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Remembering Suresh Mullick for Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | January 25, 2010
On the occasion of India's 60th Republic Day, afaqs! remembers Suresh Mullick, the man behind the three Freedom films -- Freedom Torch, Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara and Desh Raag

It was on January 26, 1986, that the song, 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara' first aired on Doordarshan - then the only channel available to Indian viewers. More than two decades later, we continue humming that song, though many of us know little of its visionary, Suresh Mullick.

15 years hence, the ad world has come together to pay its respect to the ingenious mind for his invaluable contribution to Indian advertising, and towards national integration.

& #BANNER1 & #Mullick passed away on March 10, 2003. But he lives on in the memorable work he created, and in the minds and hearts of those he interacted with. There are many in the industry who feel that Mullick hasn't been given the recognition he deserves. Hence, his close associates, colleagues, friends, and near and dear ones have put together an e-book, comprising letters, notes and pictures of and by the creative genius.

The e-book (http://periscopedesign.co.in/index.html) has been put together by his erstwhile colleagues who include the likes of SR (Mani) Ayer, R Sridhar, Farida Sabnavis, Anil Uzgare and Roda Mehta.

Mullick spent all his 35 years in advertising at SH Benson (the agency has been through various name changes and is now known as Ogilvy India). He joined the agency in 1962 as an account executive, and even managed the Delhi office for a while.

It was Mani Ayer, ex-CEO of the agency, who made the decision of moving Mullick into the creative department, and took him on as his creative partner. Mullick was responsible for the launch of many brands, including Titan and Bru. Vicks' mnemonic line 'Galle mein khich khich' was his work, as was Titan's signature tune.

The idea behind the e-book, says Ayer, is to familiarise the younger advertising generation with the stalwart that was Mullick. The introduction to the e-book has been written by Ayer, who is glad that he decided to shift Mullick to the creative side of the business. "It was among the few sensible decisions I made…" says Ayer in the note.

Going through the book, it is clear that everyone who interacted with Mullick has been influenced by the man in one way or the other.

The initial concept of the 'Freedom' films was Rajiv Gandhi's brainchild, who envisaged pieces of communication that would add to the sense of unity in the country and instil national pride. The trilogy of films was created by Mullick's team at Ogilvy, and Kailash Surendranath and Jeet Surendranath of Far Commercials. For the first film in the trilogy, they arrived on the theme of sportspersons. Mullick, who had a keen interest in sports, rattled off the names of various luminaries from different sports. This film, called Freedom Torch, was released in 1985.

A year later, Mile Sur…, which included singers, film stars and sportspersons, was released on Republic Day. The final film of the trilogy, Desh Raag, was a compilation led by the best music artistes in the country.

Piyush Pandey, who is now at the helm of Ogilvy India as executive chairman and national creative director, has also written a small dedication to his only boss. When working with Mullick on the films, it was the young Pandey who came up with the line, 'Mile sur mera tumhaara'.

The e-book was a result of a gathering of many Ogilvy-ites in late 2008. Every entry in the e-book mentions how Mullick never lost his childlike nature and enthusiasm, his love for sports and his thought of doing something for the country. Mullick's ear for music would surprise even the best sound engineers of the time.

The e-book includes short interviews that Mullick gave, which bring to the surface the tongue-in-cheek manner in which he called a spade a spade.

Surendranath has now created another film, 'Phir Mile Sur' on the lines of 'Mile Sur…', which features a plethora of artists, and speaks of unity in the turbulent times that the nation is dealing with. The film will be aired on Zoom TV and is slated to launch before Republic Day.