Iconic Ads: Ek Anek Aur Ekta – Unity in Diversity

The short film taught children about the ‘unity in diversity’ theme. Today Ek Anek Aur Ekta is considered a classic. Remember its end goal – cultivating a spirit of tolerance & mutual respect.

In 1974 — Ek Anek Aur Ekta (One, Many & Unity), a 7-minute animation film was released. It was written & co-directed by Vijaya Mulay – documentarian, film historian, educator & former head of NCERT’s Center for Educational Technology (CET).

The short film taught children about the ‘unity in diversity’ theme. A young girl teaches her little brother about the theme through a flock of birds. When a hunter catches some of the birds with his net, the other birds gather, & together they fly away with the net away from the clutches of the hunter. A group of friendly mice then gnawed at the net & finally freed the ‘netted’ birds.

Mulay was working in the Education Ministry, when she was asked to make a series of films for children, in association with UNICEF. The model was Britain’s Play School & US government programs

The Education Ministry had decided to create education programs for Doordarshan. Till then Doordarshan’s programming was aimed at children in the 9+ age group, & there was almost nothing for children in the 6 – 9 year age group.

The kind-hearted older sister telling the story was no coincidence. While researching for the film, Mulay later wrote: “A major feature of the patriarchy syndrome has been that only the male characters can be agents of action. The strong, intelligent & noble male acts; the passive woman usually suffers in silence”. She wanted this to change through her work.

Ek Anek Aur Ekta was popular & enduring. The reasons are – 

  • Very simple & to the point 
  • Music was catchy & rhythmic 
  • Lyrics were easy to remember
  • Children are comfortable with animal metaphors. Animals cannot speak, but the children realized that they too have free will. Animals cannot walk on two legs, but the child quickly realized that they can move faster & more efficiently than themselves. It is this “unequal equality”, the subliminal tension between familiarity & alienation that storytellers used to convey the message

The film’s co-director, design, & animation was by Bhimsain. The sound of the young girl was six-year-old Sadhna Sargam, who later became a famous playback singer. 

Vasant Desai gave the music with lyrics by Pandit Vinay Chandra Maudgalya. 

Waman Guru (Waman Bhosle & Guru Dutt Shirali) did the editing.

The film won the National Film Award for Best Educational Film & the Best Children’s Film award in Japan. The film is considered to be one of India’s greatest examples of animation story-telling. 

Today Ek Anek Aur Ekta is considered a classic, but it is important to remember its end goal – cultivating a spirit of tolerance & mutual respect that is not widely available in our country today.

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