With The Tokyo Olympics And Our seventy fifth Independence Day On Our Minds, An Advertising Insider Takes Us Back To The Sets Of A Patriotic Video That Can Still Get Us Emotional

The 12 months was 1987. Rajiv Gandhi had taken over as Prime Minister towards a troubled political backdrop. But he was nothing like his predecessors; he was our youth icon — genteel, suave and progressive. That 12 months, he and Doordarshan’s director normal Bhaskar Ghose felt that Indian patriotism wanted a shot within the arm.

Advertising company Ogilvy & Mather was appointed to make the movie. (Rajiv Gandhi performed a significant position in getting the I&B Ministry to decide on a ‘westernised’ company as an alternative of a government-funded one to script and produce a movie on nationwide integration.) The workforce led by Suresh Mullick and movie director Kailash Surendranath was briefed.

Suresh, O&M’s maverick artistic director, was already an promoting legend. Not solely was he an excellent visualiser and author, however he had an enviable, in-depth information of music throughout genres. After some brainstorming, he determined to make use of our sports activities heroes, each present and previous, within the movie. Nothing conjures up patriotism in Indian hearts the best way sports activities does.

The visuals have been deceptively easy: a flame handed from individual to individual, until it lastly reached the palms of kids — our future. It was just about impressed by Chariots of Fire (the 1981 movie on two British athletes on the 1924 Olympics). But there was one massive distinction. This was not one steady shot filmed at a single location, however a number of pictures taken throughout the nation at iconic places, and seamlessly spliced collectively.

Close Calls And Coordination

We all know the movie: it begins with the sound of a bugle, and the visible of a lone man (cricketer Okay Srikkanth) holding aloft a lit torch, operating by the ocean at dawn. Then comes the principle melody, which will get richer and fuller with every subsequent bar, layered over with keyboard, strings, percussion and horns. It builds as much as a crescendo and an sudden finale of ‘Jaya he!’ from our nationwide anthem. The finale has not misplaced its influence in 34 years. Composer Louis Banks’ title will without end be within the annals of historical past because of this excellent anthem.

The westernised observe, nonetheless, was not what the powers at Doordarshan have been anticipating. They watched the movie aghast, protesting that the nationwide anthem was sacred. But Rajiv Gandhi beloved it and gave the nod.

How did I come into the image? I used to be a 20-something head of the movie division at O&M Madras. And like my counterparts in Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore and Calcutta, I used to be roped in to get the sportspeople on board. This was a time earlier than cellphones and e mail, so the groundwork was lengthy and tedious. Some of the personalities wanted slightly convincing, however each one we needed got here on board. Doordarshan picked up the manufacturing tab, however neither the sportspeople nor the manufacturing workforce took a price.

I dealt with the Madras part — Srikkanth, and observe and discipline athletes PT Usha and Shiny Abraham. (Ramesh and Ramanathan Krishnan’s section had already been carried out on the Madras Club.) Having labored with Srikkanth on an endorsement beforehand, I had his residence cellphone quantity and acquired him on board. The ladies, together with their coach Nambiar, have been one other matter.

They have been coming back from Malaysia after the Asian Track and Field occasion, and their flight was anticipated to land in Chennai at 1 am on the day of the shoot. Since I used to be the movie government and will converse Malayalam, I used to be designated to fulfill them on the airport, together with my colleague Ramesh. After an extended wait, the athletes and their coach emerged from the terminal and we raced in the direction of them. Nambiar wasn’t too eager on his protégés being a part of what he thought of was a foolish commercial, however after some cajoling, we bundled them right into a automobile and introduced them to the Connemara Hotel. There have been some heart-stopping moments when the lodge instructed us there was no room for Nambiar. But we quickly sorted that out and checked them in. I used to be slightly shocked, nonetheless, that the lodge employees didn’t react to the presence of the 2 world-famous athletes.

We then raced to Srikkanth’s home in Kalakshetra Colony. He was sleepy, and slightly grouchy, however nonetheless was prepared in his tracksuit at 4 am. Bless him! We rushed him to the seaside resort the place the movie crew, together with Suresh and Kailash, have been ready. Srikkanth took up his place on the seaside and doubtless did three runs to nail the shot. We dropped him again and headed to the Connemara.

Deer On The Track

This time, the environment on the lodge was totally different. When Usha and Shiny got here all the way down to the foyer of their tracksuits, there was a collective gasp adopted by an awestruck hush from the individuals round. I suppose the ladies weren’t simply recognisable the night time earlier than of their salwar kameezes! I used to be gratified.

Spot the celebrities

  • Cricketers Okay Srikkanth, Tiger Pataudi (who ran along with his daughter Soha Ali Khan), Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, EAS Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar, and S Venkataraghavan; footballers PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, and Jarnail Singh; observe and discipline athletes Milkha Singh, PT Usha, Shiny Abraham, and Adille Sumariwalla; tennis gamers Ramanathan Krishnan, Ramesh Krishnan, and Nirupama Mankad; swimmer Taranath Shenoy; billiards participant Michael Ferreira; hockey gamers Balbir Singh, Merwyn Fernandes; basketball participant Abbas Moontasir; badminton participant Prakash Padukone; and 50 children from Lawrence School (Lovedale, Ooty).

The location for his or her shoot was the attractive IIT Campus in Madras. The crew was ready on the racetrack, adjoining to the deer park. When the digital camera was arrange, Usha and Shiny acquired all the way down to their shorts. I bear in mind pondering that they appeared like gazelles — all rippling muscle tissue and charm. Then a miracle occurred. A herd of deer ambled out of the woods. Suresh and Kailash had an inspiration. They requested Usha to stroll over to the place the deer have been grazing. Shiny was to take her place slightly forward, run up and hand the torch to Usha. It was of venture; we had just one likelihood to get it proper. The director gave them a hand sign, Shiny ran over and handed the torch, and Usha began operating. She startled the deer, however as an alternative of scattering into the woods, they ran alongside the tracks forward of her. It was magical! That high-speed shot, together with the soundtrack, which begins to soar at this level, by no means fails to present me goosebumps.

A month later, the movie was accomplished. I had gone to the Bombay workplace on work and met Suresh within the hall. With childlike enthusiasm, he steered me right into a packed convention corridor. I stood amongst my colleagues and watched the movie unfold, eyes moist. It was performed on loop all week.

Spread the Light of Freedom was aired on Doordarshan on August 15, 1987. It had an astounding influence throughout the nation. Thirty 4 years later, it’s nonetheless beloved and treasured. We hadn’t realised again then that we have been witnessing historical past within the making. I left promoting nearly 30 years in the past, however the pleasure of being related to this movie and its creators will stick with me without end.


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