This happened a couple of weeks ago (the day we also learnt that auto-rickshaws ply in Dongri), at a viewing of Agneepath at the IMAX. As usual, just before the film was to start, we stood up for the National Anthem. The song playing was the one that features challenged children miming and singing the Anthem in the Don Bosco quadrangle…a far better video than the boring, slow and staid rendition featuring Ms. Lata Mangeshkar and Ms. Asha Bhonsle that just goes on and on and on (the Anthem is generally supposed to finish in 52 seconds).
While standing, my eyes fell on a family before me. The father was standing. His wife however was sitting, cradling a young child who had a plaster cast around his right arm. Next to her was their 10-year-old son, who continued to sit with his feet propped up on the chair in front of him. Neither parent asked him to stand nor did anyone seem bothered.
I remember another situation a couple of years or so ago, when a teenager at Cinemax in Sion refused to get up for the Anthem before a Harry Potter film. His parents hissed at him and eventually forced him to stand…they had quite an argument over the whole issue during the interval, the teenager defending his right to decide for himself.
Teenagers, some more than others, are hormonally challenged to be rebellious and I can quite imagine myself in that boy’s shoes, wanting to do something different and deciding that standing or not for the National Anthem should be a matter of private choice. He also had another argument, which was even more interesting…the playing of the Anthem prior to a film trivializes the importance of the Anthem and given the seriousness and decorum otherwise attached to the Anthem, it should not be played in cinema halls…and he did not want to be a party to this trivialization.
Sitting during the Anthem is not illegal. Even Mr. Laloo Prasad and his wife have been exonerated of this “crime” a few years ago, when they “forgot” to stand up for the Anthem during a Republic Day parade. The Ministry of Home Affairs says, “Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention. However, when in the course of a newsreel or documentary the Anthem is played as a part of the film, it is not expected of the audience to stand as standing is bound to interrupt the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the Anthem.” This essentially means that standing during the Anthem is a guideline that is assumed to be the right thing to do, except when it is being rendered by an actor within a film as in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.
There are two issues here. The first…does it make sense to play the National Anthem prior to a film that goes on to show Ms. Katrina Kaif’s heaving bosoms and Mr. Hrithik Roshan’s murderous heroics? Wasn’t that teenager right about the trivialization of the Anthem in this setting? The second…as long as you don’t disrespect the Anthem by disrupting it or making noises, is it an issue if you continue sitting?
Personally? I think playing the Anthem before a film trivializes it and this practice should be stopped. On the other hand, I will always stand when the Anthem is played in public (perhaps because I am done with non-conformism), but if someone decides not to, I would be fine with that!