You’ve got your popcorn. You’re settled in your seats. You’ve even breezed through the long line of movie trailers and the clip of Mukesh telling you no to smoke. The lights have dimmed and you sense the movie is about to start. Except that’s not the case. Before the movie starts, you've got to stand up for the practice of observing the national anthem in movie theatres.
Vidya Balan recently said in an interview "It (nationalism) should be there in the cinema and not in cinema halls. We don't have to get up for the national anthem." Her statement has again brought to the forefront, the well-documented debate on whether it is necessary to play the national anthem in movie theatres and what it means for your patriotism.
The practice itself is not compulsory. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court made the playing of the national anthem in cinema halls before screening of movies optional, modifying its earlier order. However, the practice itself has invited opinions from all corners, with many both favouring and opposing the practice. One of those voices also includes the young cine-goers, who make the majority of the film going audience in India. Here’s what they think
“I don’t have an issue with standing up for the national anthem. I just feel that there are better ways to portray your patriotism. I mean, if the point is to show love for your country at all times, maybe we could give more focus on keeping it clean and helping the needy than this right?”
“The national anthem runs for approximately 52 seconds. If you have a problem with showing that you love and respect your currently for even less than a minute, then I really feel that there’s something wrong with you.”
“It’s just a classic case of forced patriotism. I’m all for standing for the national anthem. But I have an issue with it being played in movie theatres. Why does that have to be done? Soon they’ll start defining a dress code for the movies as well since you have to be appropriately dressed for the national anthem. It has got to end somewhere otherwise it’ll spiral out of control.”
“Our national anthem is a matter of pride. I feel proud of our country whenever I hear it. It’s a tribute to our great nation and the servants who constantly work for its betterment. If during our times of entertainment, we could just take a moment out to appreciate and acknowledge their sacrifices, I see no harm in that.”
--- Samarth, 20
"I feel the cinema hall is not the right place for the national anthem to be played. It is played in tournaments where our teams represent the nation, on days of importance, at times of importance. Playing it before the start of a movie is as same as playing it before you eat in a restaurant or as soon as you get up in the morning. It’s just completely unrelated to the context."
--- Nikhil, 19
"What’s interesting to note is that the practice of playing the national anthem was actually prevalent in the 1960 and 70s, with it being slowly phased out over the years. While it certainly is the ideal thing to pay respect to our anthem whenever it is played, it is disappointing to see that the practice has also led to unnecessary controversy from the time it has started to be practiced in movie theatres. In 2014, a man was beaten by a mob in Mumbai after his South African friend refused to stand for the national anthem. While in October the BBC carried an article by a disabled man who described how he had been assaulted for not standing up for the anthem in a cinema."
The important thing to realise is that the feeling of patriotism and nationalistic pride is not something that can be cultivated with just a national anthem at the start of the movie. It comes from within. As far as the playing of the national anthem in movie theatres is concerned, it should be as the Supreme Court ruled. A matter of choice.