India heads to the Olympics, with a new ‘cheer song’
India has never had an official OIympic song, and not much reason to have one either. Now there are two, and with good reason. India’s largest contingent of athletes for an Olympics head to Tokyo with an unprecedented six athletes ranked No 1 in the world in their fields. They will go to the tune of Hindustani Way, launched on Wednesday as the “official cheer song” for the contingent.
Composed by AR Rahman and sung by Ananya Birla, the song features both Hindi and English lyrics. In typical Rahman fashion, it’s heavy on rousing beats. “Ananya came to me and said let’s do a song together. She was very excited. Her voice is great, her spirit is great. That’s how Hindustani Way happened,” Rahman said during the release of the song. The launch was an online event, where Anurag Thakur, the Union minister for youth affairs & sports, released the song.
Rahman is no stranger to making stirring music of course, nor is sports-themed music new for the man who wrote the music for the 2002 film Lagaan, whose central plot revolved around a pre-Independence cricket match. “Coming from Lagaan and so many songs I have done before, it takes a lot to cheer something. The way we make it is simple and at the same time resonating,” Rahman said.
“I love watching tennis, love cricket, football. Just love all sorts of sports,” Ananya said. “Fact that I was able to write this song with AR sir, it’s a huge milestone for my career.”
The video for Hindustani Way begins with an Indian family watching Leander Paes in action at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where Paes won a bronze to end India’s drought of going 16 years without an Olympic medal. The video follows the same family as it maps some of India’s Olympic medal winners since — Rajyavardhan Rathore in 2004, Abhinav Bindra in 2008, PV Sindhu in 2016 — interspersed with shots of Rahman dancing and Ananya singing.
India’s other Olympic song comes from pop star Mohit Chauhan, and is equally beat heavy, with bagpipes-sounding keyboards in the mix. The video shows Chauhan and his band performing in an empty stadium, which is what athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will also face. The video for Chauhan’s song—Tu Thaan Ley—features footage of India’s Tokyo-bound athletes in training. It was released on June 23.
Though songs about national contingents are rare, the Olympics usually feature some fine performances. In Tokyo, Covid-19 regulations means that there will be no crowds in attendance for any show.