National Anthem; Shyam Chouksey’s Petition and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-4-22-33-pmAfter the Demonetization decision by the Government which got people to come out and stand in long lines in front of Banks and ATMs; now they also get to stand for 52 seconds before every cinema in the Cinema Hall as per the new rule from the Supreme Court.

On Monday, the Supreme Court said all cinema halls across the country should play the national anthem and that those present “must stand up in respect” to “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism”.

Before we delve more to say whether the ruling is correct, practical or even needed etc.. let us also look at two separate incidents

In 1985 students Bijoe, Binu Mol and Bindu Emmanuel who belong to a group called Jehovah’s Witnesses were expelled from the school for not singing along the National Anthem during the morning assembly. They did stand respectfully but they do not sing because for them singing is against their religious beliefs; not the words or the thoughts of the Anthem but the singing of it. Mr. Emmanuel went to the Courts and the Supreme Court held that expelling the children based on their “conscientiously held religious faith” violated the Constitution of India. Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy stated: “No provision of law . . . obliges anyone to sing.” The Court noted that the right of free speech and expression also includes the right to remain silent and that standing for the national anthem showed proper respect. The Court ordered the school authorities to readmit the children.

13 years ago Shyam Narayan Chouksey whose petition led the Supreme Court to rule that the national anthem should be played before screening films in theaters had gone to watch the film Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and when the national anthem was being played in the movie, he stood up. But he was the only person standing and those behind him said that he was obstructing their view. He was hurt that instead of standing up the people asked him to sit down and he filed the petition.

Coming to the ruling by Supreme Court; the question or debate is not whether it is needed to respect or stand up while the Anthem is played; but the ruling that the Anthem should be played mandatory before cinemas in Cinema Halls and people should stand up. Added to this is the impracticality of implementing a rule like this. A clear case of forcing people to do something.

This is the Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham Video where the National Anthem is sung. There is a shorter video, but I want you to watch the longer one just so you know the sequence of events that lead to the Anthem.

Imagine this scene in the Cinema Hall and just as the Anthem begins the guy in front of you stands up. You are missing your favorite Sharukh Khan, Kajol and Hrithik’s acting when this happens. The emotions in their face and the events such as firangis (foreigners) who once ruled over India all stand up to the Anthem. It is such a great patriotic Visual Treat for many and this nice gentleman stands up. You, me or anyone would ask him to sit down. If it was at home may be seeing your kid or dad you will stand up, that is because it is a family and we know each other and are connected. In the Cinema Hall people are there for various reasons. There are fans of Sharukh and also people who came there to just escape their monotonous life. Some have a daily job that needs standing from 9 to 5 and they are there to sit and relax and watch for a few hours. Very different people with different reasons to be there, but with one intention “Watch and Enjoy the movie”. It is not the movie Border where one knows you will see some elements of patriotism. This is KKKG a melodrama.

I am not saying the guy standing up does something wrong. The fact is he did not know the anthem is about to come  because like everyone he is also expecting the Do Re Mi . If only he had known he would have stepped to the side and stood. Now who is to blame? Cinema is a visual treat and so obstruction of someone’s opportunity to that treat should not be entertained. Standing up is a matter of respect but how many retakes would have happened while making that movie and I am sure the actors and crew would not be standing every time this was played in the Background.

The ruling could have been in many other ways. Like showing a writing like they show for cigarets and Alcohol “There will be a National Anthem played in Approx 5 minutes” which will give people like Mr. Shyam to move to the side or back of the theatre. But that would defeat the whole purpose of having that Anthem in the first place. So what to do?. The other way would be to say no cinema should play the National Anthem. And that would be in one way a disrespect to the National Anthem, asking people not to play it.

Then I read the ruling here

There are three points of interest

  1. It says that “There shall be no commercial exploitation to give financial advantage or any kind of benefit”. Does that mean K3G should not be played again and all copies should remove the Anthem scene?
  2. The rule also says “There shall not be dramatization of the National Anthem and it should not be included as a part of any variety show. ” Does this mean that no movie should again play anthem and allow people to act?
  3. The rule says “All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem”

No idea why the 3rd point was necessary. How did the Supreme Court arrive at the conclusion that playing the Anthem before the start of every movie and enforcing people in the cinema hall to stand will make their patriotism and Nationalism reach peak performance. This would mean the operators and others who work there will have more patriotism than others.

But without implementing the two points as I mentioned the petition is still not addressed because again in the future if a movie like K3G comes and has a similar scene with different actors people like Mr. Shyam and the guy sitting behind him will still have a problem. I don’t think the ruling really solve the real petition

Now if they implement that they should also say how can a National Anthem be used in a movie. Saying you cannot use will also impact movies that are just made for Patriotism and Nationalism.

That is why this ruling is so lame. This ruling is not to instigate any love for the country because then why Cinema Halls where people come to unwind. IMHO It is just to back and support the already running Nationalism agenda by some groups. I fear that the Supreme Court is also being influenced by the Nationalist Marketing Engine; which is very scary in all respects. The ruling is not lame but scary. It has nothing to do with one’s love for the country. This is only a way for authorities to now hold responsible people who oppose the ruling to be termed unpatriotic and disrespectful to the nation. The question is will this ruling stop another Mr. Shyam from abruptly standing in the middle of a cinema. Even if you use National Anthem with the flag, you should give sufficient time for people to prepare to stand and people include young, old, expectant mothers, mothers with small kids and so on. They all need a varied time to stand and be prepared. See how lame it will turn out to be.

Now going based on religious freedom, if tomorrow when they play a movie with Sriram (not an actor) in it or the scene of a mosque calling for prayers or a church where every one shouts praise the lord and Amen and if the Hindus Muslims and Christians start Pooja, Namaz and loud praise the lord and Amen shouts, it will be such a chaos especially for people like me who don’t belong to any of these groups. Don’t we non religious people who love our country have no options here?


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