The phrase “Achhe din” was one of Narendra Modi’s favourites during the 2104 general election, and it became popular enough to earn its own music video and Wikipedia page, not to mention numerous memes and rude jokes. Like another BJP favourite, “India Shining,” the phrase has now become a reminder of the distance between grand promises and ground realities – to the extent that it has been disowned by some of Modi’s colleagues. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has claimed that the previous Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was responsible for coining the phrase. Gadkari needn’t have resorted to such defensiveness – all he had to do was tune into the song Achhe Din Aa Rahe Hain Hurrah from Mr Sampat (1952). Written by Pandit Indra Chandra, composed by Balkrishna Kalla and sung by Shamshad Begum, the song is hopeful that the rich will help in eradicating poverty.

‘Achhe Din’ from ‘Mr Sampat’ (1952).

However, Gadkari might disavow this connection. Mr Sampat, directed by SS Vasan and based on the RK Narayan novel Mr Sampath The Printer of Malgudi, is a satire in which a con artist (played by Motilal) swindles his way through the world. His feats include managing the municipal campaign election of a wealthy trader, manipulating an actress who is in love with him (Padmini), and starting a bank that offers staggeringly high rates of interest. Sampat is no role model, and Pandit Indra Chandra’s lyrics are part of the movie’s overall satirical tone rather than a dreamy-eyed anthem for the future.