The Making of Mile Sur Mera – the uncut documentary

One of the side effects of growing up in a media starved era (like the 1980s and early 90s) in India is the often strange fondness and attachment I tend to have for the often questionable content that used air on TV in those days, most of which has not exactly aged well. Byomkesh Bakshi is a good example. As much as I was riveted to the TV set when it used to air, any kid today will find it too full of logical holes and just not exciting enough. But if there is something that has aged well, it’s the ubiquitous filler of that era – Mile Sur Mera Tumhara. I’ve always wanted to see a “Making of” video, with bloopers and all, but I’m guessing DD never shot one, so here’s my take.

The room was smoky, as several men (and one token woman) wearing safari suits (the woman was wearing a saree FYI) sat, in reasonably rapt attention at the gentleman wearing the most expensive safari suit (Raymonds) who was clearly the boss because he was standing at the head of the table, while the others were seated on the sides and importantly, were letting their tea go cold. Nobody lets their official tea go cold, unless the Big Safari Suit Boss was saying something earth-shatteringly important.

“Right everybody. We’ve been commissioned to make a mega-jing-bang-extravaganzic national integration video by our bosses in South Block. Ideas?”

“How about a psychedelic collage of visuals set to music by Ravi Shankar?”

“Nope. The Beatles did that in the 60s”

“How about featuring top Indian athletes running across the country with a torch of unity, except that this time, we’ll add words to the music”

“Nah. That sounds like a sequel. I want something more original”

“Saar. I think we should get our honourable prime minister, the honourable home minister, his excellency the president, his holiness the Shankaracharya and other eminent personalities, and make them sit on a dais. After that, we must have Lata Mangeshkar sing a soulful prayer song. Then you must give an inaugural address, and then invite the dignitaries on stage to light a Kutthu-vilakku. Then the honourable prime minister will give a Keynote address. After that, we must have a felicitation, featuring bouquets and large gold-plated mementos. That will be followed by the Special Address by the Home minister, and then finally, a vote of thanks. Of course, we must get Sridevi to compere the show and intersperse the proceedings with inspirational quotes by Gandhi and Nehru. This entire event will be recorded and set to the background tune of our national anthem played at 60 beats per minute.”

There was silence. Not because most of the attendees were asleep by this point, but because they kept themselves forcibly awake when they realized that the Big Boss was paying close attention to this pathbreaking idea.

“Brilliant. Simply brilliant, but we have one problem. 6 minutes only. My esteemed colleague’s idea will need at least 1 hour to do justice to. So, any other ideas?”

—————————————————————-

The English teacher at the school where the Big Safari Suit Boss’ daughter studied, was teaching possessive pronouns, and she wrote on the board

This is my sound

She looked back at the class, just to check if any note-exchanging or other non-approved activities were taking place. She turned back to the board and wrote

This is your sound

She turned back, and decided that the students needed to exercise their grey cells just a little bit. She asked them

Now, what will happen when we put my sound and your sound together

Silence.

Think, class. Think. Suppose I have some money, and you have some money, and I say, let’s put it together and spend it together. Now how would we describe that collective sum of money?

More silence.

Anybody who answers this gets 5 extra marks in the quarterly exams

Utter Cacophony.

One at a time. One at a time. No, the answer is not “It will become a mutual fund”, or “It will be stolen by Harshad Mehta”. Yes, that is right. It will become “our money”, and therefore it follows, “our sound”. Now, practise this well at home children. I’ll see you tomorrow

The Big Safari Suit Boss usually sent his official car, with red lights and all, to pick his daughter up at school. The little girl kept saying “My sound. Your sound. Our sound” over and over again, thus imprinting it firmly in the driver’s memory, who then kept repeating it when he drove his boss, who then, suddenly, had a brilliant idea

———————————————————————

The team was back in the smoke filled room.

“Remind me to ask the peon to go a little easy on the agarbatties next time. I can’t even see your faces, for god’s sake”

“Anyway. We have our concept, my esteemed colleagues. “Mile sur mera tumhaara, tho sur bane hamaara”. Now, I need ideas for the video.”

“Saar. How about we feature children from all parts of India dressed in traditional dresses and make a Nationally Integrated Fancy Dress Competition Video set to this song?”

“No. I need something more sweeping, majestic, patriotic and immensely memorable”

———————————————————-

The director was pensive, sitting in his chair (that read “Director” at the back) and he had his thinking cap on. Well, it was actually a beret to help him cover his male-pattern baldness, but it was his lucky charm, and he had worn it for the last 2 decades. This was a challenging assignment though. 6 minutes is all he had, in which the diversity of India had to be highlighted. The cast had been assembled, and he had less than a week to shoot this. There was no time for retakes or for that matter, editing. He had one shot at this, and it was going to be difficult. He knew it.

“Mr Joshi, we need you to sing something in Bhairavi (a.k.a Sindhu Bhairavi in Carnatic), and since it’s Hindi, and it represents more people in India than any other language, I’ll give you 60 seconds”

“Next up, Mr Dal Lake boatman, how about a hilly sounding, folksy rendition of the Mile sur line while you paddle across the lake?

“Miss Azmi, I’m sorry, we need to spend a little more time on this aerial view of the Taj instead of focussing on your shampoo-ad hair”

“Ok next up, we need a Sindhi celebrity. Wait. what? You cant find anyone? What about all those big businessmen? Real estate tycoons? Damn, we have a deadline to meet. Can you find any singers? Actors? No? No one? Damn. Wait. What did you say? You have a short bespectacled, one-series wonder leg spinner who can bathroom sing? Ok. bring him on then. We’ll manage”

“What do you mean the Punjabis are insisting on a 30 second massive Bhangra collective dance? No. I’m sick of that. Let’s just put all of them on a tractor”

“Ok Urdu now. Let’s just seat all these people on a porch and let’s have that lady sing one of those longing evocative lines while appearing suitably north-indianly demure. What? How many men and how many women? Dude, this is North India you are talking about. 6 guys and 1 girl, that should do. It’s perfectly representative of the gender ratio in the north”

“Ok. That’s a wrap for today. We’ll do the South and East tomorrow”

——————————————————

“Yes, what the $%#& do you mean, Revathi? She is from Kerala, you dimwit.”

“And Mr Kamal, I would like you to look like Rodin’s thinker, with clothes on, and sitting on the beach, i.e”

“I hope you realize that just inviting me and not inviting Rajinikanth/Mohanlal/Mamootty/Raajkumar is a faux pas of colossal proportions. I’m just going to put on a bemused these-amits-dont-know-a-thing-about-the-south kind of expression. I hope you dont mind”

“Mr Balamurali, I perfectly understand that you are a genius, a prodigy and a musical savant, but we only have like 5 minutes so I am afraid I cannot allow you to sing a Ragam-Thaanam-Pallavi in Muralidhwani, a 4-note raga that you have specially invented for this occasion. It just wont fit in. How about we do stick to Sindhu Bhairavi, and like these nice Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala representatives, keep it to a single line, 10 seconds or less please. Shall we go ahead. Action”

“Isai than..namm..iruvarin..This is not looking good. This line gives me the feeling that he aint nowhere close to being done yet. Isai per…Oh damn. Shit. shit. shit. He’s going high now. 15 seconds up. Aagiser aarugal…Damn. Hey. Sriharikota, we have a problem, let’s cut out Bhojpuri, and reduce all of the North east to a 5 second dance…Nam…isai..(rapid ascent up steep mountain followed by bungee jump from peak, soaring downwards and then finally swinging back up)”

“Thank you Balamurali sir. And no. I know you are from Andhra Pradesh, but I’m afraid I cant let you sing the Telugu version of Mile sur as well”

“Ok. Lets have 20 seconds of dancey kinda thakadhimi stuff. At high speed. Pronto”

“Karnataka yes – Prakash, keep smiling at the camera, you strange man next to him, I don’t know who you are, but just keep staring at the lady on top, alright. Dont look at the camera.”

“Telugu folks, great. Listen. Since we gave your guy Balamurali a rather unplanned run, we’re gonna have to cut you short. I’m really sorry”

“Good afternoon, my fellow Keralites. we have a bit of situation. I’m afraid we cant quite do the Kathakali infused with Mohinattam in front of bejwelled elephants with the Chanda kottu background bit. Thanks to Balamurali, I’m afraid we can only accomodate the elephant and mahout. And just 1 line please. Sorry.”

Listen, Mr director, what Bangal sings today, India will sing tomorrow. We cannot sing Tomar Shoor in the rapid and unseemly tempo that everyone seems to be singing it in. We would like to slow it down to half speed, and also shoot the video in slow motion. Yes, we have several eminent Bengalis ready to walk out of the metro. Teek achey? Lets roll. Hello, Mr Orun Lal? Who let Orun Lal in? Nevermind”

Assamese – one line only please, and no, we cannot feature a Bodo version as well. And no rhinos, alright?”

“The rest of the North east – you’ve got 5 seconds. Joined-at-the-waist Tribal dance please..”

————————————————–

And so on.

Bloopers

The Kashmiri boatman topples over. The tractor develops engine trouble. The Taj aerial view accidentally captures the Sand mafia stealing cartloads of sand from the Yamuna banks. Hirwani is stung by a jellyfish as he walks on the beach. The elephant with the mahout decides to sit down and roll in the mud. All of the Bengalis walking out of the metro are smoking Charminar cigarettes. One of the kids in the white coloured dress is wearing a “Che Guevara” shirt while running in to form the tricolour.

76 Comments

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  1. Brilliantly done. Belongs in the same league as your FB Mahabharata and veg guide!

    Also, remember how the Goans have no song! They just show up in their vintage car wearing sportcoats and smile?

    And back when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, we used to try and figure out what the North Eastern guys were singing – something like kuvan kuvan chaluva chattanu or something. It made for a good made up gaali.

    1. FYI , it was not the North Eastern Guys … It was the Oriya couple singing … And they were singing

      ” tuma āmara svarara miḷana, sriṣṭi kari chālu ekā tāna “

      1. ha ha , I was in 2nd or 3rd grade at the time as well, and my memory of those lines are “tumar moron surena milana, srishti kori chaaluva chappana” 🙂 good old days !

  2. How could you forget to add something suitably scathing about the Hindu …er…Hindi trimurthis – Big B, Jeetu & Mithun-da !!
    Other than that small one, kuRai onRum illai 🙂

  3. That video always strikes me with its lack of representation for English. And what other Indian language has helped the Indian economy as much?

  4. Nice!

    I once answered a full fledged quiz round (ahem, modelled on Sid Basu’s Mastermind…) on Mile Sur mera Tumhaara. Mario Miranda, Arun Lal…opps…sorry, Orun Lal, Louis Banks, Buniyaad, Dina Pathak, Prakash Padukone were some of the answers I got right. Couldn’t get Kamal, of all ppl!

    This one, and the ‘Educational’ videos by NFDC – like hind des ke niwasi…. are eternal favorites.

  5. You forgot to mention about the credit section.. which ran through so quickly, that I had no time to figure out the North east singer names…

  6. Vazhakkam Pola Pattaya Kelappittel pongo ! Aarambam rubber madhiri irundhalum, poga poga besh besh dhaan.

    Kamalahasan’a miss pannadhu seri illa. His mention deserves a ‘patch-release’ 😉

    And, there could’ve been a line or two on Rajini’s absence. ‘Perhaps the director didn’t want any is-style with cigarettes / bullets ‘

    1. Not including the Super Star was criminal. One stone, three mangoes adichchirukkalaam. Marathi-Kannadiga-Thamizhan!
      Or 1 second kaamichchaalum, 100 second paarthamaadhiri irundhirukkum!! 😀

  7. You’ve ruined one of my favourite childhood memories! I’m going to get mental images of the (Krish Ashok ishtyle) shoot every time I see the video. I don’t know whether to bonk you on the head or send you oodles of money.

  8. I recollect, Sundays 08:10 hours odd it used to be on air. My only spot of entertainment before B.R Chopra banners screamed “MahahahahaBharat”. Did much to improve my linguistic and geography quotient. Thanks for the wonderful rewind!

  9. A typical scene..

    They had to get bollywood actors to lip sync Lata..

    Wonder they should have allowed Big B to render ” Mile Sur” in his baritone.. or even Dada for that sake 🙂

    guess u can take India out of Bollywood , but not Bollywood out of India [ wonder whose quotations were on similar lines ]

  10. Holy cow (not kamadhenu 😉 )the bloopers part was really hilarious. U are king at making parody. Hats off even though i dont have one now but only in the pic.

  11. As cool as ever….would have preferred if you have added directors commentary in the video though :)Bloopers = awesome….Did not know Arunlal too smokes Charminar!

  12. lol @ the BMK part.. pure genius haha (i mean the post)
    i remember i was scared too that he might go on and sing a full RTP 🙂
    OTOH i remember the other similar DD video baje sargam, where they give a teeny lil part to SB and he just weaves magic!!!

  13. Konjum edit panna rombavey thukkala errukkam.

    Kya imagination paaya hain, thum ney…….

    What are these other commenters saying about Kamal-sir. Thiruppi padinga, he is there only…

  14. This is superbly funny and satirical. As good as Rajani summing up the northies attitude to the southies in Sivaji….remember ‘Kaun hai?’….’Bossda kenai”. I bet the northies didnt get the dig on them, they wouldnt get it here either…..rocking.

  15. This is superbly funny and satirical. As good as Rajni summing up the northies attitude to the southies in Sivaji….remember ‘Kaun hai?’….’Bossda kenai”. I bet the northies didnt get the dig on them, they wouldnt get it here either…..rocking.

  16. awesome!!!
    its fun watching d video after reading ur version…
    it wud hv been even better had u continued describing the events after d assamese version had been shot…
    kudos to u ‘saar’…

  17. Superb post! Though most folks are absolutely hung up on this vid, I used to always wonder why on earth a mahout on an elephant was representing Kerala? Or which state the tribal dancers were supposed to representing?

  18. Sir, ‘Microsoft’, ‘Hindi’ mela ivalo ‘rage’ aaaaaaaa? En kooda sirikarthuku Dinesh illa avalodaan.
    National Integrity feele keduthu comedy pannitel pongo. Sooon will start Branch Office for Jalsa -Jilpa. Also soon to author for a Book ‘Sams Teach yourself KrishAshok Blog in 10 minutes’ 🙂

  19. //he has added a new item to the top of this list – to seek out new and interesting ways to keep his wife smiling all the time.//

    1st time here. Description was adorable 😉

    Hope to drop by more often! C Ya!

  20. I read your post entirely and then watched the video. Literally laughed out loud at it! Only George Carlin manages to make fun of serious topics so well. You really are talented!

  21. Hey Dude… Oops.. Saar… Konnutl Pongo.. Just imagined everything like what you have narrated and burst ot laughing till my stomach hurt… Nindey Swaramum Engaloodey Swaramum Otucherindhu nam odey swaramaai… The malayalam Line u C…..

  22. Hmmm. Always thought the Balamurali overdid his, glad you think so too.
    I have always enjoyed listening to it on the AIR sans the video and it always elevated my spirits.
    The Bongs that walk out of the Metro are all big shots and teek acchey what?
    And, to sum up, “poadaadaei” ;-).

  23. I liked the ‘ English teacher at the school ‘ idea.

    my sound ur sound our sound
    watte concept ? Man , u rock !

    It was painful those days not to find Rajini in the video ..

    And to capture a video like this is sure a mamoth attempt to convince every Indian on the “we are one ” concept. Gud that u had ur say 🙂

    Ur post now reminds me of ‘Ek chidiya..’ , ‘Spirit of Unity ‘ et al.

  24. Thalaiva,
    Ungala ennoda maanaseega guru’va vechundu (besides one of the many protagonists), I have written a post here – http://cowmaaa.blogspot.com/2009/09/stereotyping-contemporary-intellectual_24.html
    I have made a snide-yet-almost-direct allusion to you in one of the concluding paragraphs. I hope you will not mistake me. If you take in good humour (which I hope and think you will), mikka magizhchi, if you are offended, my apologies. 😀

  25. ‘sur’na soundaa saar 🙂 BMK-ya pichuttel pongo! andha “namm isai-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i” part-a kashta pattu kathindu paadi kai thattal vaangirukken aththa poyi ipdi ….. :))))

  26. The most abiding memory I have this is of watching it with my cousin, who kept showing off his knowledge of celebrities. “BMK”, “Kamal”, “Padukone” etc. Then came the mahout on the elephant – our man realised it is Kerala, but didnt have too much time to figure out who and couldnt help blurting out “P.T.Usha”!”. jenmathukku sethaan avan. Ippo kooda he gets teased on that 🙂

  27. Please saar put equal fundas on the latest reprise of this classic…imho, its India’s answer to the Chinese water torture technique…
    Hope you can inject some humour into it 🙂

  28. I just saw the new one and had to immediately soothe my ears with the original. I ran into this post while looking for exactly what you mentioned – a “making of” video. But this is better!

  29. dude i literally had to stay awake trying to go through this PhD project. i made it to second para! Your review of Phir Mile Sur was pretty awesome though 🙂

  30. ellam saridan saar, tamil lyrics mattum sariya kadhu kodhutu kekalaiyo?
    Isai than..no – isaindhaal
    namm..iruvarin..ok
    Aagiser…no Aazhiser( Aazhi aka kadal)
    Nam…isai ok

  31. Hi there! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established
    blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast.
    I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions?
    With thanks

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