Hindi Film Songs Which Reflect the Spirit of the Freedom Movement

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As India celebrates the 75th Independence Day, it is interesting to look at those Hindi film songs which have best reflected the spirit of the freedom movement in the years following the freedom of India from colonial rule. The coverage here is restricted to about two decades following freedom.

First of all, there are songs directly dealing with films made on freedom movement. Although several films have been made on Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the best one was the earliest one titled simply Shaheed (1965) and having Manoj Kumar in the lead role. An important role in the success of this outstanding film was played by Prem Dhawan who in a very rare case was the composer as well as the lyricist for this film. Due to his close involvement with the subject he was able to capture the spirit of the valiant freedom fighters in this film. Even when he was using some well-known lines like ‘rang de basanti chola’ and ‘sar faroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai’, he made exceptionally effective use of these. ‘Ae watan ae watan hamko teri kasam’ is another memorable song from this film.

An earlier film with the same title ‘Shaheed’ (1948) had Dilip Kumar in the lead role (he joins the Azad Hind Fauz in this film). A song from this film that continues to inspire us even today is—Watan Ki rah mein watan ke naujavan shahid hon. Written by Shakil Badayuni and composed by the great Naushad, filmed on Dilip and Kamini Kaushal, this song has been sung by the inimitable Mohammed Rafi with Khan Mastana.

Vande Matram has been sung by so many great singers but perhaps the best version is the one sung by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar, with music also be the inimitable Hemant Da, in the film Anand Math ( 1951). You can watch it, listen to it as many times, but its magic simply refuses to go away. This has been filmed on Pradeep Kumar, Bharat Bhushan, Geeta Bali and others.

However if I have to choose one single song as the most moving song on the sacrifices made during the freedom movement, then it is the song Mat ro mata lal tere bahut tere, janam bhoomi ke kaam aaya main bare bhaghya hain tere ( Do not weep Mother, do not weep, there are many children in the country who are like your own children. We are fortunate, me and you, that I could give my life for my country).

This song is not a part of the main story; Bimal Roy somehow made room for this. A freedom fighter, one who is not famous, a very boyish looking young man, is being taken to the gallows. His lonely mother, with a small child, is standing outside the prison gate. All tearful inmates of the prison, realizing that they are seeing or perhaps just hearing the young man for the last time, are standing by the iron bars, gripping them for support. It is in this situation that this song has been filmed.

This song could have been written only by the one and only Shilendra, set to music only by the great S.D.Burman, and sung so soulfully only by the inimitable Manna Dey.

Apart from the songs directly related to freedom movement, there are several songs which are a kind of celebration for the newly independent country. A song that immediately comes to mind in this context is—Ye desh hai veer jawano ka, albelo ka mastano ka, is desh ka yaro kya kehna. Filmed on Dilip Kumar in Naya Daur ( 1957), this song written by Sahir Ludhianvi has very ‘mast’ music from OP Nayyar. Another such song is ‘Hum us desh ke vaasi hain jis desh mein Ganga behti hai ( filmed on Raj Kapoor in that great film ‘Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai’.

Then there are songs which call upon people to give their best for progress of the country. A song from Hum Hindustani (1960) calls upon people to leave behind old pessimism and rise to the occasion to contribute to progress. This song—Chodo kal ki baaten, kal ki baat purani, naye daur mein likhenge, mil ke nai kahani. This has been filmed on Sunil Dutt. Written by Prem Dhawan and set to music by Usha Khanna, this has been sung on a happy, hopeful note by that singer with such a beautiful voice—Mukesh.

On a more somber note we have this great song wishing, praying that now that the country is free there should be no destruction or conflict. This song—Ab koi gulshan na ujre , ab watan azad hai—from Mujhe Jeene Do film (1963) has been written by Sahir and composed by Jayadev.

A memorable song that calls upon us to work together with unity to create a just and equal society was sung by Mukesh, Mahendra Kapoor, Lata and Meena Kapoor in ‘Char Dil Char Rahein’ film.This song—Sathi re, bhai re, kadam kadam se dil se dil mila rahein hain hum was composed by Anil Biswas and written by Sahir. In the same league we have another great song—Saathi Haath badana, ek akela thak jaye to mil ke bojh uthana from ‘Naya Daur’, sung by Rafi Sahib and Asha Bhonsle.

After the Chinese invasion we have more songs calling upon people to defend the hard won freedom. This memorable song from Haqueekat (1964), written by Kaifi Azmi, captures this theme very well—Kar chale ham fida…Ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyo. Composed by Madan Mohan, this song has been sung with great feeling and emotion by Rafi Sahib. Kaifi Sahib has also poured out his heart in this song—zinda rehne ke mausam bahut hain magar, jaan dene ki ritu roj aati nahin.

Some songs calling upon the new generation to shoulder responsibility are also addressed to children. These songs include—Ham laayen hai toofan se kashti nikal ke, is desh kp rakhna mere bachon sambhal ke ( Jagriti/1954/Rafi), Bacho tum taqdeer hi, kal ke Hindustan Ki (Didi/1959/Rafi and Asha), Insaaf ki dagar pe bacho dikhao chalke, ye desh hai tumhara neta tumhi ho kalke (Ganga Jamuna/1961/Hemant).

Last but not the least, in true democratic spirit, this collection will not be complete if we do not include songs that had started raising questions regarding non-fulfillment of several hopes. Thus in Pyaasa ( 1957) we have Guru Dutt repeatedly asking –Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahan hai. In Didi film school children ask their idealist teacher ( Sunil Dutt) regarding the reality they see around them in a song ‘ Hamne suna tha ek hai bharat’ that deserves to be better known.

Many other memorable songs, like the immortal ‘Ae mere watan ke logo’ come to mind, but here we have restricted ourselves only to Hindi film songs up to 1967. This was a time when many inspiring Hindi film songs reminded people about the ideals and sacrifices of the freedom movement and also gave voice to the strong feelings of celebration as well caution in a newly independent country. Several of these films are still being hummed and sung after all these years.

Bharat Dogra has contributed several writings on the wider social aspects of cinema as well as on the freedom movement.


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