A journey on Doordarshan from “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” to “Jana Gana Mana”

India celebrates its Republic Day on the 26th of January. This is not to be confused with its Independence Day (Aug 15th) which commemorates its independence from British rule. The Republic Day commemorates the framing of the Indian Constitution. This year assumes special significance in the aftermath of the horrific rape of a woman in Delhi a couple of months ago. At times like this, it is important for us to look at what the nation should mean to us, the people and also to those who govern the nation. In this post, I look back at some wonderfully patriotic and beautiful “national unity” pieces from the 80’s and 90’s that filled the only channel available to us then, India’s state owned Doordarshan

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The first video I wanted to talk about is an untitled piece featuring all of India’s then major sportsmen and women. I love this because it evokes a fantastic sense of patriotism. Sports is one of those things that triggers everyone’s patriotic bone especially during international events and tournaments. This one showcases some of the very best Indian sportsmen and women of the era and any era for that matter. The sight of late Pataudi and Milkha Singh and Sunny and of course a sprinting Krish Srikanth is one of sheer joy. 

The second one is one that is totally devoid of stars but strong in its messaging quotient.  I remember this charming animated piece “Ek Chidiya…Anek Chidiyan” which stresses on the power of team work and unity. At a time when the country is so splintered, a simple video like this conveys the message of unity better than many others. 

The next piece is probably the most popular one in this list. It created waves when it launched and most folks from that era will remember. “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” was a gem of a piece that boasted not just great visuals and wonderful performances but a strong unity amidst diversity theme. A country with thousands of languages and dialects and unique musical heritages deserved something that celebrated it. This nailed it. Bhimsen Joshi gets to play the anchor for this epic set to Raga Sindu Bhairavi. Even today, I get goosebumps seeing the assemblage of sheer talent in this video.

A couple of years ago, there was an attempt to recreate the “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” magic. This time they crammed it with western music and a ton of stars and very few real musicians. The result is something that is a decent yet short of stellar outing. The original shines when compared to this effort.

Which brings us to my favorite in this compilation. Each of these pieces are great in their own aspect, especially the original “Mile Sur”. But if there is one that holds its own and is brilliantly conceived, it is “Desh Raag”. I lean towards this over “Mile Sur” purely because of my classical music background. The way the concept of a Raga is woven with its namesake identity of a nation is brilliant. And the artists are breathtaking. Just watch it.

The last featured piece of this post is the most recent too. A.R.Rahman, the genius of Indian music has carved a niche for himself in remaking patriotic pieces to suit current tastes. It started with his immensely popular “Vande Mataram” which deserves a post of its own. But to me, it was capped by this fantastic piece conceived with the brilliant Bharat Bala to celebrate India’s National Anthem. The piece titled, “Jan Gan Man” featured an album of vocal and instrumental pieces of the anthem. Experience this piece here.

I cant wrap this post up before I give a shot out to Doordarshan for believing in and funding such ventures. Beyond the nostalgia factor, they not only showcase some of India’s greatest and best but deliver the key point home- one of unity in diversity.

I created a public Youtube playlist of all these songs. There are additional patriotic pieces in that compilation that fall outside the scope of this post but still worth a listen.

As a final note, enjoy this really old and low-quality video of the iconic DD theme music. The video quality may be poor, but was this magical or what.

Happy Republic Day folks.

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