Aye mere watan ke logon... Completes 50 Years

Almost half a century ago, in the December of 1962, when the nation was still coming to terms with the aftermath of the Indo-China War, a disturbed Kavi Pradeep was walking the streets of Mahim in Mumbai. He looked around and wanted to pen a line. But the legendary poet was known to not carry paper and pen. After asking joggers and beggars around, he asked a paanwala, who gave him an empty packet of cigarettes. He opened the packet with a pen that a man standing there lent him, and wrote: "Jo shaheed huye hain unki, zara yaad karo qurbani". The song, which was completed that night in his house, eventually went on to became a tableau of nationalism. The song was first sung on January 27, 1963.

Composed by C Ramachandra and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, it was first performed at Delhi's National Stadium in a fundraiser organised by the film industry for war widows. Pandit Nehru is known to have welled up when the six-and-a-half minute song was sung.

"I was very young when the song was composed but in the later years, everybody in my school wanted me to sing this song," says Mitul Pradeep, Kavi Pradeep's daughter, in a telephonic conversation from Mumbai. "My father later told me that all the soldiers who had laid down their lives were unsung heroes. This piece of composition has been sung at almost every patriotic function for almost 50 years and that is the commemoration for the ones who laid down their lives," adds Mitul.

There were no gentle shades of patriotism. The song, a strong melody in Raag Asavari — a sombre morning raga — was straight and simple, with a different chord progression for every stanza. The infectious and evocative tune was composed by C Ramachandra, a man who also sang and acted under the name R Chitalkar. He was known for his films such as Navrang, Anarkali and Asha.

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