or the caste system or the old aristocracy. This is the India of a Sunil Mittal, an Irfan Pathan, a Mahindra Singh Dhoni, a Shah Rukh Khan, the Mayawati. Men and women with no famous lineage, a modest background achieving dreams achieved within their own lifetime, while they are still young. This is the India of the small town IAS officer, the India of, hopefully, the new meritocracy. An India, where we as members of the Republic take charge of our own destiny and move ahead, despite the system.

Have a peaceful Independence Day, and spare a thought for all those who fought and continue to fight to ensure that those freedoms remain !


and finally,  the National Anthem – an extended version of it –

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