The original “Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara” was a part of propaganda geared towards national integration which was released on August 15 1988 (twelve days before I was born). It was telecast several times for many years after. Over time, it achieved the status of a national song like “Saare Jahaan Se Achcha” and “Vande Mataram” next only to the national anthem. It featured some of the finest talents that India had to offer at the time including actors (Shabana, Hema Malini, Waheeda, Amitabh and others), dancers (Mallika Sarabhai), cartoonist (Mario Miranda) and others. Musically, it had Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Kavita Krishnamoorthy, Lata Mangeshkar and many others. However, the important point of the song was the sentiment that as a diverse culture, we all have different tunes which can mix together to make the one tune which is “ours”. A strong message of harmony with representation from diverse states, it has been a landmark in modern Indian cultural history. One may not agree with the patriotism but the message of harmony and unity is universal and undeniable.
Now, I was very excited when I saw the advertisement for the new version, “Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara”. However, when I saw it, my disappointment was immense. I had several issues with the video (directed by Kailash Surendranath who also made the original). First, there is none of the passion or sentiment of national unity that comes across in this update. It seems superfluous, extravagant, overlong and absolutely unnecessary. Second, the first one featured a variety of talented people this country possessed then while here, the barrage of movie stars is almost frustrating. It’s glamorous but hardly representative of the country as a whole. Moreover, actors were used in the original in minimal doses only towards the end or as characters representing the common man (like Om Puri and Deepa Sahi). Third, what I hated the most about this version is that it largely is a celebration of urban India which barely featured in the original. It seems to ignore that a large chunk of Indian population is still in the towns and villages. Fourth, there are these retarded segments in the new one involving Sivamani (no disrespect to his talent per se) and Shiamak Davar (again, same caveat) among others which seem farcical and fake to the core. The only saving graces in the update are Shobhana’s dance and the segment involving Salman Khan (not because of him obviously). Also, the opening images of Amitabh by the Taj Hotel, Mumbai did get to me a little considering I am from the city and the recent history (can’t believe it’s been over a year!) still remains fresh.
Overall, I loved the original a lot. As a kid, it evoked pride in my heart for a country and a firm sense of belonging. As an adult, I still appreciate it for the culture and the sentiments it represents, and the effectiveness with which it does these things. However, the new version is just sad. It feels bloated, overstuffed and hardly representative of the country I thought I knew. Have we really become this superficial and glamorous to fall for such tripe? I sincerely hope not.
Watch the original here.