Stand up for the national anthem please: Going to a cinema to reinforce patriotism

Binoo K John @CatchNews | First published: 30 November 2016, 18:26 IST
Stand up for the national anthem please: Going to a cinema to reinforce patriotism
Arya Sharma/Catch News

The Supreme Court's order passed on 30 November - that the national anthem should be played in all theatres while the national flag flutters on the screen - exposes the lack of 'underconfidence' of the establishment and the nation itself.

There are various issues that have been thrown up by this judgement apart from the immediate one about why there should be a judicial imposition of nationalism when the Executive is doing the job rather well and vehemently, if one can say so.

Is the judiciary lending the mighty Executive a helping hand or is there a feeling among learned judges that it is not jingoistic enough?

The judgement has far-flung implications beyond the five-minute homage to nationalism at the beginning of a movie.

It is difficult to understand what purpose is served by playing the national anthem in a theatre. A cinema hall - where all sorts of violent or tawdry films are screened - is not the place for such a sacrosanct song. So before we see a movie glorifying violence, or commodifying women, will the singing of the national anthem, serve to purge us of our guilt?

Of bad movies and good nationalism

The practice, effectively, forces us to reassert our patriotism every time we see a movie or go anywhere else to entertain ourselves.

What has allegiance to the nation got to do with the watching of a terrible movie in which all the larger notions of a just life are splintered? What is the intention here?

What if the movie itself is against the notions of nationalism, which it will be if the movie is an objective bio-pic of Rabindranath Tagore himself. Such a movie will clearly have this pronouncement of Tagore who turned against the notions of nationalism and national boundaries.

This is what the author of Jana Gana Mana said: "India has never had a real sense of nationalism. Even though from childhood I had been taught that the idolatry of Nation is almost better than reverence for God and humanity, I believe I have outgrown that teaching, and it is my conviction that my countrymen will gain truly their India by fighting against that education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity."

Right and rights

The judgement is in keeping with the ascendancy of extreme right-wing discourse in the country since 2014.

Sewn into this discourse is the belief that a country and a nation are built according to a puritanical imagination where the dirty, the rebels, the jailed, the starving, the criminals and those criminalised by the State have no place or entry.

Such occasions are also used to single out people who are seen as enemies of the nation because they chose to sit down during the playing of the national anthem.