Article Hindi

Revisiting 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti' on Gulshan Bawra's death anniversary

The song was meant for the second generation of independent India that couldn't connect with the patriotic fervour their forefathers died for.

Anita Paikat

Gulshan Kumar Mehta aka Gulshan Bawra, wrote over 240 songs in a span of 42 years. Much before his songs, his wacky sense of humour earned him a name in the Hindi film industry ('Bawra', quite literally).

A product of Partition, during which he witnessed the murder of his parents, it is ironic that Gulshan Bawra is most famous for a patriotic song — 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti' from Upkar (1967).   

On his 8th death anniversary today (7 August), we revisit the song that is a favourite at patriotic functions even today.

'Mere Desh Ki Dharti' was an ode to Mother India. Encapsulating the fervour of a newly independent India, the song laid down a list of reasons for an Indian to feel obliged towards their motherland. The ideas of tradition and rootedness were at war with those of modernity and westernization.

More often than not, patriotic songs in Hindi cinema revolved around the bravery of soldiers and the country as a female enitity. Take for example, Kabuliwala's (1961) 'Aye Mere Pyaare Watan' that compares the 'watan' with a loving mother and a little daughter and Prem Pujari's (1970) 'Taqat Watan Ki Humse' which celebrated the bravery of soldiers as protectors of land and humanity.

The trope of the country's motherhood and its fertility was, however, heightened with Mehta's 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti'. What set this song apart from the other patriotic songs was the character singing it. It was not a soldier or a freedom fighter singing the praises, but a farmer expressing his gratitude. The song can be divided in two parts — one that boasts of the motherland's natural produce and the second that speaks of the great men born on the land.

The farmer didn't speak of taking up arms against the enemies of his country, but just described an ideal rural India — the ringing of cow bells, the fields lush with produce, along with a tribute to the leaders who were born on this motherland.

Mehta won his first Filmfare award for this song, a well deserved one as he penned a song that every Indian could relate to, not just those who stood on the borders or those who were part of the freedom struggle. The song was in a true sense meant for the second generation of independent India, a generation that couldn't connect with the patriotic fervour their forefathers died for. A generation that was either busy tilling the land in the rural villages or adapting the western lifestyle in the urban cities.