It is hard to believe, but ‘Ek Sur’ or ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’, the musical ode to India’s unity in diversity created by Ogilvy India, has completed 20 years. The agency celebrated this milestone in true Indian spirit and paid tributes to Suresh Malik, the film’s creator, as well as the Government of India. The celebrations also had a special meaning with it coinciding with the country’s 61st Independence Day.
Going back in time, Lok Parishad Seva Sanchar Parishad had approached O&M with the task of “packaging a country into a five-minute jingle in 14 languages”. Thus was born the ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’, which was aired for the first time on August 15, 1988, after the telecast of the Prime Minister’s speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. It captivated millions in India, gaining a near-anthem status ever since.
On August 14, 2008, Ogilvy India paid tribute to Suresh Malik, the then head of Ogilvy, who had created this film along with Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman, NCD, Ogilvy India, and Vice Chairman Ogilvy Asia Pacific. The campaign video was directed by Kailash Sundernath. The agency held a poster exhibition with various creatives revolving around the ‘Mile Sur…’ idea that was spread out on the walls of the whole office. The agency officials were dressed in traditional attire to celebrate the day.
In 1988, it was only Doordarshan that leveraged this creative idea to the fullest. According to Pandey, the Government of India and the Indian broadcasting fraternity had given full justice to the idea, giving it significant on-air presence. He further said that time had come to take this idea to more mediums. “In 1988, television was the only source and Doordarshan was the key network. Today, with the growth of various mediums, I guess the time has come to revive this thought again,” Pandey observed.
Down the ‘Mile Sur…’ memory lane with Pandey
Pandey recalled that prior to ‘Mile Sur…’, Suresh Malik had worked on another campaign celebrating the spirit of sportsmanship. This film showed sportspersons running with the torch spreading the light of freedom. “It was a huge success. Then a year later, the Government of India asked Suresh to do something new on similar lines. He came up with this concept then, of people and celebrities coming together in a song, which was sung in many languages, but to one tune,” Pandey reminisced.
He added, “Personally, for me it was a life sorter because I was very new to the creative agency. Suresh placed his faith in me to write this song. He did monitor the work very closely and finally the 18th copy that I had written was approved.” For Pandey, this video holds a very passionate memory, and shooting the video was one of the best experiences of his life.
He said, “It is one of the most unforgettable and fantastic moments. The people in the last shot where the Tri-colour was created by a group were none other than the Ogilvy staff itself. To just give this one last shot, we all travelled to Film-City studios from Churchgate via the bus route.”
‘Mile Sur...’ was not limited to being a public service campaign only. The idea has been used in several media initiatives. For instance, Lintas Media Group included the ‘Mile Sur…’ idea in one of its media programmes. Similarly, Ogilvy India itself holds ‘Mile Sur…’ training programmes.