The National Anthem at the Cinemas

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!



  • PREM MAHTANI wrote:

    Force patriotism is something Iam aganist,the biggest patriot is the one who pays taxes, most bloody politicians, bureaucrats and majority of people in our country live on tax payers money.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Agreed Prem but what do you do. I didn’t extend the discussion to patriotism simply because I dont think that really is the issue.

  • As a child, I remember the National Anthem would be played towards the end of the movie, a practice which was stopped as people simply walked out. They then brought this back just that they placed it before the movie. Don’t quite understand the logic given that half the people walk in just as the movie begins. What is the point of forcing patriotism? Like you I stand up too and will always do and even ensure y daughter is on her feet but if she rebels saying what is the point in standing up what am I going to answer? Will cross the bridge when I come to it. So far so good.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Manish…the same here. The kids at present don’t question. Let’s see what happens in the years to come.

  • anuradha wrote:

    I beg to differ in this opinion for few simple reason: being an avid movie-goer, I have seen the change in the public,especially the youth, they actually stand in attention for the National Anthem. I remember the inital days, there used to be many who wouldn’t. But that is not the case today, if not because of patriotism atleast because everyone else is doing so! All the same I must agree that you do have a point when you talk about the kind of movies( but that is an entirely different issue altogether) and the trivialisation. But what the hell, hasn’t everything become casual today!
    Being a teacher I must confess that even in schools it is not insisted as in bygone days, so probably this way the society contributes its bit!!
    Somehow I have felt extremely patriotic hearing and standing for the national anthem in the movie halls.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    They do stand but the question is of whether it’s OK not to or your reaction if and when you someone else sitting.

  • Nitin Tamhane wrote:

    Though it is an individual choice when as a collective group our elected Govt.decides that we have to play the anthem before the movie and if majority stands up we should simply obey.Would anyone dare to do otherwise in Singapore? I object to my frisking at the airport where Raabart Vadra is exculded but do I have a choice?

    The society in general has to follow the herd menatality on some issues otherwise there are enough subjects and matters to debate…

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Not sure if that works Nitin. Security check is a necessity for safety. Standing during the Anthem is a decision to be made.

  • Thanks Dr. Bhavin for this tickle. It should rather be one’s choice to stand or not. Respect for national anthem doesn’t always mean standing for it, n standing doesn’t always mean respecting. We can force someone to stand, we can never force someone to respect. Rather forcing brings in rebel in one and takes away from respecting the thing rather, so that whenever force is taken away the person will do the exact opposite.
    Secondly I seek the permission to differ on another issue PATRIOTISM, it is probably regionalism on a bigger scale i think. Cant we imagine an earth which is devoid of countries?

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Jatinder…that is quite obvious. The issue of course is what you would do and the whole inane practice of playing the Anthem prior to a film. I purposely left out the whole patriotism angle.

  • A similar situation happened with me a couple of months back. I had gone to the screening of bodyguard, in the row in front of where I was sitting, there was a young couple.The guy stood as soon as the national anthem began, but the girl continued to sit throughout the anthem. At the end of the anthem a man from the row behind me came forward and confronted the girl. There was a heated arguement which led to an exchange of lot of abusive words between the man and this girl. At first her boyfriend was in a predicament – on one hand he knew that the guy who objected was not all wrong, on the other it was his girlfriend. Finally with subtle expressions he supported his girlfriend.
    Finally the arguement just stopped short of a physical fight when the other audience intervened.

    I dint say anything but subconsciously I developed a sudden dislike for the girl. I dont know who is right or wrong in such a situation, but I feel its always best to ‘go with the flow’.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Some things Akash are just instinctive aren’t they! I still get goose pimples each time I see the Anthem video that I’ve talked about.

  • Narayan wrote:

    I am amazed that playing the National Anthem before a movie is now a days deemed trivialisation!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Why Narayan? The Anthem is meant to be used with decorum. Most films are awful and actually demean the whole concept of the Anthem.

  • sriganesh wrote:

    Vasu and I are in Bangkok just now. Last evening we were at the Sky Train station. The national anthem was played at the station at 6 pm (which I understand is an everyday routine). And it took us a minute to realize that the national anthem was being played. All the crowd stood at attention. Not a single person moved. No one argued or disobeyed. (Remember it is not a fine nation like Singapore). We also stood at attention. There is no harm done if one stood at attention whenever and wherever the national anthem is played.

    We stand at attention if we are at home and the anthem is played on TV. We as a nation need to be disciplined either by Army or Police drafting. Why blame the teenager or any one in specific?

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    So Sriganesh…what are WE missing as a country?

  • I wouldnt be ok with it..I have got into an argument with a couple of grown up men, much to the embarrassment of my kids,who were talking during the rendition… I expected them to retaliate in anger asking me to mind my own business but luckily they refrained and were apologetic..As i teacher, i try to inculcate these traits in my students, of respecting the anthem as well as the flag….I stand by it.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Fair enough Lekha. It is in the end a personal choice that one makes both in terms of standing up as well as wanting to make others do so if you so fervently believe in the importance.

  • Meghna Dharasmey wrote:

    I still dont understand why the National Anthem is played before each and every show and movie..
    What is the funda behind it?

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    No idea Meghna, no idea.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    The comment by Mr. Sriganesh is hilarious (about standing at attention when the National anthem is played on T.V.). I guess patriotism for most is more about demonstration rather than real respect!

  • Nikunj wrote:

    I still donot get it why the National anthem is played before eevry movie..I can understand if theres some national crisis and people need to be more patriotic then during such times its ok to play it.. but before every movie is a bit too much.. but on the other side personally I like our anthem alot so I wouldnot mind it being played everytime.. Also, since we have definate rules and regulations to follow while it is being played/sung, we become more rebelious.. in other countries when they sing their anthem they sing it with so much passion and dance and all.. we simply cannot do that since we are bounded by rules! I can understand it is maybe because we got independence after so long and we are just touchy and sensitive about anything relating to patriotism!

  • i agree one hundred percent with the article. every point you made is valid. the national anthem needn’t be put through this. neither do we.

  • sangeeta wrote:

    I personally think that playing national anthem in theatres is really a little out of place. There is a time and a place to play it: On republic day, independence day, in schools. Playing it in theatres is not going to make people more patriotic. I think it only ignites the conflict between people who support playing it in theatres and who don’t.

    Yes, I would get annoyed if there are some folks who don’t even keep quiet during the whole rendition which is be less than a minute.. But at the most I would expect people to maintain silence during it, if they don’t want to get up, its their choice. It’s a democratic country, but they do have to appreciate the fact that they have democracy and respecting the national anthem would be one of the ways to show that they respect it.

  • sriganesh wrote:


    I said in my post…

    As a nation we lack discipline. Pick any nation in the world except the Indian sub-continet, you will never find a nation of people who love filth all around, like to spit in public, pee where they like, throw rubbish out of their cars. Will not switch off mobile phone on a flight, jump up the moment the wheels touch down, cross the road wherever and whenever, park cars at departure or arrival areas (including the police and official cars).

    And you expect Indians to respect the national flag and/or the anthem? If at all you want them to respect the flag and the anthem wherever and whenever, as a nation all of us have to be disciplined. For Indians – discipline grows out of the barrel of a gun and nothing else will work.

    Is there someone who disagrees?

  • sriganesh wrote:

    Just read Chulani’s comment..

    I am talking of discipline first and then patriotism. If we are a disciplined nation – all else will follow.

    Respecting the flag and anthem is not by choice but by discipline.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    About discipline no disagreement. The same Indians who are indisciplined in our country observe discipline elsewhere- cause? fear of punishment. No such fear at home since we all are the same!

  • Chirag Vaishnav wrote:

    I (like many other who commented) don’t understand why national anthem is being played in movie-screenings. That said, I think that standing at attention during national anthem is just a show-off (although I too stand up when national anthem is being played). Just because you are standing doesn’t mean you are respecting your nation or sitting does not mean disrespect. However people should understand that it is a requirement as per the law of our country to stand at attention during national anthem and hence we, as citizens, should follow it – like it or not. This is where discipline comes in. I don’t understand why people can’t stand still for 52 seconds?

    To Bhavin Sir, I couldn’t help but notice one line in your article (No offence meant) – “I will always stand when the Anthem is played in pub­lic” – does this mean that you don’t stand when the Anthem is played in private (like for eg. you are watching a cricket match or some other event at your home on T.V.)

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Chirag…I agree that standing or not standing does not necessarily imply respect but there has to be some common standard ground. As far as standing in private is concerned, the statement was not meant to imply public vs private, but if it was an occasion I would stand, if it was part of a movie like K3G I wouldn’t.

  • Bhavin, I agree with your sentiments. Having it played just before the mvie starts with, very often, a raunchy item number, trivialises the anthem. And I would be okay with people adopting any posture they wish as long as they do not make a noise. Though I doubt we shall ever see this kind of tolerance of others’ wishes in our ultra-sensitive nation where we take up arms for the most frivolous and ridiculous of causes.

    I particularly enjoyed your comment about the Mangeshkar sisters’ rendition of the anthem. The one with our armed forces makes my chest swell with pride and my thoughts go out to those whose valour allows me to sleep peacefully at night. The one with the challenged children always brings a lump to my throat and often a tear to my eye. But the one with the Mangeshkar sisters has me seething with rage and wishing for the courage and time to sue them for massacaring our anthem. I’ve once timed it at well over a minute as a martial tune is reduced to a farcical lullaby. If this is not disrespectful to our anthem, then sitting down while it’s played is certainly not!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Finally someone who agrees about the Mangeshkar sisters’ renderings, Zubin.

  • Jaeysh Desai wrote:

    I have read all the comments, Patriotism, national anthem rouses passion that is for sure. But I have different take on this. Human being when insecure seek security in being part of herd, so when you stand up for anthem you feel you belong to a group, so feel secure and those who feel secure at that moment may not feel the need to be part of herd. It is strictly frame of mind at that particular time and place. We do not see such debate or such practices in USA, why? Their government is responsive to threats, see the post 9/11 scenario. Contrast this with our government’s response to 26/11. So we need national anthem and need to feel part of herd to feel secure. Any takers?

  • Sir, I agree with your take on not standing if the Anthem was a part of movie (like K3G) however while we all are poosting about bad experiences regarding Anthem being played in public places, would like to share my experience.

    Like almost all the offices, ours too had a big screen for the final stages of World Cup. Before the final, National Anthems of both the teams were to be played (as is the normal practice). While Sri Lanka’s Anthem started there were a few questions as to should we stand for this too? Finally someone said that so what is it isn’t our Anthem, it is someone else’s and therefore we should respect it and all agreed and stood for the National Anthem of the rival team. It is this thinking that needs to come from within each person.

    As for your comment regarding there has to be a common standard ground – our constitution already has a law stating “Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention.” now whether people follow it or not is a different issue.

  • Raymond Fernandes wrote:

    The national Anthem is played in moments of Sobriety and instances of glory viz when an athlete wins gold for his nation or soldiers return home victorious from battling forces of evil – sorry don’t buy the playing of this venerated composition of music either before or after some meaningless masala they parade as entertainment. My take anyways…

  • The National Anthem should not be played before a movie. That said, I respect and love my country and so will stand up in attention whenever its played. So what if the person who passed rule is an absolute clown!

  • Punit Kumar wrote:

    Hi Bhavin,

    I have similar question in my mind and i am stuck with it when i came to Mumbai, the very first time i go for watch a action flick. In theater i get confused, its against national respect, to play national anthem like this. Because according to Nation Honor Act 1971 or THE PREVENTION OF INSULTS TO NATIONAL HONOR ACT, 1971. go to V (General)(I) – It says that –
    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.

    so this is the my point… Its not compulsory to stand… but if they are playing it as a nation pride then… it will be stop…

  • Samvit Singh wrote:

    I am a student of 11th obviously a teen too.
    I am not able to understand that should we stand or not ??

    its one of my debate topic in my collage but I wanted to get involved in this matter, the whole stuff which is going on. I am in the side of Mr.Bhavin Jankharia Mr.jatinder singh and
    I am very ancious to know that am i going in the right way supporting you both with dew respect.
    I will always stand where the National Anthem is going on rather in school,collage,in a theater etc.
    Actually I am confused what to do i’m definitely supporting you both but can you please suggest me what to do, you have given me many points but than also I want to get to know about this according to me everyone is right on their opinion as a coin always has two faces.

    I’ts good that you have started a topic on this type of public matter.

    Thank you.

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