No change in anthem practice

Two years after making the playing of Jana Gana Mana mandatory before each film screening, the Supreme Court said it was optional. Bengaluru cinemas continue to play it as before

Audience at Vega City, Bannergatta Road, rise for the national anthem. dh photo by B H Shivakumar

A 29-year man was arrested last week for not standing up when the national anthem was played at a multiplex in Bengaluru.

Identified as sound engineer Jithin, he was booked by the Ashok Nagar Police station under the Prevention of Insult to National Honours Act of 1971. He is now out on bail. Jithin was watching Avengers: Endgame at Garuda mall, and was questioned by others in the hall, and an argument ensued.

The Act says, “Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

The Supreme Court ordered the playing of the national anthem at cinema halls in 2016, but subsequently said it was not mandatory. However, all halls in Bengaluru, both standalone cinemas and multiplexes, continue to play the national anthem before every show.

“Content providers like UFO and Qube send it to us,” a staffer at standalone cinema Sampige, Malleswaram, says. Inox says it is a management policy to play the national anthem before every show.

Metrolife called a host of other cinemas and multiplexes and all said they play the anthem.

While almost everyone in the audience stands up voluntarily, there are some who can’t because they are unwell or handicapped. Also, some dissenters, who consider it is an imposition, continue sitting. The threat of violence looms over those who sit during the anthem, and that is the biggest problem with the practice, film buffs Metrolife spoke to say.

Kushi, software engineer, says standing up at a cinema for the national anthem is not a test of one’s patriotism. “I went to watch Padmavat at a theatre near my place. I was tired and did not stand up. A man beside me started shouting at me. A lot of others joined him and started abusing me,” she says. She says she also got many threatening calls.

A college student recalls how he was forced out of a theatre when he could not stand up for the anthem because of a leg injury. “I was playing a game and had injured my leg. I went for a late night show at a Basaveshwaranagar theatre. I was yelled at and sent out,” he says.

SC reversed 2016 order in 2018

“The time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of Constitutional patriotism…people must feel they live in a nation and this individually perceived notion of freedom must go… people must feel this is my country, my motherland.”
— SC bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra

Two years on, the court made the playing of the national anthem before each screening optional. However, should a movie theatre choose to play the anthem, everyone in the audience should stand, with the exemption of the ill and the handicapped, the court said.

What movie people say

Nagathihalli 
Chandrashekar 
President, Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy

I think patriotism must come from within. Some people stand up for the anthem and some don’t. It is better to stop the practice of playing it.

Nagendra Prasad
Writer-director

It is a good thing that the national anthem is played before a film; it is the only time we all feel together. What’s the harm in standing up for 52 seconds when you have two hours to watch the film and relax?

K V Chandrashekar
Former president of KFCC and single-screen owner

UFO Moviez and Qube content providers attach it with the film as the government wanted a common format; there was a time when all 29 states had their own versions of the national anthem. At Veeresh cinema, run by us, we have been playing the national anthem since 1987, and we still do.

Lawyer’s take

Since the Supreme Court says it is optional, cinema halls can take a call. They can’t be booked if they don’t play the national anthem. But if an individual is seen as disrespecting the national flag, he can be booked.

- K B K Swamy, Advocate

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