It is a song that is sung on most patriotic occasion, had moved India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears and its morale-boosting words provided solace to a nation agonised by the defeat in the 1962 India-China war.
Ae mere watan, penned by National Poet Pradeep, was written shortly after the war and served to unite the masses that were seething with rage over the battering the Indian forces received.
The song, revered next only to the National Anthem and the National Song (Vande Mataram), was first rendered before a packed National Stadium in the capital on a cold January 27 evening exactly 50 years ago, by Lata Mangeshkar.
The distinguished audience included President S Radhakrishnan, Prime Minister Nehru, virtually the entire film industry comprising stalwarts like Dilip Kumar and late actors Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Mohammed Rafi and Hemant Kumar.
“My father wasn’t invited. When Nehru visited Mumbai three months later — on March 21, 1963 — he sang it for him at a function here and also presented the original handwritten poem to him,” says Pradeep’s daughter, Mitul.
Lata almost missed out on singing it due to a misunderstanding, but was convinced by Pradeep.