Wednesday, July 25, 2007


This song is a work of genius! Whatever may have been the point of it – to showcase the wonderful diversity in our land, to construct a stronger Indian identity among the TV watching middle class, or merely to serve as an instrument of self-aggrandisement by featuring the best in our land – it worked marvellously. The carefully crafted video, which brought beautiful music to life, succeeded in capturing our imagination. For me, the essence of the magic is in the musical words: different words intoned in dozens of different languages, but united in their meaning and united by the masterpiece of a song, conceptualised brilliantly and executed equally well.

Star power made the video something to watch out for. Apart from the superb vocal chords of the likes of Bhimsen Joshi, Balamurali Krishna and Lata Mangeshkar, there were quite a few famous faces from the world of sport and films. Narendra Hirwani doing a bit of a jig on the beach in his whites springs to my mind as one guy who probably didn’t deserve a spot in there, in hindsight anyway. Also, there are a few people who we might easily miss, there’s Arun Lal for instance, – one of the last guys to alight from what was chosen to showcase Bengal, the metro in Kolkata (or Calcutta, as it was then). I don’t even know all the people who feature in the Karnataka segment – there’s Prakash Padukone but the other three persons sitting in the jeep are unknown to me. Surprisingly, Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar don’t feature in the video. (But I do remember another video of the time in which these two icons carry torches as they run…)

The reigning beauties of the time (some past their prime?), included Hema Malini, Tanuja, Waheeda Rahman and Shabhana Azmi, all of who sync their lips to the voice of Lata Mangeshkar, the nightingale, who herself appears towards the end. The song picks up tempo just about then as it moves towards what I remember as my favourite part: fingers on the guitar leading up to appearance of the ‘heroes’ of the time – Amitabh Bachhan, Jeetendra and Mithun Chakraborty. The song ends on a high with the closing part of the National Anthem to provide a fitting finale.

YouTube has the video for anyone who wants to take the nostalgic trip in more detail. While going back in time with the video can be fun, I have always wanted to recreate the song, more in tune with the times and I have put down here a few of my ideas about what it should be like. The theme of “mile sur” should, no doubt, remain the same, but I would definitely have an entirely new musical score, to avoid messing with the pristine beauty of the old version. AR Rahman deserves to compose the music and I will give him full license to do as he pleases, though it might be a good idea to have Ustaad Zakir Hussain contributing.

As far as the video goes, I have strong ideas on how it should emerge. India might well have hopped on to the paths of liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation, but for me, the shots will still have the green of the trees and the blue of the seas, with a few elephants and tigers thrown in. An occasional glimpse of a flyover, a concrete jungle (probably a beautiful shot at night) and some computers (village kids or old people or smiling young people at the computers) should suffice to indicate our progress.

Now for some updated star power! Rahman would appear somewhat like Lata Mangeshkar does in the old one. Other easy replacements include the lovely ladies who make it: Madhuri Dikshit, Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukerjee and Kareena Kapoor. The heroes have to be Sharukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Hritik Roshan. Amitabh Bachhan, this time around, doesn’t make the cut, unfortunately for him and neither does his son Abhishek Bacchan. (This is not about my favourites! I am trying to be as objective as possible: I want to include only those who deserve it).

Some other people who would make it into my video include a few from the cricket team: Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Kumble, Dhoni (give or take a few) would be the men in blue standing shoulder to shoulder sporting broad smiles. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati might still manage one chest bump for the screen. Rajvardhan Singh Rathore, Vishwanathan Anand and Sania Mirza make the cut easily…

I would like to make it a well-rounded video, including so many things that people see a new dimension every time they see it. The difficult part, though, is to decide who and what should represent the various regions, while being neutral and above-board in all respects. I have to make sure that no language or region is undeservedly left out and that each gets it due, as far as possible. Plus, there are a lot of other details to be worked out: the singers, dancers, actors… But it’s a bit of a headache to plan the whole thing right now. I’ll just leave the rest for the time when I actually get down to making the video… Contributions in terms of ideas are welcome!