This song was the finest musical and lyrical tribute played to the spirit of India starring a galaxy of stars.
In 1988, after the Independence Day speech by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the Red Fort, a song was telecast. Millions of Indians heard it for the first time and it has since become India’s unofficial song.
The song did not demand patriotic pride but evoked it
Recognized even today, the opening scene with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is enduring.
The song emerged from a conversation between Rajiv Gandhi and Jaydip Samarth (brother of Tanuja and Nutan) of OBM (Ogilvy). He reached out to the creative head Suresh Mullick. Doordarshan wanted a song of unity song.
Suresh had worked with Kailash Surendranath earlier for the Torch of Freedom song/ film and he knew Kailash could handle a production of this kind.
It was a huge task and took 6 months to produce. And the film was known for its production values which exceeded all the standards at that time.
Mullick decided to fuse Carnatic, Hindustani classical and modern music, choosing Raga Bhairavi as the base (Pandit Joshi’s recommendation).
Louis Banks and P Vaidyanathan blended the music and arranged the final score, which was sung by M Balamuralikrishna, Pandit Joshi and Lata Mangeshkar.
The lyrics were by Piyush Pandey & developed by Lok Seva Sanchar Nigam. The 6-mins song was sung in 13 languages.
The concept of unity in diversity was conveyed not only through music but also through the personalities it featured from various fields like actors, dancers, cartoonists, filmmakers, authors, singers, musicians, sportspeople and many more.
There could have been no better representation of India’s multitude of cultures and achievements.
1. Celebrities who took part included – Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Lata Mangeshkar, M. Balamuralikrishna Shabana Azmi, Om Puri, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Jeetendra, Tanuja, Hema Malini, Sharmila Tagore, Waheeda Rahman, Mithun Chakraborty, Ramanathan Krishnan, Prakash Padukone, Diana Edulji, Arun Lal, S. Venkataraghavan, Narendra Hirwani, Gurbux Singh, PK Banerjee, Leslie Claudius, Mallika Sarabhai, Sudharani Raghupati, Mario Miranda, Mrinal Sen and Sunil Gangopadhyay, Suchitra Mitra, Kavitha Krishnamurthy and more
2. The lyrics were the 18th draft of the song that finally made the cut, thanks to Piyush Pandey. Actually, Pandit Vinod Sharma was supposed to write the lyrics but since he could not deliver, Piyush took the responsibility. It is said that this was a turning point in his career. He moved from client servicing to creative after this
3. The opening sequence with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, next to a gushing waterfall, the same waterfall where Liril was filmed – Pambar Falls in Kodaikanal, also popularly known as the Liril Falls.
4. For the Taj Mahal’s aerial shots, Kailash Surendranath flew down to Agra and met the Air Marshal. The officer was cooperative and even allowed him to shoot from an IAF helicopter. But, the officer got into trouble and Kailash had to pay for the ride to get him out of a spot.
5. Kolkata Metro, the first Indian transit system of its kind, began operations in the 1980s and was featured in the video too.
6. Another train that makes a cameo is the Deccan Queen, spotted zipping by a river through lush fields.
7. Kamal Haasan’s appearance was sheer luck. The actor had accompanied Carnatic singer M Balamuralikrishna, who was shooting a sequence at a beach. In deference to the maestro, Kamal didn’t want to be featured prominently in the video and can be seen enjoying the music as a disciple.