• What’s the issue with National Anthem in theatres?

    By Shaili Chopra

    So I for one really like the national anthem. I kind of like it anywhere – in schools, in theatres, on foggy days and on holidays. I love going down to the building’s community amphitheatre, standing in attention and joining the chorus with fellow spartans as our condo complex calls us. Ahead of the films in theatres in Mumbai, where this has been a long old traditional, I take pride in standing still and singing along. I miss the fact that I no longer have assembly in schools where I would sing it. And even for that matter re-experience the goose bumps I get each time I sing any patriotic song or anthem.

    Did I think of religion? Of jingoism? Or of rhetoric when I wrote that I like the National Anthem where I go? Not at all. In fact everytime I listen to it, it reminds me how our diversity has been celebrated for years. How our people today, generations after generations sing the anthem knowing less and less of what is really stands for. I for now learn something new with each time I go to the theatres. In fact every time I sing it, I fix a word I might have been saying all together wrong!

    If national anthem is jingoism, then so is the national flag? To me that’s utter nonsense.

    Every time I step outside India and go travelling to United States or Russia, a country I have lived in and loved – I see how people celebrate their national colours, their national anthem and their flag. I have never understood India’s angst about where or where not to use our flag. For in Russia married couples have national coloured balloons, their flags on the just married car. They have their flags at homes. In America, where I have family, they have both India and American flags right outside their homes. What’s our issue with our national ideas?

    I don’t need others to identify me and my personality but do I believe I have an identity? Do I believe I am Indian? I think global but at the end of the day I am Indian. I am proud of that. Few countries can pride themselves on an inclusive national anthem like ours.

    The Supreme Court ruling that makes it mandatory says it will instill a sense of patriotism. “When the national anthem is played it is imperative for everyone to show honour and respect. It would instill a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism,” said the judges. This is where I worry. For committed patriotism like this may not be a real reflection of people. It has to come from within. I am cool with the fact that it can be mandatory but to imagine it will transform people who aren’t already patriotic is a long shot.

    While the anthem is on, all theatre exits will be closed – a rule that instantly raised questions about emergencies. Lawyers say the movement of people in and out of the hall in the middle of the anthem is seen as disrespect.

    Here’s the other thing that’s an issue. We can’t be stupid about patriotism. Shutting all exits? Why? As if, if people want to move they couldn’t just stand on their chairs and dance? Or kick? Closing the exits is a very silly comment by the Supreme Court which clearly has made them the laughing stock of social media on this matter.

    Security silliness aside, I am a big believer of the national anthem. I don’t think it converts us into blind nationalists, fundamentalists and anything else extreme. It’s okay if we are thinking of caramel popcorn and Brad Pitt’s butt for the upcoming film but it’s perfectly fine if we have to stand up for the national anthem just before that.

    Picture Credit: Indian Express

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