How is it respect anyway?

Another Bollywood family has come in the media for wrong reasons (or right ones, if you are the blinkered, chest-thumpingly patriotic kind). Puneet Issar’s wife Deepali Issar whacked a guy in the theater for allegedly disrespecting the national anthem. In the dialogue, as reported by the ToI, I was particularly amused by the line “Don’t lie. You look Indian,” said by Deepali Issar to the guy who was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of her righteous indignation. Turned out he’s an Australian citizen of Indian origin. On one end we have Delhi policemen who routinely accost people from the North East, calling them Chinkis and treating them as foreigners. And on the other end, we have this.

The issue at hand was of course that the Australian gentleman sat while the National Anthem played on. Worse, he is reported as canoodling with his girlfriend, and everyone knows no Indian likes to see another Indian getting some action. Any action.

But the real issue here is the perverse fascination that Maharashtra has with playing the national anthem before a movie. This is something I have never been able to figure out. I mean, why the hell do you need to play the National Anthem before the start of a movie?!

Countries usually have two kinds of approaches towards their national symbols. For some countries, using the nation’s flag’s colors or emblem everywhere is a way of showing love for their country. The maple leaf of Canada can be found everywhere there, including McD Canada’s logo. In Mauritius, official files are tied with a ribbon that has the four colors of the Mauritian flag. People take pride in associating themselves with the symbols, and wearing an underwear with your flag’s motif may as well be a sign of patriotism, not of insult. The national anthem’s tune, or parts thereof, may be used in movies, for example. Pink Panther 1 had a small portion of La Marseillaise (French National Anthem), played when Jacques Clouseau makes the press statement about being confident of catching the diamond thief.

The second approach is of course, where you raise national symbols to a sacred level, so sacrosanct that they can’t be treated as normal. India is a perfect example of this category. There is an elaborate Flag Code that is law-enforced and there are rules about how, when and where to sing or not sing the National Anthem. Using the colors of the flag for design will be frowned upon (and perhaps even punished, depending on the use) and people will tell you off for even humming the national anthem if you do so without being Petrificus Totallus-ed. Individuals weren’t even allowed to display the flag on homes and other buildings until 2001 when Navin Jindal won a court case giving us all that right. All in all, it’s a strict world here, and we pride ourselves at being excellent watchdogs of our national symbols. And of course, alleged abuses of the same are excellent political masala, especially if they involve kewl mass media (MTV tricolor logo case) or mass theism (Sachin Tendulkar case).

Now, a country might choose whatever approach it wants regarding its symbols, and though I prefer the first one slightly, I am fine with India’s stance and shall abide by it. This brings me to the simple question—of all places, why does one want to randomly play the National Anthem at the movie hall? Not standing erect while singing it is an insult, but sandwiching it between random movie trailers, advertisements, dhoomrapaan mana hai notices and an adult movie apparently isn’t, and only serves to infuse patriotic sentiments into wayward teens. And while I am on the topic, can someone ask PVR to not show that hideous CGI flag? A more useful thing would be to show the text lyrics in Karaoke style.

I mean, I love the music of our national anthem, and I wish I could sit on my chair and play the National Anthem in the peaceful, dignified, serene setting of my clean room without having neighbors scowling and frowning and calling me unpatriotic or rude. But it seems to me very weird that a country that has a special amendment to explicitly forbid use of the national flag in any clothing below the waist does not find it insulting if the national anthem is played before an adult movie. So much so that we even had a politician fighting to make it compulsory for movie theaters to play the national anthem.

Does anyone see any sensible reason why?

  • guest

    Is the rule implemented only in Maharashtra?

    • http://www.antarikshbothale.com/ Antariksh Bothale

      I think so.

      • http://www.kbhatt.me/ Kuldeep Bhatt

        It’s in Gujarat too ! you’re not alone :)

        • vivek

          No kuldeep..I’ve been living in ahmedabad since past 3 years and I never had to sing the national anthem for once in the movie theatres. That aside, I also don’t see any point in displaying our anthem between the trailers, because it is something which is to be respected and I and certainly many more people would not want to stand up and perform the formality(formality because when I go to movies I just want to relax and enjoy it,not get sentimental over anything, be it anthem). The previous suggestion that since they put it between the trailers so that at least we people can sing it and remember it is just absurd, even if I forget the national anthem does that put a corrupt stamp on me, and the people who really care about it will be able to remember it even if they had last sung it during their childhood.

    • Abha Avinash Kulkarni

      No, I have experienced it in Bengaluru’s multiplexes as well.

  • Raunak Bardia

    I am rather surprised at this line of thought about our National Anthem being played in movie theatres. After reading this I still dont understand why we need to make sense out of it. This in my view is an ingenious way to make us sing our National Anthem once in a while. Most of the people would never sing National Anthem (whether it be Republic Day or Independence Day) after they finish off school if not for this small digression from our movies. Everyone would visit movies though. Sure, it might not be comfortable for some of us to stand up for 52 seconds when we are in complete leisure mood.

    I, for one always feel a rush of patriotism when I listen to our National Anthem at the movies. It makes me wonder how many times I have sung my National Anthem except for in a movie, not surprisingly, the answer is zero. Infact, I was watching some random show on MTV and the VJ was asking people to sing their national anthem. After several tries, a taxi-wallah sung it properly and on asking how he remembers it, he said “Movie me suna tha”. This is enough reason to play our Anthem before a U, U/A, A, whatever rated movie.

    • http://www.antarikshbothale.com/ Antariksh Bothale

      I don’t think the feeling of patriotism was the point of discussion of this post. I like the national anthem too, like I wrote above.

      I was merely talking about slight paradox of issuing extreme ‘respect’ to national symbols and then asking for the anthem to be played in movie theaters. If it’s only about exposing people to the anthem, why not in night clubs? That’s where the so-called youth goes anyhow.

  • dexter

    You wrote an article after reading ToI. Thats kind of unexpected( because i assume you are not a rookie/noob in reading newspapers.).

    ToI is all bullshit. You should not incensed reading it. Infact I would recommend not to read at all .

    “Don’t lie. You look Indian,” there is no guarentee that they did say this .

    Have a look at this article http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-30/news-interviews/40894646_1_sanjay-dutt-fellow-inmates-world-affairs . It is all balderdash ! who would take pride if sanjay,a prisoner, reads it !

    • http://www.antarikshbothale.com/ Antariksh Bothale

      I reported the ToI reporting in 200 words. I then wrote 550 words about the general issue of playing the anthem in theaters, which is independent of what Deepali Issar did. Apparently you ignored that just to take a jab at ToI.

  • Rajeev Mukherjee

    I was surprised how uncommon words the ToI article used. I have to see a dictionary 5 times.

  • Manish

    I see no problem in playing the national anthem in theatres or anywhere else. Even if it random, it is not unreasonable to expect people to stand up for 52 seconds and pay their respect. It is sad if one cannot make out the difference between random ads and random movies and national anthem and in a time span of 3 hours people are making a big deal of standing up for 52 seconds. Every nation has a different way of ensuring the respect national symbols and identity and there is no issue in the way Indian/Maharashtrian government wants to enforce it!

  • Shamit Monga

    Agree with Raunak on the need to play the national anthem before the movie starts. Its a reasonable way (not perfect though) of having people sing the national anthem. I guess our patriotism needs a little prodding every now and then. There are surprisingly low number of things that unite us as a nation.

    Also agree with the point that TOI is a deadly cocktail of something that is both incorrect and dishonest (deadly because its read by so many people and its mainstream media!). Being a masala newspaper is quite another thing, compared to the above two adjectives.

    Coming to the restrictions imposed, even I feel that I guess it goes a little against liberty but then the risk is that if you give people too much of liberty in this specific instance, then people may stretch it a little too far. Something like this (http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2011/08/national_flag_bikinis.php) . Add to it the sensitivities of the majority and thats why you have to keep the code.

  • Suman Sengupta

    I want to share a particular case here. Few years back I went to movie with my friends who had just taken citizenship of Canada. When National Anthem was played, my friend and her husband didn’t stand up as if to show they were not citizen of India any more. Was it the example of true disrespect?