Celebrating World Heritage Day: Ten Songs

Today, April 18th, is World Heritage Day. A day to thank God, our ancestors, civilisation—for the richness that surrounds us. Whether it’s in the form of a unique ecosystem, or a beautiful old building. Or a language, a cuisine, a medicinal system. It’s all heritage, and it’s all precious. All remarkably, frighteningly fragile.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has, as one of its wings, the World Heritage Centre. This is responsible for selecting (based on very strict criteria), preserving and promoting the UNESCO World Heritage Sites: natural and cultural heritage believed to be of ‘outstanding value to humanity’. India has a total of 28 World Heritage Sites, with a further 32 nominated and therefore on the ‘Tentative List’.

So: to celebrate. Ten songs, from Hindi films of the 50s and 60s (the only exception being Johny Mera Naam, 1970), which are picturised, either in part or totally, against a backdrop of a UNESCO World Heritage Site—or at least a tentative one. These are all from films I’ve seen. Enjoy!

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Ten of my favourite patriotic filmi songs

I am very proud to be Indian, but I guess in a way that wouldn’t make me terribly popular with some people. I do not agree, for instance, that everything about India is top class, or that everything about the countries we have political, social, economic or other differences with is necessarily evil through and through. I love India, but I do not feel that means I must hate other countries.
But one thing I will concede: nobody does “I love India” songs as well as Bollywood. Of course. We have so many different forms of patriotism onscreen: the soldierly bravery of Haqeeqat; the dignified, subdued yet exceptionally poignant love for country of a native far from home in Kabuliwaala; the militant, do-or-die fervour of Bhagat Singh in Shaheed; the urge to take the country forward into a new age of progress, in Hum Hindustani...

So here are my ten favourite patriotic songs, all from 50’s and 60’s (occasionally 40’s) films that I’ve seen. Happy Independence Day!

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Leader (1964)

Having spent most of my life avidly watching Hindi films—especially pre-80’s—I’m inclined to be indulgent. I don’t bat an eyelid when a heroine’s hairdo goes from stylish bob to flowing tresses from one scene to the next. I don’t wonder how an arch villain can defy the cops of an entire nation (occasionally, most of the world) and still fall before the combined efforts of the hero, his comic sidekick, and a faithful pooch. I forgive completely illogical turns and plot elements, ascribing them to artistic license. I mumble a puzzled “What the—!” or “How the—!” or even a “Why the—!” and move on.
Leader is one of those (thankfully rare) films that’s a “What/Why/How the—!” moment from beginning to end.

Dilip Kumar and Vyjyantimala in Leader

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