Ten of my favourite patriotic filmi songs

I am very proud to be Indian, but I guess in a way that wouldn’t make me terribly popular with some people. I do not agree, for instance, that everything about India is top class, or that everything about the countries we have political, social, economic or other differences with is necessarily evil through and through. I love India, but I do not feel that means I must hate other countries.
But one thing I will concede: nobody does “I love India” songs as well as Bollywood. Of course. We have so many different forms of patriotism onscreen: the soldierly bravery of Haqeeqat; the dignified, subdued yet exceptionally poignant love for country of a native far from home in Kabuliwaala; the militant, do-or-die fervour of Bhagat Singh in Shaheed; the urge to take the country forward into a new age of progress, in Hum Hindustani...

So here are my ten favourite patriotic songs, all from 50’s and 60’s (occasionally 40’s) films that I’ve seen. Happy Independence Day!

1. Ae mere pyaare watan (Kabuliwaala, 1961): My number one patriotic song, ever. And the reason for that is not just that Salil Choudhary’s music is so lovely or that Manna Dey sings this with so much feeling. That is there, of course; but more even than that is the fact that the patriotism of this song is not country-specific. You need not be Indian (in fact, the character who’s supposed to sing it isn’t Indian) to sympathise with the man to whom the soil and the streams and the gusting wind of a far-off land are so dear that his greatest wish is to die back there, where he was born… lovely. One of the few patriotic songs that can actually give me gooseflesh.

2. Ae watan ae watan humko teri kasam (Shaheed, 1965): Shaheed had a superb score, with both music and lyrics (the latter partly contributed by Bismil Azimabadi) by Prem Dhawan. This song is, to me, typical of Bhagat Singh’s brand of patriotism: fiercely for his motherland and its self-respect, and not just willing but eager to lay down his life and limb for the independence of India. Very inspirational.
Just by the way, two other superb songs, both very patriotic, from Shaheed are Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai (the poem by Bismil Azimabadi) and Mera rang de basanti chola.

3. Aaj Himalaya ki choti se (Kismet, 1943): Pradeep’s lyrics, while not path-breaking, make this pre-independence song what it is: a smart thumbing of the nose at the British Raj. While there are token words against the Axis (there’s something about Indians rising up against the Japanese and the Germans), the underlying sentiment of the song is quite obviously anti-British. A film censor, forced to clear this, must have felt utterly frustrated. I’m loving it! (And oh, I like the peppy marching tune of the song, too).

4. Vande mataram (Anandmath, 1952): As a classical paean to Bharat Mata, this one’s hard to beat: every syllable echoes with patriotic fervour. Another reason I like Vande mataram is that there’s a family connection to this song. My uncle, David Vernon Kumar, was a guitarist with Filmistan when Anandmath was made, and recording schedules were so hectic that the entire orchestra had to trudge daily between Bombay and Goregaon. By the time Vande mataram was recorded, most of the musicians were thoroughly fed up. As luck would have it, a huge chorus was needed for Vande mataram, and since the musicians knew the tune, they were asked to join in. My uncle and some of his friends sang, instead of “Vande mataram, vande mataram”, “One day Bombay, one day Goregaon”. The number of people singing the correct lyrics was sufficient to drown out the voices of these interlopers, but yes, that is what some of the chorus in this song are singing.

5. Apni aazaadi ko hum (Leader, 1964): This, I’m forced to admit, is one of the most uninspiring songs I’ve ever seen. The picturisation is dull, the editing shoddy, and the extras badly briefed. Even Dilip Kumar and Vyjyantimala have very little to do onscreen other than mouth verses from the song. Despite all of that, Apni aazaadi ko hum features on my list of great patriotic songs, simply because the music (Naushad’s) and the lyrics (Shakeel Badayuni’s) are so very soul-stirring, and Rafi sings it so superbly.

6. Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle (Upkaar, 1967): I don’t care for Manoj Kumar’s brand of patriotism: his films tend to glorify all that is Indian and denigrate all that isn’t. But one aspect of his patriotic films I like: the songs. And this one, in praise of everything and everyone from Rabindranath Tagore and Hari Singh Nalwa to cowbells and ploughs, has excellent music and is beautifully sung by Mahendra Kapoor. The lyrics are a bit over the top, but today of all days, I can overlook that.

7. Chhodo kal ki baatein (Hum Hindustani, 1960): No, I hadn’t forgotten this song when I did my Mukesh post. I was just saving it up for this post. Chhodo kal ki baatein has all the pep and vigor of a nation striding forward, leaving behind the chains of a colonial past. Half a century later, all that stuff about changing the courses of rivers and felling mountains might be an ecological no-no, but there’s no faulting the overall exuberance of this song and its love for country.

8. Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyon (Haqeeqat, 1964): Haqeeqat is the best Hindi war film I’ve seen, and this poignant song, sung with great depth of feeling by Rafi, is very representative of the film itself. Kat gaye sar hamaare toh kuchh gham nahin, sar Himalaya ka humne na jhukne diye (“Our heads were cut off, but that didn’t bother us; we did not let the head of the Himalaya be bowed”) is proudly symbolic of India’s sovereignty. This song’s patriotism has a distinctly military tone to it, but it manages to embrace the citizenry that is involved, eventually, in defending the country. Melodramatic, perhaps; but effective.

9. Saare jahaan se achcha Hindustan hamaara (Bhai Bahen, 1959): As a student in the state-run Kendriya Vidyalaya schools, my childhood was filled with Saare jahaan se achha. We sang it day in, day out, at every school assembly, until we hated each syllable of the poem. Unusual, therefore, that this should rank as one of my favourite patriotic songs. But the tune here is liltingly different from the original, and the words are different too—and, dare I say, more inspirational?

10. Yeh desh hai veer jawaanon ka (Naya Daur, 1957): Is desh ka yaaron kya kehna, yeh desh hai duniya ka gehna (“What can one say in praise of this land? This land is the jewel of the world!”). Very feel-good-about-being-Indian lyrics; deliciously folksy music; infectiously boisterous singing by Rafi and Balbir; and all of it in a well choreographed song-and-dance by Dilip Kumar, Ajit, and a troupe of dancers led by the very talented Manohar Deepak.
[Aside: Manohar Deepak was awarded the National Award for his accomplishments in bhangra—he was the first person to form a bhangra troupe in Bollywood and to introduce this dance form in Hindi cinema].

And guess what? I still haven’t included songs from films I haven’t seen (Jahaan daal-daal par sone ki chidiyaan karti hain basera from Sikandar-e-Azam; Watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawaan from Shaheed; Hum laayein hain toofan se kashti nikaal ke, De di humein aazaadi bina khadag bina dhaal, and Aao bachchon tumhein dikaayein jhaanki Hindustan ki, all from Jaagriti) or songs that are good but not as good as the ones I’ve listed above (Jab zero diya mere Bharat ne from Purab aur Pachchim).

Maybe on Republic Day!

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47 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite patriotic filmi songs

  1. What a wonderful and great tribute on Independence Day dustedoff!! Hats off to you.

    As I was reading your post the songs clicked back into memory including the ones you have listed out of the list (of Jagriti).
    Kabuliwala happens to be my favourite too.

    I can’t seem to think of any patriotic song in recent times. Are there any? I know you have only till the 60s but this thought just occured.

    LOL over ‘one day Bombay one day Goregaon’ :-D

    Thank you very much for this post this day.

  2. A very good selection. ‘One day Bombay, one day Goregaon’ is very funny. Made me feel OK with ‘Vande Mataram’ on the loudspeakers waking me up this morning. :)

    I just posted on Independence Day and music, but very different sentiments. :)

    ‘Ae mere pyare watan’ gives me goose flesh too. The longing in that voice.

  3. pacifist: Thank you so much! :-)
    Offhand, I really can’t think of too many patriotic songs from recent films (it’s possible that’s because I don’t watch too many newer films. Also because very few new songs have the sort of recall value of the older songs…). But there was I love my India, from Pardes, which I don’t like as a song anyway. I suppose to some extent Kandhon se milte hain kandhe from Lakshya would be a patriotic song, but it’s also a song of a soldier’s bonds with his comrades and with his friends and family and beloved back home, so not really a patriotic song all the way.

    Banno: I began reading your post, and thought: Ah, yes. How perceptions of music – even ‘good music’ – can differ, because it’s been forced down our throats, because it’s woken us up on a day when we’d rather sleep late, when it’s droned deep into our heads until we can’t think straight… one man’s (or woman’s) music is certainly another’s noise.

  4. Beautiful list! Kabuliwaala and Haqeeqat rank among my top favourites too.
    Loved One day Bombay, one day Goregaon – hee hee…can’t stop laughing.
    I was thinking of doing a similar post too. And I had left out the patiotic songs from Manoj Kumar post so that I could include them here. But I would have 8 out of 10 songs here in my list. So, I’ll go ahead and review a movie that I just finished watching. I’ll find out more patriotic songs and do a post on Republic Day :-D

  5. Or you can do a patriotic songs list for Gandhi Jayanti! ;-) But I wonder if there can actually be a ‘ten songs’ list of songs that are actually about Gandhi himself, rather than just about patriotism. De di humein aazaadi bina khadag bina dhaal is about Gandhi, for instance. Any others?

  6. A very happy ‘indy pindy’ day as we used to say when young and callow! Love the post Madhu :-) And the Bombay-Goregaon anecdote.

    Here’s one rather movingly sung by Kishore in ‘Aakraman’. No guesses on whom it’s picturized especially where I’m concerned eh?:-D Not a great film but J Om Prakash always did have a ear for music IMO.

  7. Happy Independence day, Great post, i loved going through each one and reading your commentary, Lol at your Uncle and his friends and their one day Bombay one day Goregoan:0) One of the first songs that pops to my mind when i think partriotic filmi songs is ‘Cham ka ban ke’ from Ek Ki Rasta, i really love Meena in this song

  8. Bombay to Goregaon–great anecdote. You know the Kabuliwala song–Aye meri pyare watan, I thought Manna Dey could have done better. There is a quiet sadness in it but feeling, it needs feeling. (Manna Dey is my favorite playback singer, this is my only gripe and it is only because I listen to this song often that I started noticing.)

  9. For me, Vande Mataram would be either a tie for the top with Ae Mere pyare watan, both the Hemant Kumar and the Lata version. So it would be rather crowded at the top with 3 songs :)

    I am a huge sucker for patriotic songs, all those adrenaline pumping mera desh kind of a thing.

    Your anecdote was awesome, very funny. I remember we used parody – mere desh ki dharti as mere desh ki ladki. The Vande Mataram refrain in Aao bachon became – ande chai garam.

    Ah- a fellow KVite I see. I have studied in KV Malleswaram Bangalore briefly and in KV Jamnagar mostly.

  10. sunheriyaadein: Yes, that’s another one. I’ve been racking my brains, but no, can’t think of any others. You’ll probably have to wait around till Jan 26th! ;-)

    Suhan: I’ve heard this song often enough before, but have never seen it, so thank you! Both the lyrics and Kishore’s singing are very touching…

    bollywooddeewana: Thank you – that’s another very joshila song, so much pep and fervour! I thought over this list a long time, but somehow Chamka banke aman ka tara just slipped my mind. Thank you for reminding me of it.

    sophy: You have a much more discerning ear than I! ;-)

    Ava: You too? I started off in KV Bhopal, then Gwalior, then Srinagar, and finally Sector 8, RK Puram, Delhi. Long innings.

    Sharmi: You’re welcome!

  11. Madhu, I really really should be visiting your blog more often. It is just SO wonderful, everytime I come here I realise what I have missed since my last visit (the last time I visited here was ages ago – when you put up that Hemant Kumar top 10). As you know, I am a regular at memsaab’s. :-)

    Loved this post and choice of songs, not to mention LOL at the “one day Bombay, one day Goregaon” story. :-)

    I just love “ae mere pyare watan” – I just close my eyes and let it sink in whenever I listen to it.

    Rafi saab’s “kar chale” is very special – the lyrics by Kaifi Azmi bring tears to your eyes. When you hear “zindagi maut se mil rahi hai galey”, your eyes will be moist. What a song!

    Love “ye desh hai veer jawaanon ka” also – it has this typically rustic “very proud to be Indian” feel about it.

    And “chhodo kal ki baatein” is such an optimistic song, it cannot but lift your spirits.

    “Ae watan ae watan” is another great one – also brings tears to my eyes, esp when I see the picturisation and think of Bhagat Singh and his associates.

    A song that you have mentioned but did not make your top 10 is “hum laaye hain toofan se kashti”. I love this song (another Kavi Pradeep classic) but I wouldn’t know which song to replace it with in your 10. :-)

    Btw, talking of Gandhi Jayanti songs, here is one from Parivar (1968).

  12. Ah, you have been away a long time; the Hemant list was ages ago (I’ve done a Mukesh list since, and other than the ten songs I listed, other people came up with literally dozens of songs that are quite wonderful too)! BTW, I did want to say ‘well done’ to you: doing the subtitles for an entire film must have been quite a task. I did some subtitles for the Johnny Walker DVD and for some Minoo Mumtaz songs, but a full length film? Wah. Really well done. :-)

    That Aaj hai 2 October song was quite a find! I’ve seen the film (so ghastly that I couldn’t summon up the courage to even write a review), but this had slipped my memory totally.

  13. Well, many of the so-called patriotic songs, I must admit, make me cringe! But the ones above are fairly well.
    And I LOVE Vande mataram not only for the wonderful lyrics and Lata’s voice but also for Geeta Bali and because the only other version which I knew of Vande Mataram was the one which used to be aired in the mornings on AIR and it used to put me back to sleep again and thus am horrified at your uncle’s disregard to this motherland-loving song! ;-)

  14. I know which Vande mataram you mean: it used to draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag until one wished they’d stop! I hated that.

    Which song in Jaane bhi do yaaron> Hum honge kaamyaab? The one they sing on the pavement at night, after waiting and waiting for people to come to the inauguration of their studio?

  15. Too bad ‘Hindustan Ki Kasam’ (Vijay Anand’s?) was realeased in 70s. One- it was a very different patriotic movie, and really good. Very intense also, not just the adrenaline rush. And the song by Manna Dey “Har taraf ab yahi afsaane hain” (Madan-Mohan) was also very different and very good. Coming to the topic, the song “Hindustan Meri Jaan” had a great effect in the movie. Some adrenaline rush here.

    BTW, M, how about making an exception for some of the 1970s movies for your reviews? :) May be early 70s?

  16. I have made exceptions now and then, generally for films which are from the very early 70’s and have a 60’s feel to them. (Yes, I know that’s vague, but what I mean is the general ambience – no bell bottoms, none of that loud wallpaper, etc). Films like Pakeezah, Anand or Khilona, for instance, would qualify. Hindustan ki Kasam, though not a bad film, isn’t one I’d review, because it has a very definitely 70’s feel to it. And Parikshit Sahni’s character dies!! And it has Raj Kumar, whom I do not like, especially post mid 60’s, and especially opposite Priya Rajvansh, whom I find hard to bear. :-)

  17. Now, if it had a lead pair I liked more than Raj Kumar and Priya Rajvansh, and if Parikshit Sahni’s character had remained alive and well….! But I must admit to one thing: it’s one of the few Hindi films in which they actually took the trouble to have things – the planes, etc – look authentic. It did seem as if one was on an airbase, not a mere movie set.

  18. I’m a bit late to the Independence Day parade, but it’s never too late to be patriotic, I hope! :)

    Dustedoff, I am shocked at your Saare jahan se accha dislike! Next you’ll say that you hate Asto maa sadgamaya and marching songs like Tu zinda hai to zindagi ki jeet par yakeen kar. Tsk tsk tsk… Humare kendriya vidyalayon ke cchatron ko yeh kya ho raha hai? ;D

    If I’d made a list of patriotic songs, it would include each and every one of the songs you’ve listed, as well as all songs from Jagriti. So it’s a good thing I’m not compiling one, because it would never end with just 10 songs. Bollywood certainly knows it’s job when it comes to patriotism! I am surprised that nobody has mentioned THE patriotic song – Aye mere watan ke logon – so far. Before Haqeeqat immortalised the Indo-China war in Bollywood, this song symbolised the soldier’s sacrifice, not to mention, Nehru’s tears!

  19. Actually, I didn’t mind Tu zinda hai toh zindagi ki jeet pe yakeen kar! When I studied in KV Srinagar, I was part of the school choir at assemblies (read, ‘standing on stage and singing, while everybody else mumbles’). When assembly ended and while all the children marched back to class, we stood on stage and sang Tu zinda hai…. Offhand, I can remember ever singing only two verses of it, no more (I still remember them). I rather liked the song. :-)

    Even Asto maa sadagamaya was bearable, compared to the vast number of ‘regional patriotic songs’ we had to learn! When you have to learn by rote songs you have NO idea of the meaning of, it’s a surefire way of getting to hate those songs.

    I guess nobody mentioned Ae mere watan ke logon because (as far as I know) it wasn’t a film song, even though Lata sang it. I’m not sure about this, but I think so.

  20. I must admit that Asto ma sadgamaya was my least favorite prayer song of all (and I’ve tried prayer songs in several languages all over India!) – very monotonous. I don’t remember the “regional patriotic songs” probably because they did that in the lower classes and I was in KV only for classes X-XII. But I know what you mean about learning regional songs by rote – I got to do that simply because I lived in those regions! I do remember a few such Telugu (assembly) songs from my stay in Hyderabad, but am not even sure if the words mean a thing the way I say them! :D

    And yes, as far as I know, Aye mere watan ke logon is a non-filmi song. But one can’t have grown up with All India Radio and not know about it!

  21. Madhu, I am Atul of atulsongaday.com. Like Raja, I too feel that I should visit this blog more. It is a nice list, though I will not put “Ae mere pyaare watan” as a patriotic song”. In this song, the Kabuliwala is remembering his watan. It is more like a nostalgia filled song than a patriotic song.

    In my blog, I had posted some 15-15 patriotic songs in the past and I noticed that the song “Jab zero diyaa mere Bharat ne” was the top searched song for almost two weeks till 15th august. So I am convinced that this song is the most popular patriotic song among Indians, other favourites like “Nanha Munna raahi hoon” (though it is not a patriotic song per se)” watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawaan shaheed ho”,”Ae watan ae watan hamko teri kasam” etc follow some way behind.

  22. kuchh aur na aata ho hamko
    hamen pyaar nibhana aata hai
    Jise maan chuki saari duniya…
    main baat wahi dohraata hoon

    : )

    Cept for missing out on Manoj’s OTT theatricals in Purab aur Paschim, a perfect list.

    Most of all for the choice of #1. To me, it is a superb example of saudade (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudade)

    Thanks. I am a KV product meself, and I remember v well the braying of the choir while we all wished the assembly was already over!

    Though there is one song that haunts me from those days, have never found out the language or the correct words. It was a soft, sad-sounding song that went

    “Akash, ganga, surya chandra taara
    Sandhya usha …” and the rest I never learnt!

    : )

  23. Ava: Thank you! I guessed as much. Surprisingly, considering how film songs tend to push non-film songs out of the picture, this one’s popularity is unusual.

    bollyviewer: Ah, lucky you, to have avoided all those regional songs! I was in KV from Class II, right through till the end, and I had those regional songs battered into me until I nearly cried! ;-)

    atul: Welcome to Dusted Off! (I do visit your blog every now and then – it’s usually the first URL that comes up when I’m searching details for a song – but I’ve never left a comment. Will certainly try and change that.) That’s an interesting insight on what most Indians seem to consider the best patriotic songs! I guess Jab zero diya mere Bharat ne is way up there at the top of the list because it’s so full of what makes India great. As far as lyrics go, I’d agree that it’s a very patriotic song and makes me feel proud to be Indian. Even the music, and Mahendra Kapoor’s singing. It’s just the entire ambience – there is something about Purab aur Pachhim that I find almost bordering on hubris. It just doesn’t appeal to me!

    I still think Ae mere pyaare watan is patriotic – if you consider patriotism to mean a love of one’s country. I think the song of the Afghan shows his very deep love for his land, a love that’s translated into nostalgia, but still love… love for the winds, the rivers, even the very name of the country.

    AKM: Now, thanks to you, I know what saudade is! Yes, exactly the emotion behind Ae mere pyaare watan.
    I remember Akashganga surya chandra taara! :-) It’s Gujarati. I remember a little bit more of that song than just that, but yes: it’s one of the few songs that I could actually remember anything of without trying (the Bengali song Dhono dhaanye pushpe bhaunra was another). Probably because it was similar enough to Hindi to make some sense…

  24. LOL @ “Half a century later, all that stuff about changing the courses of rivers and felling mountains might be an ecological no-no”.; a really perceptive analysis.
    Also LOL @ “One Day Bombay, One Day Goregaon”.
    And agree with you that Haqeeqat is the best Bollywood war movie; it probably ranks amongst the world’s best. It does prove “Patton’s” point (depressingly I might add) ; “No B*** ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb B*** die for his country.”
    An excellent list of songs, really like #1, #7 & #8.

  25. I like that quote from Patton. Cynical, but true.

    Incidentally, talking of war films, a couple of others that are superb include Battleground, Ice Cold in Alex and The Dawn Patrol. Ice Cold in Alex is more of a ‘journey’ film set during WWII, but the other two are hardcore war films, both very good insights into the harsh reality of war.

  26. Yes, the 80’s weren’t too great a period for film music! ;-) But this one is a good song; the music’s good, and the lyrics are even better! Thank you for reminding us of that.

  27. Honton pe sachai rehti hai – Mukesh, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai. A not-in-your-face patriotic song. I love it. Shailendra’s pithy, impactful and simple worded poetry. Mukesh’s lovely clear voice and touchingly straightforward rendition. SJ composed some of their best tunes for this film.

    Let’s forget for some moments that not no section of the human race can live up to the the ‘ethical portrait’ painted by this song.

  28. I’m now amazed at how none of us who commented on this post thought of this song! I wouldn’t have listed it anyway, since I haven’t yet seen Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, but of course I know the song – and like it too. Yes, probably not very accurate (like Jab zero diya mere Bharat ne or Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle, for that matter), but still very good in many ways. Thank you for that suggestion!

    • Gul, yes, a deliberate omission. Read the sentence in the post: “So here are my ten favourite patriotic songs, all from 50’s and 60’s (occasionally 40′s) films that I’ve seen.

      I haven’t seen Sikandar-e-Azam. That’s why. If it consoles you, I do like the song – a lot. If I’d seen the film, it would’ve been on my list.

    • Jasmine, see my reply to Gul, above. Saying that song #3 and #7 stand nowhere in front of Jahaan daal-daal par is also subjective, isn’t it? This is a list of my favourites; your favourites may be very different. Incidentally, even if I’d watched Sikandar-e-Azam, I’d still have included Chhodo kal ki baatein in the list.

  29. LOL!
    Having to explain again and again the same thing.
    You have my sympathies ;-)

    I don’t think this song (dal dal pe…) is anyway better than others. Equally maybe. But nothing special.

    • Thank you for the sympathy, pacifist! I needed that – having to say the same thing over and over again (and justifying my choice of favourites) can be very wearying. I can understand people getting ballistic if I’d made a sweeping generalisation like “Ten best patriotic songs”, but when I say these are merely ten of my favourites, I don’t expect that everybody will necessarily agree.

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