Water gushes and thunders down rocks as Pt. Bhimsen Joshi in his distinct baritone sings ‘Mile sur mera tumhara’. The clear, vibrant beats of the tabla in the background match the rhythm of the water ripples. In his characteristic manner, the maestro expresses as much with his hands as his voice. He looks up at the fluffy clouds floating in the pale blue sky and continues to sing, ‘Badalon ka roop le kar barse halke halke’.
This rousing national integration song released on August 15, 1988 became no less popular than a Bollywood chartbuster. Developed by Lok Seva Sanchar Nigam, it still evokes patriotic fervour and fond memories of those quieter Doordarshan days. Thirty one years later, no other song on nationalism (another DD creation ‘Baje sargam har taraf’ comes a close second) has been able to replicate its wonderful combination of lilting tune, heart-warming lyrics and perfect visuals.
The concept of unity in diversity was conveyed not only through music but also through the personalities it featured from various fields. Shabana Azmi, Om Puri, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Tanuja, Hema Malini, Sharmila Tagore, Waheeda Rahman, Ramanathan Krishnan, Prakash Padukone, Diana Edulji, Arun Lal, S. Venkataraghavan, Mallika Sarabhai, Sudharani Raghupati, Mario Miranda, Mrinal Sen and Sunil Gangopadhyay… the exhaustive list was drawn up to represent every region of the country.
The song also featured 13 languages, brought together three musical geniuses – Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Lata Mangeshkar and M. Balamuralikrishna and was a blend of Indian classical, folk and modern sounds.
Recalling its making, jazz exponent and keyboardist Louis Banks, who arranged the music of ‘Mile sur…’, says, “We were positive about its impact even while working on it. It was brilliantly conceptualised by Suresh Mallick, then creative head of Ogilvy and Mather. The execution was even better, with every team member being the best at the task assigned. I enjoyed every moment spent on this project. Even now, I sometimes play it to experience the magic of this timeless creation. I become nostalgic thinking about the unprecedented response it generated.”
Well known Marathi composer Ashok Patki worked hard to bring in the flavour of the diverse cultures of our land in the music. “It took almost six months to make. Ace filmmaker Kailash Surendranath travelled around the country, filming personalities, landscapes and common people. There was emotion in every frame. These shots made all the difference and so did Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s fabulous opening. Piyush Pandey’s simple, yet powerful lyrics did the trick too,” adds Banks.
“Like its concept of harmony, the song was the result of great team effort. And if people still love it, we owe to the spirit of oneness,” says the veteran musician.