A playlist for August 15th

It is the 15th of August. That day when 66 years ago, India became free from British rule. It has been 13 years since I left India. I miss my country all the time. Every trip I make back home reminds me how much of the country is in me. On days like today, I soak myself with all the music that fits the mood. Today, in keeping with the theme of India’s Independence Day, I have been listening to some really fantastic patriotic music. It has been a while since I posted something on this blog. If you are not aware, I recently published a book titled “Mahabharata for Kids“(you can buy it here) and that kept me busy. I have been slowly getting back to my blogging routine. So here goes one on patriotic songs. All the songs are in Hindi- just so you know in advance.

This list is in no particular order. Each song is special. This list can go on and on. Indian film makers have been smart enough to capitalize on the strong feelings that such songs can evoke. I am also sticking purely to film songs. I had once written a post on some excellent patriotic compositions made by Doordarshan for television. You can find that here. This one is all film music.

1. Vande Mataram – Anand Math

Yes, ARR made a version of it that went down very well with the public. But there is something inherently pure about this song. Bankimda’s composition is brought to life by Hemant Kumar in his inimitable voice. Pure gold. Here is the alternate version by Lata which is equally brilliant- listen to her take it to brilliant peaks.

2. Nanha Munna Rahi Hoon – Son of India

This song more than anything else captures the innocence and purity of the freedom struggle. This song brings a lump to my throat everytime I listen to it. I had to dig up the name of the singer- Shanti Mathur but that doesnt take away the joy that it offers to the listener.

3. Chodo Kal ki Baatein- Hum Hindustani

A movie that I have never seen but the song is one that I have heard over and over again. Mukesh does a stellar job on this song. It talks about taking baby steps after Independence.

4. Aaye mera pyare watan – Kabuliwala

Absolutely brilliant song by Manna Dey from a fantastic movie- Kabuliwala featuring the fantastic Balraj Sahni. There is so much in this song and in the movie that it is worth multiple listens. Another tear jerker song that just echoes long after it is over.

5. Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna – The Legend of Bhagat Singh

Goosebumps. ARR’s music and Sonu Nigam’s soulful rendition weave magic here for Raj Kumar Santoshi’s hidden gem. The song is just gorgeous. Every word is filled with the spirit of the freedom fight and Bhagat Singh’s unique place in the pantheons of Indian history. The entire album is fantastic. One other personal favorite is “Desh mere”.

6. Mere desh ki dharti – Upkar

Manoj Kumar made this very jingoistic movie inspired by Lal Bahadur Shastri. But the song in itself conveys the spirit of the rural India. And yes, it got a lot of TV time during Independence Day’s past.

7. Yes Desh Hai Veer- Naya Daur

Very similar in tone to Upkar, this movie was all about the farmer and what he meant to the young country. Dilip Kumar emotes to the voice of the fantastic Rafi in a rollickingly fun movie even by today’s standards. It is hard to not get a kick out of this song and the movie.

8. Aao Bache Tumhe Sikayen- Jagriti

This is an unheralded gem that was introduced by AIR for me. Hemantda’s beautiful and inspiring composition is voiced by Pradeep and is a lesson for kids of today.

9. Bharat Humko Jaan Se – Roja

The tamizh version from Roja is better IMHO but that doesnt take away from this piece. Hariharan is brilliant as is ARR’s composition. Watch it start peacefully and reach a crescendo and the backing vocals for that section.

10. Yeh Jo Des hai mera – Swades

One of my all time favorites that I saved for the end. SRK delivers a bravura performance, one of the best of his career. Ashutosh Gowarikar weaves a modern tale of patriotism that hits very close to home. And what a composition and vocals by ARR to match the words of Javed Akhtar. I chose the MTV Unplugged version of the song here for two reasons- it elevates the song and the tamil words in the end (at 3:58) give a solid punch. Bravo!. Here is the movie version for those interested.

A couple of mentions that tie into the theme without explicitly representing it. The fantastic piece from Guddi, Hum Ko Man Ki Shakti dena, gives me strength even today. And then there is the eternally optimistic piece- Hum Honge Kamiyaab that was inspired by the Pete Seeger piece but went on to become a parallel anthem in India.

We live in a cynical world and corruption is rampant in India. But it should not be forgotten that this country was built on the sacrifices of millions of people in the hope that we will learn to respect and appreciate one another.

Here is a public Youtube playlist of some of these songs and some others that inspire a sense of patriotism on this special day.

Happy Independence Day.