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A New Song About Democracy: And Some Old Favourites

Songs about the Indian democracy that make us feel hopeful

The lyricist of a new song about the choices we have these elections, shares her favourite patriotic songs with us

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Anukriti Pande is the lyricist for a catchy new song about the choices (or lack thereof) presented before us these elections called “Democracy Ka Tamasha”. She talks to us here about the process of producing this insanely catchy number, and about some of her other  favourite patriotic songs.

The Democracy Song was born one evening about fifteen days ago when I was egging on my friends Vaibhav and Abhishek who’ve started a band called The Indian Crew to sing more self-compositions. They, I think, got a little sick of my insistence and asked me to write something for them.

We had also been discussing these elections and how we actually have no real choice when you think about it . All of us were on the same page about choosing the lesser evil though (Not the right platform to go into that discussion so I will stick to the song!). Anyway,  one thing led to another, and we decided to create a song about the conundrum the Indian voter is in- something that voices the fears every one is feeling at this moment in a catchy way. That is how the first two lines took shape

Bhaiya tension na lo itna zyada

Democracy ka Super Tamasha

Abhishek(our music director) is a very talented young musician with a slight bias towards the western forms of music, so it wasn’t easy to convince him to go folksy on this one! But he agreed eventually and did a brilliant job, didn’t he? Vaibhav (our lead vocalist) was originally supposed to sing it alone. But by the time I had finished writing the song, we all had sung it together so many times that it very organically ended up sung by all three of us!

We have tried to make an honest song. We’ve used dark humor and some melodious notes to make our point. There was no funding from anywhere. We spent money from our pockets for hiring the recording studio. We mixed the song ourselves and it was quite a process!

I went around with my camera taking random shots of Delhi keeping in mind the flavour of the song. Then we used our laptops and some editing software to make a video (of our four minute song) out of these 2000 moving and still images!

Our intention is to not deride anyone but say things as they are, it’s too bad if we have politicians that have given us a chance to say some of these things. The song has got an overwhelming response on the social media at least. A few radio stations showed their inability to play it as it is ‘too political’. It only made us laugh and sing some more. We feel strongly for our country and its institutions and really hope we don’t get another chance to make such a song again!

As for my own favourite patriotic songs, here are some of them:

Insaaf ki Dagar Pe Bachhon Dikhao Chal Ke

This song from the iconic movie Ganga Jamuna(1961) makes me teary eyed every time I hear it . Sung by Hemant Kumar and put to tune by Naushad, these immortal words of Shakeel Badayuni have so much hope in them that it hurts. The school teacher with a gentle face is singing it to a bunch of students shining with the kind of enthusiasm that only children are capable of. At the time of the release of the film ‘azad bharat’ was young too. This song is like an appeal to the entire nation. It is asking India to internalize the values of truth, justice, ethics and to never waver from the right path. It is sung with such noble intention that it almost breaks my heart!  The three masters Shakeel, Naushad and Hemant Kumar strike the right chord by making this not just about one nation when they say ‘Insaaniyat ke sar pe izzat ke taaj rakhna.’

This is the song which had first taught me that patriotism is actually about humanity.

Aye Watan Aye Watan Humko Teri Qasam

Lyrics and music by the talented Prem Dhawan, this song from Shaheed(1965), a film on Bhagat Singh, gives me goose bumps. I like it for the emotion it convey with such simplicity. It anthropomorphizes the country, addresses her, swears by her and tells her that we are willing to die for her. The events leading up to this song also make it my favorite. Chandrashekhar Azad is trying to deter Bhagat Singh from joining their movement citing all sorts of trials and tribulations that a patriot has to face. Bhagat Singh’s polite counter argument matches him word for word. When Azad is still not convinced, Singh decides to swear on the flame of a brightly burning candle and conveys what he feels for his nation through this song. As a child seeing him sing ‘teri raahon mein jaan tak lutaa jaayenge’ and never removing his palm from the flame made me feel very determined about wanting to do something for the country. That sentiment may be laughable today and you can tell me all about trick photography but I can assure you I have kept that emotion intact, candle flame or not!

Aao Bachhon Tumhe Dikhayein Jhanki Hindustan Ki

I have always loved this song for the simple reason that it gives a tour of the country and reminds us of India’s history! Written and sung by Pradeep, the music was given by Hemant Kumar for the film Jagriti (1954). There is a train, a bunch of kids and a master who makes them sing along ‘Vande Matram, Vande Matram’, what’s not to adore about this song! The beats of the song as the train chugs along always make me cheer up. The particular stanza:

 Jaliyan wala bagh yeh dekho

Yahan chalee thee goliyaN

Yeh mat poochho kisne khelee yahan khoon kee holiyaN

Ek taraf bandooke dan dan ek taraf thee toliyaN

Maranevale bol rahe thhe inqulab kee boliyaN

And especially the concluding line:

  Yahan laga dee beheno ne bhi bazee apni jan kee

Iss mittee se tilak karo yeh dharti hai balidan ki;

are what came to my mind when I visited Amritsar almost two and half decades after I first heard this song.

Zindagi Maut Na Ban Jaaye

This song from Sarfarosh(1999) written by Israr Ansari and set to tune by Jatin-Lalit has been sung with a lot of gusto and feel by Roop Kumar Rathod and Sonu Nigam. The song is arranged like a qawwali making it intense and peppy at the same time. I like this song for its candid warning ‘Kho raha chayn-o-aman, mushkilo mein hai watan’. It also makes me think of the country coming almost full circle from the days of Bhagat Singh’s Aye Watan, Aye Watan. Not a very happy feeling that. The picturisation is fascinating too. Part of the opening credits song of the film, it shows all sorts of illegal activities taking place over the length and breadth of the country. However the beauty of the song is that despite showing an honest picture of the situation, there is no cynicism. In fact there is a call ‘sarfaroshi ki shama dil mein jalaa lo yaaron’. It is time for us to act, to take the plunge to set things right for the nation.  The sentiment works for me brilliantly.

Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyara Hai. 

At a time when there were only the ‘old’ Hindi patriotic songs to fall back on, A.R.Rehman came up with this gem in Roja (1992). I can safely call it the first genuinely good modern desh-bhakti song. And the lyrics though translated from the original Tamil are to die for! ‘Sab hi toh bhai-bhai pyaar se rahenge hum’ made me cry (secretly!) the first time I heard it. The situation of the song in the film is very charged. However only the interlude of this song (which is in a high-pitched-forty-piece-orchestra-chorus style) represents it. Otherwise it is a very quiet and soft number with Hariharan’s mellow voice doing full justice to it. And that is the beauty, this contrast between its chorus and the refrain.

After a pause when he goes…

Hindustani Naam Hamara Hai…’ I shamelessly let the gooseflesh happen, every single time.

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Photo Credit: boston_camera via Compfight cc

1 Comment on A New Song About Democracy: And Some Old Favourites

  1. Good list. Thanks for sharing

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