Manoj Kumar’s patriotism is predominantly paented by the evergreen song Mere desh ki dharti sona oogle oogle here moti.
Recalling its genesis, the veteran filmmaker-actor says, “Meri desh ki dharti happened when we had gone to a shrine to pay our respects. When we returned from the shrine in the car, lyricist Gulshan Bawra was singing ‘Mere desh ki dharti sona ugley… jawanon bhar bhar lo jholiyan… khushi se bolo boliyan.’ I kept quiet as he hummed these lyrics.Two-three years later when I made ‘Upkar’, I went to music composer Kalyanji and narrated the script. I called Gulshan Bawra home and told him the situation. I recalled the lyrics I had heard him hum near the shrine. It had stayed in my mind I saw it as a great idea that needed to be improvised.”
However the lines for the song were different back then. “I didn’t like the lines that Gulshan Bawra had written: ‘Jawanon bhar lo jholiyan, khushi se bolo boliyan’.I removed it from my ‘Upkar’ song. Instead we had ‘Meridesh ki dharti sona ugley ugle heere-moti’. Both Kalyanji and Gulshan were hesitant. They said the ‘mukhda’ of a song couldn’t be of one line. But I was adamant.An hour later Gulshan, who was sitting in the next room jumped and said, ‘This is great’. Every filmmaker while writing a screenplay comes to a landmark point in the plot where he thinks a scene can be narrated musically. That situation is given to the lyricist and explained. That was how Mere desh ki dharti happened.”
Manoj Kumar remembers with pride how the song grew into an iconic anthem over generations. “That song is imperishable. When Mahendra Kapoor-ji, who sang ‘Mere desh ki dharti’, expired our prime minister ManmohanSingh said he would always be remembered for ‘Mere desh ki dharti’. It hurts to know so many people connected with that song – Kalyanji, Mahendra Kapoor and Gulshan Bawra – are no more.”