Imagine a theatre that routinely inserts pornographic footage during the screening of a film and is known to attracting crowds for it. Men with sexual fantasies heavy on their minds walk in furtively to occupy seats. Then there’s the announcement that the National Anthem would be played. All of them stand up, expectation of sexy visuals still dominating their thoughts. Seconds tick away and they tolerate the distraction before occupying their seats again. There are many theatres like this in the country and they have their regular patrons. The question here is what is the National Anthem doing in a place like this? Aren’t we lowering its dignity?
And if we must have the National Anthem played in movie theatres why not in every place where people gather for enjoyment, including bars? Thus the Supreme Court’s judgement making the playing of the anthem mandatory, though right in spirit, makes one uncomfortable. It is something sacred for the nation, it should not be allowed to be trivialised in this fashion.
Then there’s the coercion aspect to it. For example, someone believes in God, but is it necessary that one has to prove it by going to temples every day and prostrating before the deity? Not many do it; they would like to keep their faith their private affair. If there’s a law asking him to do it then it goes against his personal freedom to practise his faith the way he wants. Compliance from his side would be forced, not spontaneous. People standing up mechanically during the period the National Anthem is played does not necessarily reflect their love for the country; it could mean they are only bearing with it. Thus it is ideal that it should be left in its exalted space and not be made commonplace.
The Supreme Court also prohibits any dramatisation of the anthem. This is intriguing. Why stop people getting creative with something they love? What is banal will get rejected and if it is offensive it will attract punitive action, but the simple fact is that the National Anthem is no ordinary idea to get demeaned by people trying to get imaginative with it. The court’s order means the creative fraternity, including filmmakers, those involved in theatre and even literary activities, stay clear of the National Anthem. It does not really make sense.
A confident nation does not need to be finicky about such things. The bigger problem is if it is cinema theatres today, what tomorrow? Someone might move court demanding something else under the pretext of nationalism and the former might accede citing the same logic it followed in the anthem matter. It would an assault on civil liberties coming in the guise of nationalism or patriotism.
Perhaps it is better we left the esteemed symbols of our country in their sacred space.