Every year, since 2009 I have been part of the IQL team to host India Unplugged, a quiz on India. As we usually do it on the Republic Day, we play the National Anthem before the start of the quiz. As the presentation slides are my responsibility, I am the one who finds or decides which “version” of the national anthem to be played.
Version? I think we are only country in the world that has so many versions of our National Anthem. There is that extended Aalap version of AR Rahman with music stalwarts, the wonderfully shot “Silent Anthem”, the extremely patriotic slow instrumental version with Siachen Glacier soldiers (my most favourite) and even an intolerable rock version.
But this year, fed up with multiple versions, I searched for the original official choir version. All that I could find is a low quality YouTube video through my short search. I played it to see how many in the auditorium sing it. Half of the crowd genuinely joined the choir and sung the whole anthem. I was convinced a good quality original will make every one to sing.
What is this original version?
Our national anthem or any national anthem comes with a set of rules or guidelines to reproduce it in a public gathering. Singing of the Indian National Anthem comes with giuidelines that has been published in various places including the official site of the Indian Government
It even gives the video version and the mp3 version of the Indian National Anthem and are of low quality – no different from the version I downloaded. If you read the guidelines carefully, mass singing of the national anthem is what the government expects the people to do be it in public gatherings, schools and colleges. In fact, schools have compulsory singing of National Anthem in the morning so that it gets popularised among the young children. But, the question is are we singing? Are we encouraging our children to sing it?
Why someone should sing the National Anthem?
I still remember a moment from my school days when I warned one of my classmates as he was not respecting the national anthem and the flag. I love to sing my National Anthem loud and clear, wherever it’s played. It gives me immense pride and unquenchable trust on my country men that we will succeed against all odds. I am also not for blind singing of the National Anthem without knowing the meaning of it. It has been written by one of the greatest poets that India has ever produced and has a very simple tune so that every one can sing it without any training. In fact, the harmony that the song takes when it’s sung in a chorus, just mind blowing.
There are people who don’t sing it at a gathering but respect it. There are people who don’t sing it because they have their own principles. I respect each one of them. But if you think singing the national anthem is an “uncool” thing to do, you have lost my respect. Singing the national anthem is a matter of pride and our anthem definitely qualifies to be one of the most beautifully written poems in the world.
Why I love and hate the versions?
When AR Rahman and Bharatbala set out to have an album on the National Anthem, I was extremely happy about it. No doubt, it was a wonderful video and brilliantly orchestrated. But I expected AR Rahman to do the original 52 second version too, alas he flattered to deceive. Most of the “versions” of our National Anthem that spawned because of this video, have been reasonably good except for a few like the rock version.
The point I am arriving at is, people started playing the longer versions of the National Anthem in public gatherings especially the AR Rahman’s version because of the quality, popularity and the fantastic performers. But it did one horrible thing, it stopped us from singing the national anthem. I can’t do an aalap like Hariharan or Lata Mangeshkar nor the slow version allows me to sing with the fervour that’s connected with the song. I actually tried to sing the song along with the video and I sounded really really pathetic in a public gathering. And I found, none of them were singing. It’s not because they don’t know the song, it’s because the song is slow and sung by the experts in their own way. A search in the internet gave me a startling fact that even a few Indian embassies abroad are using the AR Rahman version. Are we losing the originality of the song that was written and composed by Tagore?
I believe in some years even the official version will be changed to any one of the above mentioned versions and probably the original version will be in archives.
What can be done?
1.The Government can come up with an official choir version (good quality) or even get one of the celebrity singers to do a perfect 52 second version
2.The instrumental version is brilliant. But provide a high quality version to be played in public gatherings.
3.Encourage mass singing without the aid of any visual or audio medium . Nothing sounds better than 100 people singing our beautiful anthem.
4. Stop playing other versions in public gatherings of any importance. No Rock versions, no aalaps and not even the silent anthem. They can be watched million times on YouTube and shared in Facebook on the days of national importance
5. Start singing our national anthem.. Please
Although a low quality video, check out the harmony that fills when a crowd sings the National Anthem – This is the world record effort from the people of Aurangabad
P.S: Did you know that the first AR Rahman version had four ‘Jaya he’s in the penultimate line? Check it out here -
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