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31 August 2011

My Favourites: Patriotic Songs

I love my country with all her flaws and frailties. I cannot live without my annual fix of all things India - to be able to walk the streets, surrounded by people, masses and masses of people, talking, laughing, arguing, living!; to travel by autos and buses and local trains; to be able to eat the street food, to just be!  When I come back to the place I live, it is the lack of noise that disorients me. I am used to horns honking, dogs barking, cycle bells ringing, the hustle and bustle of a city that never sleeps.

I was listening to Ae mere pyaare watan yesterday; it is my go-to song when I am feeling homesick. YouTube decided to inform me that I should also listen to Ae mere watan ke logon, and Hai preet jahan ki reet sada. That's when I realised that this is the perfect month to list my favourite patriotic songs. Earlier this month, India celebrated the 64th anniversary of her independence. So, here, in reverse order, are my favourite patriotic songs from Hindi films:

10. Yeh maati sab ki kahani kahegi (Navrang / 1958 / C Ramchandra / Bharat Vyas / Mahendra Kapoor)
Navrang narrated the story of a man who loves his wife Jamuna. She is unable to understand his obsession with poetry, and he is forced to create a muse in his wife's reflection, whom he calls Mohini. Unlike the other songs in the film, Maati sab ki kahani kahegi  is filled with a nationalistic fervour. The land has passed into the hands of the British, and the people are being warned that the Queen of England is now ruler of the country. The poet retorts that the soil has seen countless empires come and go. And will doubtless see the British come and go too.
Ye maati hai tab se 
Na jab tum the aaye
Ye maati rahegi
Na jab tum rahoge

9. Door hato ae duniyawalo Hindustan hamara hai (Kismat / 1945 / Khan Mastana, Amirbai Karnataki/ Anil Biswas / Pradeep)

This song is important because it was written and filmed in pre-independent India. And while Kavi Pradeep's lyrics paid lipservice to taking up arms against the Germans and the Japanese, it is quite evident that the song was aimed at the British. I can only think that the person at the Censor Board of the time was equally, if not more, patriotic! While not the most meaningful of protest songs, it became the one song that spoke  to the freedom fighters of the time, and became their rallying call. 

8. Jahan dal dal par (Sikander-e-Azam / 1965 / Hansraj Behl / Rajinder Kishen / Mohammed Rafi)

A period film set in 326 B.C. when Alexander invaded India; he is stopped at the Jhelum by King Porus and his troops. More than anything, it displays a fervent pride in Bharat desh, describing it as a land of milk and honey.
7. Hum laaye hai toofan se kishti sambhal ke (Jagriti / 1954 / Hemant Kumar / Pradeep / Mohammed Rafi)
India had won its independence, and it was important that the war-torn nation be rebuilt, that the wound that the Partition had left behind be healed. It was a monumental task that the leaders of our fledgling nation undertook - and the film industry was not too far behind.  Produced a few years after independence, Jagruti was one such nation-building exercise with Abhi Bhattacharya as the idealistic teacher; the beacon of hope inspiring and exhorting his students to greatness... 
Tumhi bhavishya ho mere Bharat vishaal ke
Is desh ko rakhna mere bachchon sambhaal ke

6. Cheeno-arab hamara (Phir Subah Hogi / 1958 / Khayyam / Sahir Ludhianvi / Mukesh) 
This is a song that became very popular, very controversial and was very nearly banned. It is a satirical take on Iqbal's Taraane-e-milli, and Taraane-e-hind. It is not nationalistic in that it is not extolling the virtues of Hindustan like the usual patriotic songs. It is a very cynical take on what Hindustan is really like - and after the war, it was impossible to keep the idealism going. Sahir's vitriolic pen provided a voice to the disenchanted youth. I would still consider it patriotic, though, since it ends on a very upbeat note: 
Patla hai haal yeh apna lekin lahu yeh jaada
Faulad se bana hai har naujawan hamara
Mil julke is watan ko aisa sajaayenge hum
Hairat se munh takega saara jahaan hamara

5. Yeh desh hai veer jawanon ka (Naya Daur / 1957 / OP Nayyar / SH Bihari / Mohammed Rafi, Balbir)
Ten years before the movie was made, India achieved independence. However, the British had done their job well. The years of overlordship, and the Partition had reduced a once great country to a nation that needed to rise above the rubble of war.  The 50s was the decade when our leaders bent willingly to the task of nation building. 

While Naya Daur was basically a film about the clash between old and new, this song, not only described what it was that made India great, but also what its youth were willing to do in her defence. 
Dilbar ke liye dildaar hain ham
Dushman ke liye talwar hain ham
Maidaan me agar ham
Maidaan me agar ham dat jaayen
Mushkil hai ke peeche hat jaayen

Self-explanatory, isn't it? Accompanied by some energetic choreography (the use of Bhangra in a dance for the first time), Rafisaab and Balbir outdid themselves in the singing. 

4. Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai (Shaheed / 1965 / Prem Dhawan / Ram Prasad Bismil / Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey)
These were fighting words. And why not? They were penned by a man who gave his life for the country - Ramprasad Bismil was hanged by the British for his part in the Kakori conspiracy. It was set to music by Prem Dhawan for Shaheed - an apt choice, since the movie was the story of Bhagat Singh and his friends. Maybe it is because those young men were willing to put their lives at stake, and did - but of all the patriotic songs that are sung and broadcast during Independence Day in India, this is the one that brings tears to my eyes. It brings back to memory the stories of many, many young men (and women) like them, who gave their all for the sake of a nation. 

3. Vande mataram, vande mataram (Anand Math / 1952 / Hemant Kumar / Bankim Chandra Chatterjee / Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar)
Probably the oldest known patriotic song ever. It was penned by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in his novel Anand Math in the mid-nineteenth century. It narrated the story of the Sanyasi Rebellion of the late eighteenth century. The song became the rallying call of the nationalists during the first war of Indian independence, and so frightened the British that they banned the book.  Soon after independence, Vande Mataram  became the national song of India. 

The film, Anand Math, based on Bankim Chandra's novel had this rousing song sung twice - once by Hemant Kumar and once by Lata Mangeshkar.

2. Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyon (Haqeeqat / 1962 / Madan Mohan / Kaifi Azmi / Mohammed Rafi)
Probably the best war film in Hindi cinema, Haqeeqat was set during the Sino-Indian war; the song, sung with such poignancy by Mohammed Rafi, shows the ultimate sacrifice of our army men. They are dying, but before doing so, they are rallying others to fight for the cause of national sovereignity. This is a quiet, dignified song; one dedicated to all the men and women who died in the service of our country. 
Raah qurbaaniyon ki na veeran ho, 
Tum sajaathe hi rehna naye kaafile, 
Fateh ka jashn is jashn ke baad hai, 
Zindagi maut se mil rahi hai gale, 
Baandh lo apne sar se kafan saathiyon, 
Ab tumhare hawale, watan saathiyon

1. Ae mere pyaare watan (Kabuliwala / 1961 / Salil Choudhary / Prem Dhawan / Manna Dey
On the face of it, not a 'patriotic' song, is it? Yet, every line reflects a man's love for his land and his longing for the country of his birth. Salilda's music, just barely there, and his use of the rubab (a fretted instrument) sets the mood nicely. And Mannada sings this with such pathos in his voice, that it is difficult to hold tears back. It is ironic that the singer (in the film) is not an Indian; the land he is longing for is not India, it is Kabul. He is a Pathan, and he longs for the smell of his native soil, the winds whisper its name to him; it's his life and his honour, and the memories are almost too much for him to bear. And his dearest wish is that he can go back there one day, back to the land where he was born.
Hum jahan paide huye
Us jagah hi nikle dam 
Tujh pe dil qurbaan
Maybe it is because I live so far from the land of my birth that this song tugs at my heartstrings. It will always be the most definitive patriotic song for me. Ever. 

And there are songs that I haven't listed - it is so difficult to choose, but off the top of my head - two other songs from Shaheed (Ae watan, ae watan and Mere rang de basanti chola), Apni azaadi ko hum hargiz mita sakte nahin (Leader), Ae mere watan ke logon (non-filmi), and even the pop-patriotic Mere desh ki dharti from Upkaar - what can I say? I like patriotic numbers, and it is sad indeed that they are no longer a part of films made today. The one song that I cannot bear at any cost is Hai preet jahan ki reet sada from Purab aur Paschim. Maybe that is because the film itself made me cringe - with its 'Indian culture good, western culture baa--aa-d' message hammered into our brains with every scene. 

These are my favourites. What about yours?


  1. Wonderful list, Anu. Such melodious songs, even Cheeno Arab hamara . My favourite patriotic song is Aye watan, aye watan from Shaheed. Not that I do not like the others, but this one makes me all passionate about my Indianness.

  2. I know what you mean, Ruhi. I was watching the clip of Aye Watan on YouTube yesterday; and it does make you wonder what went through the minds of those young men when they made such a big promise. I think Shaheed was one of the best movies made on the pre-independence struggle.

  3. I spent the last half an hour or so listening to this selection. You know I am not very familiar with the older songs, so I heard some of them for the first time. I made Rishi translate your favourite song for me - it is very touching. I can see how you would feel homesick. And there was such feeling in the singer's voice. Some of the songs, I didn't quite like - maybe because I cannot understand the lyrics?

  4. Great list, Anu! (And I see that you and I share the same all-time patriotic song - besides a few other favourites, as well). Loved your list; there were some there I'd have put on my list too, if I'd seen the film - I have a self-imposed rule that I only list songs from films I've watched.

    By the way, a little bit of trivia: the Pakistani film Bedari was a copy of Jagriti, down to the music. Check out some of these:




  5. Which ones didn't you like, Tina? Not that I'm saying that you should have liked all of them; I'm just curious. :)

  6. Or am I being blind to our jingoism too?

  7. You only have to watch Purab aur Pachhim to see how jingoistic we could get! ;-)

  8. I *hated* Purab aur Paschim, Madhu. With a vengeance! Especially the "India good, West baa-a-a-ad" message they kept hammering into us at every turn!

    I was actually talking about whether 'Aao bachon tumhe dikhaye' was as jingoistic as its Pakistani counterpart. Somehow, it seemed milder - more nationalistic than jingoistic. Maybe it is because 'Vande Mataram' doesn't have the same, what's the word I am looking for?, *militancy* as 'Zindabad'...

  9. Anu, I didn't like 'Jahan daal daal par sone ki chidiya'. And I am a bit iffy about 'Door hato, ae duniyawalon'. The first because I'm a very visual person and the visuals spoiled any liking toward the song; the second for no particular reason that I can rationalize. Just didn't like it that much. That's all.

  10. Chalo, I feel very nationalistic now. And I wish you had added 'Ae mere watan ke logon' even if it isn't a film song. Lata has sung that with so much feeling.

  11. Don't get me wrong, I like Ae mere watan ke logon; but somehow it got a bit overwhelming - it was like I was being *forced* to remember the martyrs, and it went on and on and on. And on.

  12. I rather agree about "Ae mere watan ke logon", it sort of goes on and on and the use of the word "....koi madrasi" jars on me unbearably. I know that for northies all south indians are madrasis but to use it in a serious song....!  But I feel that "ae mere pyaare watan" is really a very patriotic song? I love it and for me it's "THE SONG" as far as love for one's land is concerned.

  13.  Oh, I love the song. Don't get me wrong. She really sang it with so much feeling. But it's just that at some point, you wanted it to stop. :) Agree with you about Madrasi being jarring. Sigh.

  14. I stumbled upon this old post of yours. I am glad you gave the pride of place to 'Ae mere pyare watan' which poignantly depicts the longing one feels for one's land without going into jingoism. I wonder if you have seen the film Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose with Abhi Bhattacharya in the title role. One of my favourite patriotic songs is from that film. Netaji is being taken to Japan by a German submarine. The Captain surfaces it as they pass the coast of India to let him take a look. He stands on the deck with folded hands and sings 'Janm bhoomi maa' in the magical voice of Hemant: http://youtu.be/U3OTMs3ZaXE

  15. Thank you, Subodh. It is because I live away from my homeland that Ae mere pyaare watan strikes such a chord!

    No, I have not seen the film you mention. Thanks for the song you linked.It was beautiful indeed.


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