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The alt patriotic playlist

Three film songs on the nation that question, critique and mock

Sunil Dutt in a still from the movie ‘Didi’.
Sunil Dutt in a still from the movie ‘Didi’.

Humne Suna Tha Ek Hai Bharat, Didi (1959): The simplicity and clarity of Humne Suna Tha Ek Hai Bharat, composed by Datta Naik and written by Sahir Ludhianvi, is striking. A group of students have questions for their teacher: The India they have read about in textbooks isn’t the same as they see in real life, where there is dharam-jaat, Harijan-Brahman and khoon-kharaba. One of the boys aks earnestly, “Aapne jo kuch hamko padhaya, woh to kahin bhi nazar na aaya." The ball is now in the court of the teacher—a wonderfully effective Sunil Dutt. Eager to combat the cynicism, he sings that India isn’t all that bad either: “Karam se badh kar kisi manushya ki koi bhi pehchan nahi." A gentle exchange between a teacher and his students in a film song from 1959 becomes a lesson in patriotism.

Maula Mere, Chak De! India (2007): Beginning with the strains of azaan, the sharp opening line, “Teeja tera rang tha main toh (I was the third of your colours, referring to the tricolour)," sets the tone for Maula Mere—that of a child hurt by a parent’s stepmotherly treatment. The song comes in the moments after Kabir Khan, the disgraced hockey player played by Shah Rukh Khan, is dubbed a traitor for missing a penalty against Pakistan. Screenwriter-lyricist Jaideep Sahni, with the help of singer Krishna and composers Salim-Sulaiman, intersperses references to the syncretic philosophy of Amir Khusrau with subtle criticism.

Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Shanghai(2012): Punctuated by cheap synthesizers straight out of some noisy festival procession, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, composed by Vishal-Shekhar, also speaks the language of the people who dance in the streets: “Naach magan kaat mutton roz hai khaana". Dibakar Banerjee’s sardonic lyrics only become more potent as he mocks the idea of India as a golden bird: rhyming “sone ki chidiya" with “dengue, malaria".

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