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Bollywood Images of 65 Years of India’s Independence

How well Bollywood songs captured the mood of India.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Bollywood is sometimes a mirror that captured the prevailing mood of India, in a few lines, set to catchy tune, with crisp lyrics.

For a brief period between 1947-1957, a free India reversed many colonial legacies – laws, policies and systems. By late fifties and early sixties, the first flush freedom from colonialism wore out. The enormity of national reconstruction set in, many a heart sank with sheer enormity of the task. After the 1956 electoral challenge to the Congress, from 1957, began a statist-socialist advance.

Some despaired.

In darkness, some toiled

Did this despair spark the Mohammed Rafi song, ‘Chal ud je ray panchi, Yeh desh hua begaana, चल उड़ जा रे पंछी, के अब यह देस हुआ बेगाना. From Bhabhi (1957) – starring Balraj Sahni, Nanda, Jagdeep, Durga Khote et al. Music was Chitragupt and lyrics were Rajendra Krishan.

The interesting lines were:

ग़म न कर ग़म न कर जो तेरी मेहनत तेरे काम न आयी
अच्छा है कुछ ले जाने से देकर ही कुछ जाना
चल उड़ जा रे पंछी के अब यह देश हुआ बेगाना
चल उड़ जा रे पंछी

Gham Na Kar Gham Na Kar Jo Teri Mehnat Tere Kaam Na Aayi
Achha Hai Kuchh Le Jaane Se Dekar Hi Kuchh Jaana
Chal Ud Ja Re Panchhi Ke Ab Yeh Desh Hua Begaana
Chal Ud Ja Re Panchhi


Do not feel down that your hard work did not pay off
Better that you leave something behind rather take away something
Away, fly away small bird).

All pain, no glory

The logic for the increased role of the Indian State.

It was a stop gap measure for a longer-term movement towards freedom. As the acquisitive State advanced, in the dark night of slow economic growth, shortages, lack of signs of visible growth, the national mood was sombre.

Best captured by this song in Majboor – a 1974 Ravi Tandon film, with some fine lyrics by Anand Bakshi.

एक दिन बिगड़ी किस्मत सवर जायेगी, यह खुशी हमसे बचके किधर जायेगी
गम न कर ज़िन्दगी यु गुज़र जायेगी, रात जैसे गुज़र गयी सोते हुए
नहीं मैं नहीं देख सकता तुझे रोते हुए

ek din bigdi kismat savar jaayegi, yeh khushi humse bachke kidhar jaayegi
gum na kar zindagi yu guzar jaayegi, raat jaise guzar gayi sote hue
nahi main nahi dekh sakta tujhe rote hue

(Translation: –

Our fortunes, now marred, one day; soon will be all decked out,
Happiness will not escape from us,; Grieve not, for this phase in life will soon be over
This dark night too will pass in your untroubled sleep; I can not see you crying).

Then came the dawn

Twenty years later, after the 1977 electoral verdict, steps to decrease the role of state’s started becoming apparent. Aided significantly by a comfortable forex positiondue to Bombay High oil discovery.

A poster for Roti, Kapada aur Makaan  |  Image source & courtesy - do-while.com  |  Click for image.

A poster for Roti, Kapada aur Makaan | Image source & courtesy - do-while.com | Click for image.

I saw Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (1974) many decades ago. The one shot that I remember, that stuck to my mind like glue, was Amitabh doing dand-baithak – a pointless exercize where you go down on your haunches and stand up.

Usually meted as a punishment by an authority, figure, in the year of 1974, after the Oil Crisis, with a nation in shortages, with Bombay High yet to start giving dividends, it was tough times in India.

And Amitabh in that scene represented an Indian going through the motions – while it rebuilt itself. Cinematic history, if ever.

From 1977, the Indian State has ceded space to the people at an increasing pace. The 1991 PVN-MMS Liberalization was a sub-set in that movement.

As for the future, आगे का हाल पर्दे पर!

In the meantime, here is a fine piece of journalism, connecting two minor events of the 1970s-to-India-Now!

Read! Enjoy!

Political slogans often outpace reality. When Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning in the late 1980s, he liked to say “Mera Bharat Mahan [My India is Great].” A TV advertisement put the phrase to a catchy tune. But few Indians had TVs in those days and while millions appreciated the sentiment, not all believed it.

It makes more sense now. Sixty years after independence, India is beginning to deliver on its promise. Over the past few years the world’s biggest and rowdiest democracy has matched its political freedoms with economic ones, unleashing a torrent of growth and wealth creation that is transforming the lives of millions. India’s economic clout is beginning to make itself felt on the international stage, as the nation retakes the place it held as a global-trade giant long before colonial powers ever arrived there. That success may yet act as an encouragement to Pakistan and Bangladesh, still struggling to overcome longstanding questions around Islam’s role in their societies. (via Indian Summer – 60 Years of Independence – TIME).

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