We put together a video telling the story of the Indian American experience and our opportunity as Indians collectively to make change. Over 20,000 Indian Americans watched the film and another 7 million were on-line. This was an incredible experience. We barely slept as we pulled together crafting this film in two weeks.
With less than a month before Prime Minister’s reception at Madison Square Garden, I was contacted by the Indian American Community Foundation to make a film. The goal was to focus on the collective story of the Indian American experience. A few days in to the project, I was asked to collaborate with the Prime Minister’s office. I was concerned. The task of bridging our vast individual experiences was an immense undertaking, with a tight schedule. Two years ago, I sat with Prime Minister Modi in his office in Gandhinagar. It was a moving meeting. I presented an excerpt of my feature film PATANG, a love poem to Ahmedabad set during the jubliant celebration of Uttarayan, in hopes of sponsorship of the film as a vehicle for Gujarat Tourism. Prime Minister Modi loved the excerpts from PATANG and immediately instructed his ministers to watch the film. When the ministers watched the entire film, they felt the heartfelt sincerity of the old city and the intimate aesthetic of the film were not in accord with the vision for a modern India. I began to wonder how could we create a three minute film that addressed these seemingly disparate points of view and style? I spoke to the director of promotions for the Prime Minister who I met during the filming of PATANG. We respectfully argued and disagreed. After much discussion, we both acknowledged we learned something.
I began work on ‘Anthem of Us’ with producer/co-writer Samina Akbari and co-producer/editor Craig Marsden. We crafted a story that equally appealed to the Indian diaspora and to people in India. We did not want to distinguish between the two rather we wanted a universal anthem.
Over the next twelve days, we gathered 3000 still photographs from professional photographers (Mukul Roy, Sana Jhaveri Kadri, Nicolas Chorier, Preston Merchant, Ishan Khosla Design, MS Gopal to name a few), from organizations, our friends, and our immediate families. It was a maddening process of discovery. My co-editor Craig Marsden and I felt as if we were in over our heads. The voice over was too short and time was running out.
We brought in seasoned writers – novelist Tania James and screenwriter Giri Coneti. But, time was running out. Just when we thought it was coming together, it would fall apart again. We had family photos, but little of contemporary India or success of the Indian American community. The days started to blur and then something magical happened. A narrative emerged.
Samina, Craig and I entered a rare creative space. During the last 100 hours of the project, we barely slept. Deep Singh, our composer, brought a renewed energy as he composed the music. Fawzia Mizra and my father Vijay Bhargava did the voice over. Our “Anthem of Us” began to take shape.
The film begins with our shared Indian heritage and subtly portrays the history of migration of the Indian American community. The piece then highlights our champions from the notable personalities of the American diaspora and greats of India’s past to the everyday heroes of both lands. And the momentum builds to a crescendo of the potential synergy of Indian Americans with the growing and developing India. It was magical seeing the piece come together.
Even more exciting was September 28th, when we shared our ‘Anthem of Us’ at Madison Square Garden. Twenty thousand enthused Indian Americans and seven million Indians watched the film – our film. We are proud to have inclusively expressed our individual journeys and shared vision towards the future of India on this grand scale.
Directed, Edited and Designed by Prashant Bhargava
Produced by Samina Akbari
Narrated by Fawzia Mizra and Vijay Bhargava
Co-produced and Edited by Craig Marsden
Original Music by Deep Singh
Written by Prashant Bhargava, Samina Akbari and Giri Coneti
Researcher Monika Patel
Executive Produced by Sonal Shah, Anand Shah & Indian American Community Foundation
Associate Producer Ranjana Bhargava
Featured photographers Mukul Roy, Nicolas Chorier, Preston Merchant, Sana Jhaveri Kadri, MS Gopal, Ishan Khosla Design, Christopher Michel and Indo-American Heritage Museum