Leveraging patriotism: What brands need to know

Hamsini Shivakumar and Kanika Yadav of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting write about how brands should not stray too far from the template or communication code built by the anthems, latest among which is ‘Har Ghar Tiranga'

Hamsini Shivakumar
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The 75th Independence Day is coming up and it is an occasion that promises to unleash intense patriotic sentiments, both spontaneous and orchestrated. Many brands would have actively considered whether to leverage the occasion with branded content or not. What brands need to take into account is that patriotism is a sentiment that the GOI tries to “own” by investing in a large amount of content and communication of very many formats.

The 75th Independence Day celebrations have been christened as ‘Amrit’, everlasting and eternal, and it is all about celebrating the enduring unity of the nation since 1947. The ‘Amrit Mahaotsav’ is marked both by the pride of a glorious past and a spirited leap into the future. The Ministry of Culture, GoI is busy adding to the repository of meanings and imagination of India at 75 via logos, posters, anthems, comic books, etc. 


Present ubiquitously in all communication is the Tricolour - India’s national flag. Based on a design by Gandhian Pingali Venkayya, the Tricolour has been an uncontested symbol of India since before Independence. In fact, a dedicated campaign called ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ has been launched to “encourage people to bring the Tiranga home and hoist it” (https://harghartiranga.com/). 

An anthem has been released for the promotion of the same. Let's take a look at it: 

The Har Ghar Tiranga anthem follows the template well established by ‘Freedom Run’ (1985) and more closely by ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ (1988) released by the then Ministry of Information, GoI. Like its predecessors, the video for ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ features a comprehensive set of sportspersons, singers, actors, and achievers from various fields. In the same fashion as ‘Mile Sur’ penned by Piyush Pandey, ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ also is composed in multiple languages such as Bengali, Gujarati, Dogri, Telugu, Kannada, etc. Now, of course, since the song is centred around the national flag, multiple Tricolours can be spotted in every single shot as opposed to the one final shot in ‘Mile Sur’ where kids dressed in tricolours form one. 

Before delving into the unique elements that can be seen in ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’, it is pertinent to understand the basic templates of all such anthems. The discourse around the formation of an Indian nation or a national identity has always been dominated very strongly by the notion of ‘unity in diversity’. ‘India’ was envisioned during colonial rule as a land where people from several faiths, languages, and cultures live together in harmony. After Independence and Partition, the imagination grew stronger as the Indian Constitution officially defined India as an indestructible union. This collective imagination has been credited for getting us freedom from colonial rule. In modern India, it is this constructed vision, belief, and imagination that trumps the uncomfortable reality of almost perpetual resistance among the fragments - the states. Therefore, it continues to be present in our stories and anthems. 

One of the earliest and now the most prominent anthems to capture the shared vision of diversity was – ‘Jana Gana Mana’ (1911) adopted in 1950 as our National Anthem. We find that both ‘Mile Sur’ and ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ more or less mimic the national anthem. ‘Jana Gana Mana’ although written arguably in service to the King of England, imagined the nation as a unit of diverse regions and cultures. It brought together far-off regions such as Utkal and Sindh, and different geographical entities like Ganges and Vindhyas – together as part of ‘Bharat’. 

From ‘Jana Gana Mana’ to ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ 

It is no more a point of contest that many Indians have little in common apart from Indian citizenship. At the same time, it is also well-established that the idea of citizenship in India is not limited to a blank to be filled in our respective official documents but that the very idea has been extrapolated to mean “Indianness”. Indianness is what unites the vast diversity. In the latest anthem, this idea of Indianness is embodied by the tricolour quite literally. Interestingly, on the 50th Independence Day, the Tricolour was employed visually for the same purpose and in the same manner in AR Rahman’s Maa Tujhe Salam (1997): 

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In both the song and the anthem, the Tricolour has been cemented in the rugged terrains of the mountains and glaciers in the north, crescent sand dunes of the west, the backwaters of the south, and the dense jungles of the east. Likewise, it is proudly shown hoisted in the urban flats and in the rural huts. To be Indian on the 75th Independence Day is to display the tricolour proudly as the symbol of a new and progressing India. The flag displayed proudly at global podiums by sportspersons and planted triumphantly on mountain tops to mark victory holds as much importance when hoisted in one’s balcony, too. 

Released forty years after Independence, ‘Mile Sur’ composed by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was based on Raga Bhairavi – which is considered to be a morning raga. It was as if the imagination of India was still waking up to its potential. Although the Indian satellites were already orbiting in space, an Indian had already stepped on the moon, Indians had already lifted the Cricket World Cup – India perhaps was far from its full potential. 

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara - Original - High Quality

Now, ‘India at 75’ is in popular imagination a fearless entity marching forward fuelled by its own progress. As a testament to this fact, Har Ghar Tiranga begins with energetic drum beats. Visuals of India’s technological prowess (space rockets, windmills, drones, vaccines, etc.) intersperse those indicating cultural diversity. Symbols exclusive to the new and emerging Indian identity such as Yoga feature prominently in the song. 

Aiming for the Sky: India at 75

From being a faceless mass revering the “bharata bhagya vidhata” (trans. dispenser of India’s destiny) in 1911, Indians have emerged as prominent faces across the globe. As if following PM Nehru’s cue from the ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech delivered on the eve of Independence, Indians have manifested as masters of their own destiny. The subject of the proverbial ‘jaya gatha’ (trans. victory ballad) as mentioned in Jana Gana Mana is no more an imperial ruler but Indians themselves – Indians who have been picturised in ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ from a common fisherwoman to the Olympian PV Sindhu. The same spirit is passionately and eloquently encapsulated by Farhan Akhtar in Google’s The story of #IndiaKiUdaan: 

India in 2022 – is a nation comfortable in its own skin, unafraid of claiming what rightfully belongs to it, and is perhaps more passionate about national symbols than ever before. From singing praises of others (Jana Gana Mana) to slowly waking up from its slumber (Mile Sur), the Indian imaginary is finally onto building a fierce and undaunted national identity. 

What does this mean for brands seeking to leverage patriotism as a sentiment?  

They need to take into account the contemporary idea of Indian-ness. While “India” continues to be anchored in the diversity of the land and its peoples, Indianness is also about achievements on the global stage in various fields, from science to sport. Indian-ness is about assertion and achievement, not just harmony and relationships. Any song or anthem that they seek to create cannot stray too far from the template or communication code built by the national anthem, ‘Mile Sur’, the A.R Rahman version of ‘Vande Mataram’ and now ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’.  

Kanika Yadav Leapfrog Strategy Consulting Hamsini Shivakumar Har Ghar Tiranga Leveraging patriotism