Saturday, 18 February 2017

Hemantha Kalam - 41 4 Decades of 'Disrespect'?

I normally strive to stay away from controversies, any of them, even if remotely possible. But this time around, I thought I shall share my two cents of thoughts on this.

On the 30th November, 2016, the Supreme Court of India has ordered that all cinema halls in the country shall screen and play the national anthem before the start of the cinema and all members of the audience shall stand in respect during the playing of the national anthem. As is expected of the ‘Independent and Free’ country, there have been several reactions, for and against, from the people.

I have been witnessing quite some debates, reading news articles on the ‘after effects’ of the order on screening and playing the national anthem in cinema halls before the screening of the actual film / movie, and was just passing on.

But, yesterday, ‘What price peace in a movie hall’ a feature by former colleague dear Vaishna Roy, in The Hindu dated 18th February, 2017 ( urged me to say my piece and be done with it (hopefully?)! J

Well, there are several questions to start with.

When should the National Anthem be played, where and why?
Should one stand up when the national anthem is being played and why?
Will that be a measure of patriotism?
If somebody cannot stand up because of physical issues, how will the ‘voluntary moral police’ know of that?  

And blah…blah…blah….

Now to answer the above questions, in my humble opinion (IMHO), national anthems can be played before or after any gathering of people in the country, with maybe an exception to individual obituary related programmes. Respecting the national symbols and the anthem, again IMHO, is not to be an anathema. And how long is it going to take? The official duration of the Indian National Anthem is 52 seconds. Can’t those, who are able to, afford to stand up for those 52 seconds in respect of a country - your own country? To me, experience proved that they can’t, and to the chagrin many won’t (but then more about it will follow). Well, such standing up may not be counted as patriotism, but certainly be as a respect.

‘Why should we be forced to do this? We go to films for watching the film. This order forces us and we are tensed when forced’ a response of one cine-goer. Now one tends to ask; are we not watching lengthy commercials before and during the cinema, however repetitive or irritating and jarring to the ear that they maybe and are? Aren’t we? In fact ‘WE’ are paying for their thrusting their products and services (paid again, mind you) on ‘US’!

‘Nationalism doesn’t mean standing up for the national anthem, it means standing up for the country, for what’s right. So encourage that’ (!

Agreed! And as cinema halls do attract huge gatherings (well, depending on the marketing of the cinemas being screened at the time), would cinema halls not be a better place to re-start that? 

Now, why the words re-start?

If I remember right, all cinema halls in the country used to screen the Tricolour (of course, in those days in Black and White) and play the national anthem since 1962 after the Indo-China war ‘after’ the screening of the film / movie was over to inculcate nationalism and patriotism too perhaps. But I used to see, without a let up, the audience rushing, no, actually clambering and scrambling, out of the cinemas, sometimes even sacrificing the viewing of a most thrilling climax; just because they felt it a chore - to stand up in silence - for 52 seconds.

Having been brought up with quite a bit of nationalist values, this running away in the end of the screening was both annoying and disgusting to me. Annoying because those rushing out were disturbing those few who wanted to remain and disgusting because of the value they were attaching or rather not attaching to the National Flag and the Anthem. As a proud NCC alumni cadet (, and following the national anthem and symbols with reverence, this blatant running away from cinema halls was more deplorable

Sometime around 1975 the compulsory screening and playing of the national flag and the anthem respectively in the cinema halls was rescinded. Forty one years later the practice is being re-promulgated. So does this mean that for about 41 years, the citizens, that too the cinema-goers were disrespecting the flag and the national anthem? No, not exactly!

But again IMHO, if a government wants to inculcate national values and nationalism, in the growing generation and enhance in the existing generations, is it bad or wrong? You give a choice and people do not practice. When people do not learn and practice, there could be a danger of such values mis-interpreted or slowly fade away leaving a country of people with hardly any nationalistic values.

In fact, I can say that today, such a situation has already set in. If one listens to carefully, one realises that many people do not sing the anthem with the proper pronunciation or punctuation. I have heard many a time people inter changing the words ‘Utkala’ and ‘ucchala’ and most people sing ‘jalasidaranga’ than ‘jaladhi taranga’

So, rather than just make the standing for the national anthem compulsory, I feel the government should really concentrate on making the people realise the true meaning of the anthem and the importance attached to it and this should start in schools; and not at the child level, but at the teachers’ level. I can swear that most teachers do not understand the meaning of the importance of the national anthem themselves. This probably can ease several misconceptions among different sections of the people too.

Some of the objections are due to the language which cannot be properly uttered by some people using other and different languages. Maybe, if the anthem was just a musical theme, devoid of any words, this question might not have arisen but now that there has been an agreement on this anthem, at one point of time, let us learn this properly and practice and respect.

Let the people understand what nationalism is and what nationalistic values are. In our case, maybe there is an urgency to even develop federalist values, in the cause of welfare and sharing resources among all states.       

Well, folks, what do you think?

Do let me know, please! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India