The National Anthem: an Option before Theatres


The playing of the national anthem in cinema halls has now become optional after severe vigilantism and chaos over the matter in the last couple of months. What does a decision of such a nature imply and are we prepared to think beyond the symbols of nationhood?

Kavya Thomas | The New Leam

The national anthem related controversy is still fresh in our minds. And though we may stand at different sides of the important debate what we must also collectively acknowledge is the fact that there is indeed an air of compulsiveness, forced patriotism and a fear that if one does not adhere to the prescribed norms, one will face immense repercussions.

Cinema hall – a site to make you a patriot| Photo Credit: V. Ganesan

The national anthem was this time the centre of extreme controversy, as some time ago it was proposed that before the screening of any film in the cinema hall it would be played and everybody would have to stand up in order to pay respect to it. The apex court had said that all people have to stand up to pay their tributes and certain sections of the population such as the handicapped or the ill could be exempted from the standard rule.

It was worth observation that all the court prescribed was that people have to stand up when the anthem was being played but had not suggested anything about their code of conduct during this period. However, on Tuesday the apex court has declared that from now on the choice of whether to play the national anthem or not was dependent on the cinema hall authorities and could not be compulsively forced upon them.

This perhaps came in the light of the extreme cases of vigilantism in cinema halls over the last year where the so called restorers of patriotism, created panic and chaos in cinema halls across the country and forced threatening implications if one failed to stand up.

Today, when this law stands altered we can’t help but feel relieved.  While nobody can deny the sacredness of the national anthem and the kind of legacy that it reminds us of but what the state must also acknowledge is the fact that the mere act of standing up cannot prove one’s love and commitment for the nation. Rather people may have varied mechanism of showing their respect and upholding the values of true patriotism.

The unilnear and hegemonic notion of patriotism is suffocating and regimented. The cinema hall, the stadium or the marketplace are not adequate spaces for the performance of such an act. If we truly understand, respect and revere the nation we have to move beyond mere symbolism and immerse ourselves in the spirit that it has taught us- of tolerance, of care and sharing and above all diversity and multiculturalism. If we respect these values, we are truly in tune with the spirit of nationalism.


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