I miss my 1990s. If there was one thing that defined television during that decade, it was Doordarshan and its wonderful shows like Dekh Bhai Dekh, Circus, Flop Show and Alif Laila to name a few. But the most wonderful thing that aired on DD every night without fail was the piece known as “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara“. Billed as the song of India, it was conceptualized by Piyush Pandey, at O&M. It featured prominent Indian actors, sportspersons and singers singing the words “Mile sur mera tumhara, toh sur bane humaara” in their native languages.
It was a 6 minute, grand tour of India with greats like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Bala Murali Krishnan, Lataa Mangeshkar and a host of other regional singers lending their wonderful voices to the words which underscored the “Unity in Diversity” theme. And how I loved it. How we all loved it.
The advent of cable television however seemed to spell doom for this masterpiece, the voices of its singers lost in mindless reruns of outdated shows like Full House and Friends. We lost sight of the song for many years. Then YouTube happened. Suddenly we could see it in all its glory as many times as we wanted to and what a sweet feeling that was. It is by far my favourite video and I believe I can speak for Jinju and Debu too. Many hours in college were spent repeating the timeless lines in every Indian language and many more just humming the tune and contemplating its underlying beauty. Singing it is one of the things I miss the most in Atlanta. It surprises me to know that people can actually find it lame.
Today, Dimple provided me with the link for “Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara”, a remake of the original which attempts to capture the zeitgeist of India. The opening sequence featuring A. R. Rahman makes it look very inviting but the very next one involving Amitabh Bachchan disappoints. There seems to be an urge to do justice to all the languages and the song is 16 minutes long. Bollywood celebrities are very well represented along with actors from other film industries throughout India. Singers like Shaan and Sonu Nigam / Niggam/ Niggggaammm274yt873#$% (however he spells it now) too make an appearance.
But the song is a complete letdown. There is so much emphasis on the glamour and bling that the original message is lost in the background. There is no need for people like Shahid Kapoor or Priyanka Chopra or Abhishek Bachchan or Karan Johar to be there. And shockingly, while each celebrity gets more than adequate screentime, sportsmen are relegated to a 45 second sequence at the end which they have to share with the men and women of the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy. It is a shame to treat them with such disrespect considering the efforts they put in for the country. That is my only grouse with the original where there are far too few sportsmen and sportswomen compared to actors. However that is the way the people in charge prioritize things in India. One of the only good things about the new one is a sequence featuring Salman Khan and some children in sign language. It was very well thought out and deserved to be in the original too.
So a new attempt has been made to tell the people of India that we are united. The message will be lost if this is the way they have chosen to go about it. It certainly will be if it is only broadcast on DD alone. My suggestion is let things be. Buy slots on other channels and broadcast the original. It at least makes you feel proud. This one just seems to tell us that all Indians should aspire to be are lousy actors and pampered and overrated celebrities.