Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad conceptualised certain films issued for the public interest because India was going through a critical phase post four decades of independence. Following the assassination of the national leader, there was insurgency in different parts of the country. The continual uprisings of secessionist forces led to a growing disillusionment of the country’s much-famed notion of unity and solidarity. The government thought of using the powerful medium of television, press advertisement and poster campaigns to propagate the idea of a unified India.

Rajiv Gandhi, the young and new Prime Minister of the country thought of conveying the message of the prosperity of a progressive India. He approached his friend Suresh Mullick of the leading ad agency Ogilvy and Mather to make a film on the topic. It was then passed to Kailash Surendranath to direct the film. The idea of getting together a horde of eminent sports personalities running with a lamp to signify the undying flame of the country’s regeneration and progressive march had appealed to Kailash, who said, “We wanted to make a film on the concept of Chariots of Fire. We wanted to catch the spirit of the Olympics. Louiz made that rousing kind of music that lent to it a feel of a military organ. It set up a new trend of music.”


While legendary composer Vangelis synthesised the instrumental sounds on his CS-80 keyboard to give a period film sound, Louiz’s tune had a deeply patriotic feel. The key that proclaimed like a bugle at the onset of the music set the ball rolling. As the torch gets handed down from one legend to the other, the music soars up like philharmonic crescendo and grows broader and broader in grandeur. It was purely western in its feel, but the climactic twist was a sign of pure genius.

On the advice of Kailash Surendranath, the westernised tune shifted gear and climaxed with part of the national anthem. When the team moved to Lok Sabha Sanchal, it was summarily rejected as the national anthem was sacrosanct and any experiment on that would invariably attract controversy. So Louiz made another version of it without that “Jaya He” bit. When Rajiv Gandhi listened to both of the versions, he chose the one with part of the national anthem.

It set a new trend of national integration films. These films were meant to instil the pride of innate Indianness among the countrymen. Louiz was given the best National Integration Film Music Award from Advertising Club of Bombay for Spread the Light of Freedom (1988). And it led to another film which created a new benchmark of films of this genre. It was Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, that came a year later, and it has remained the most iconic film ever made on national integration till date.


After the dizzying success of Spread the Light of Freedom, also known as Freedom Run, Kailash was the spontaneous choice when a year later, Rajiv Gandhi thought of making Mile Sur (August 1988). Rajiv Gandhi was close to Jaideep Samarth, who was working with Ogilvy and Mather. Jaideep and Ogilvy’s creative director Suresh Mullick came to Kailash with the proposal of making the film on the same lines of Freedom Run but on a much larger canvas.

The lyrics were to be written by the then junior account manager Piyush Pandey of Ogilvy. Piyush Pandey, the man who over time earned legendary status in the history of Indian ad films, had to rewrite the lyrics 18 times before they were finally approved by Suresh Mullick, the chief visionary of the project. Two other committee members of Ogilvy were given the responsibility of charging up India. Like Freedom Run, the film was to exhibit national integrity within a brief span of six to seven minutes. Music was instrumental to uphold such an essential pan Indianness and to unify the diverse cultures of the nation. Pandey narrated in an interview later:

“Suresh, being a classical music aficionado, chose ‘music’ as the thread to tie it all. I remember back then telexes were being used. Suresh used to send a room full of telexes to Louiz Banks, who made the music track telling him how would the music turn and manifest into what, at each juncture of the ad.”

“Not many people know that the opening shot of Mile Sur is at the same waterfall that I shot the Liril commercial ad. While the likes of Bachchan were lining up to shoot for this project, I had one Bollywood actor say ‘no’ to me. He was Naseeruddin Shah who declined to be featured saying the film was political. I was very keen to have Lataji sing. She was travelling, and it looked difficult for her to work with us within our schedule. But she changed things around and made it back to Mumbai just 2-3 days before we were to go on air. She arrived at the studio in her Indian flag-pallu white saree. I shot and recorded her in the studio in that dress, and that is what you see in the film.”

— Kailash Surendranath

The film was made to project the country’s unity in diversity. The notable personalities brought within its domain hailed from different states and represented varied cultural identities. It is this multiplicity that gave the film a unified character. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was assigned with the job of making a 30-second clip with which the film was to start. But the classical maestro couldn’t curb the spontaneous overflow of his music. Kailash’s recollections could shed some light on the immense work that the team went through:

“It was a matter of collective genius at work. When I got the set of lyrics, I took it to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and asked him to sing for the first 30 to 40 seconds. He said that he couldn’t make music for 40 seconds. I then told him to take as long as he wanted, and we would make it as much as we need. He kept the thing for a week and then we booked a studio at Worli. He had only tanpura and harmonium. Louiz was also there. Louiz set up the melody and did the track. Bhimsen Joshi sang for about 40 minutes with all his variations. I handed the track to Doordarshan, but they lost that priceless track. We finished the track and edited it. That track was then given to Balamurali Krishna and others, and I asked them to compose on their own. But they had to keep the same key and raga as much as they could. Then we had to compose tracks for Lata Mangeshkar, Shabana Azmi and others. There was a small collaboration. We had Vaidyanathan and then Louiz. Vaidyanathan also composed on the same key and raga. Then we needed the big sound, the patriotic sound, and most importantly, we needed to put them all together. All shots had separate pieces of music but binding all the tracks together having little pieces in between with keyboards and all and then bringing it to a crescendo, bringing chorus at the end for Amitabh and little children and finally weaving it with national anthem – that reflected the sheer genius of Louiz Banks.”

But another person had a huge role when Louiz weaved them all together – Ashok Patki, another noted music composer. When asked about the contribution that Ashok made, Louiz said:

“It is so sad that Ashok passed away a couple of years ago. He had a huge role to play in the making of the film. He organised all the language dubbing. It was done under his supervision and direction. When everything was roughly completed, I put it all together by composing music interludes and the ending of the song with the big chorus build up and then the final ending with the national anthem. Ashok did a lot of work for the song.”

The song quintessentially projected the syncretic character of the Indian nation and instilled among the countrymen the values of communal harmony. The widest diversity of people, languages, cultures and religions in one single country was brought out when one single tune was sung in Hindi, Assamese, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Kashmiri, Marathi, Telegu and even in tribal dialects. The core values of secularism, the uniqueness of a tolerant and diverse India and the true spirit of Indianness were brilliantly brought out by the aesthetically shot videos and the simple lyrics of Piyush Pandey.

On 15 August 1988, when Doordarshan beamed this film for the first time following the Prime Ministerial address from the ramparts of Red Fort, the entire nation watched with rapt attention and the film marked an epoch-making event of Indian advertisement. For anyone who grew up in the ’80s, Asian Games and the arrival of colour television in 1982, India’s Cricket World Cup victory in 1983, Ramayana (1987/88) and Mahabharata (1988/90) and the anthem Mile Sur Mera Tumhara (1988) got etched into a permanent place in one’s heart.


The success of Freedom Run and Mile Sur led to the making of a series of films with the same Mera Bharat Mahan feel. A year later, a film named Desh Raag (1989) was released and this time, the film was a bit longer. It was commissioned once again by Rajiv Gandhi, and it reached Kailash Surendranath for yet another time for his reputation of directing some of the finest classical musicians of the country.

Unlike the raag Bhairavi of Mile Sur, this time it was based on raag Desh as the name itself suggests. The song Desh Raag engaged performers from diverse premises. There were classical vocalists, instrumentalists and even dancers performing together. The climax of the film was marked by candles being lit up by children in turn, accompanied by Kavita Krishnamurthy’s humming at the background “Baje sargam har taraf se”. With strong nationalistic sentiments sustaining all through its 13-minute duration, the song was finally wound up with Louiz’s signature “Jaya He”.

Louiz Banks: A Symphony of Love

Excerpted with permission from Louiz Banks: A Symphony of Love, Ashis Ghatak, Rupa Publications.