Every August 15 and January 26, wherever official or private programmes to celebrate the Independence Day and Republic Day are being held, the strains you are likely to hear would be most probably “Aao Bachon tumhe dikhaye”, “Kar chale hum fida”, “Chorho kal ki baaten”, “Mere Desh ki dharti” or “Dil diya jaan bhi denge, Ae Watan tere liye”.
It may seem strange, or rather evoke the dominant medium, that the National Anthem apart, almost all the other songs which inspire and evoke patriotic sentiment in a large section of Indians are from films. Even Vande Mataram’s most popular rendition was long from 1952 film “Anand Math” before A.R. Rehman re-interpreted it in the 1990s.
But there are more from the Abhi Bhattacharya homily from “Jagriti” (1954), that heart-breaking ending song from war drama “Haqeeqat” (1964), and from the Sunil Dutt-starring “Hum Hindustani” (1960), Manoj Kumar’s “Pukar” (1967) and “Karma” (1986) above. You could also expect to hear “Jahan daal daal par sone ki chidiya” (1965) from “Sikandar-e-Azaam” (1965), “Ae Watan Ae Watan” from Manoj Kumar’s “Shaheed” (1965), “Apni azaadi ko hum” from Dilip Kumar’s “Leader” (1964) as well as others of the ilk or from newer Bollywood films from 1990s onwards.
But a lot of much older – and sometimes more significant – patriotic film songs, even predate Independence, get overlooked or ignored. Let us look at some of these:
* “Chal chal re naujawan” from “Bandhan” (1940). Starring Ashok Kumar and Leela Chitnis, this duet, penned by Pradeep, was a subtle call to youth to strive for the goal of Independence which still seemed distant – and with equality. “Dur tera gaon/Aur thake paaon/Phir bhi rahagir..”, sings Leela and Ashok Kumar responds: “Tum ho mere sang/Asha hai mere sang/Tum ho mere sang/Himmat hai mere sang/Mere saath-saath raho tum Qadam-Qadam…”
* “Dur hato duniya waalo, Hindustan hamara hai” from Kismat (1943). Again written by Pradeep, this song by Khan Mastana and Ameerbhai Karnataki reportedly got past the British censor by the skillful last line: “Shuru hua hai jang tumhara jaag utho Hindustaani/Tum na kisi ke aage jhukna Jarman ho ya Jaapaani..” as World War II was raging. However, the Indian public was skillful at understanding whom “Jahan hamara Taj Mahal hai aur Qutab Minar hai/Jahan hamaare Mandir Masjid Sikhon ka gurudwara hai/Is dharti par qadam badhana atyachar tumhara hai” actually referred to.
* “Hindustan ke hum hain” – from “Pehle Aap” (1944). Sung by Mohammad Rafi and chorus, written by Nazim Panipati and music by Naushad, it sought to make an appeal for communal harmony and cooperation in achieving independence. “Hindustan ke hum hain, Hindustan hamara, Hindu Muslim dono ki aankhon ka tara…”
* “Yeh desh hamara pyara Hindustan” from Humjoli (1946). “Yeh Desh hamara pyara Hindustan, jahqan se nyara/Hindustan ke ham hain pyaare/Hindustan hamara pyara”, sang Noor Jehan in her sweet but strong voice and went on to “Jaag uthe hain Hind ke waasi/Hum ye zaahir kar denge/Waqt pada to desh ke liye apni jaan nichavar kar denge…” It would cruel irony that Hindustan would be divided bloodily next year.
* “Watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawan shaheed ho…” from “Shaheed” (1948). Possibly the first movie in Independent India on the freedom struggle, the DIlip Kumar-starrer had one of the most uncompromisingly heart-felt ode to freedom fighters. “Shaheed teri maut hi tere vatan ki zindagi/Tere lahu se jaag uthegi is chaman mein zindagi/Khilenge phul us jagah ki tu jahaan shaheed ho…” was rendered by Mohammad Rafi, while Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and Ghulam Haider provided the lyrics and the music respectively.
* Tuu Hindu banega na Musalman banega..” from “Dhool Ke Phool” (1959). “Tu Hindu banega na Musalman banega/Insaan ki aulad hai insaan banega/Kudrat ne to banai thi ek hi duniya/Hamne use Hindu aur Musalman banaya/Tu sabke liye aman ka paigham banega..,” veteran character Manmohan Krishna tells a child he is tending. Written by Sahir Ludhinavi, the lyrics go on: “Ye din ye iman dharam bechne wale/Dhan-daulat ke bhookhe vatan bechne wale/Tu inke liye maut ka ailaan banega..”