The Supreme Court’s directive to play the national anthem before movie screenings is a gift that keeps on giving to presstitutes such as yours truly. Since the announcement, there have been several incidents that are indicative of the problems in implementing such an umbrella injunction.
A wheelchair user was assaulted in Goa. Patriotic mobs (the best kind) have attacked people for not standing up “for the love of the motherland” at the Chennai and Kerala film festivals where hundreds of screenings meant that the national anthem had to be played hundreds of times. Recently an elderly man was attacked by a drunk for not standing up during the national anthem played at the end of Dangal (the accused said that he was under the influence of alcohol and “taken over by patriotic zeal that reflected in the movie”).
Ever since the announcement was made in November (a month when most of India was standing outside banks and ATMs anyway), there was confusion as to how the directive would be implemented in certain circumstances.
|'Those who think they are more-patriotic-than-thou will question those they deem insincere.' (Credit: Reuters photo)|
Owners of adult cinema halls in Kolkata threw up their arms in despair as their customers refused to stand up for the national anthem. A customer who chose to remain anonymous (because he was watching Munni Metric Pass 2 and not Citizen Kane) said, “I love my country and I don’t need to display it at a time when I have come to watch an adult film”. This brings up the question of exactly what constitutes an adult film. Gloria Leonard once said that “the difference between pornography and erotica is the lighting”. Also, films like Udta Punjab, Black Friday and Bandit Queen were given an A rating although they didn’t feature a sexual theme. Should one’s patriotism be excused for Hawas ki Pujaran and not for Mastizaade 2?
There was equal befuddlement on how disabled citizens could participate in something that requires physical involvement. Earlier, when the Supreme Court had vaguely stated that the disabled must show “some such gesture” as a mark of respect, I wondered what a fitting gesture could be. Should they raise both their hands? Just one in a quasi-Hitler salute? A Queen Elizabeth wave? Would headbanging to the anthem be considered patriotic? Could the rotation of one arm in a bid to imitate our best bowlers pass muster?
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was kind enough to clear the confusion by issuing guidelines recently: “The persons with locomotor disabilities and other wheel chair users, shall position themselves to the extent of maximum attentiveness and alertness… for example a wheelchair-bound person with disability shall make the wheelchair static, and position themselves maintaining the maximum possible alertness, physically… if the person with disability is on crutch, he/she shall become stable [non-mobile] to the extent of maximum alertness.”
It seems that the government were afraid that, without its guidelines to direct them, wheelchair users were thinking of doing somersaults during the anthem and those on crutches have a penchant for doing the bhangra at the multiplex.
In case you were wondering how those suffering from mental disabilities could show their patriotism, fret not because the MHA has you covered: “[With] the characteristics [of the mentally challenged], like lack of understanding and comprehension, associated conditions like epilepsy, attention deficit, hyperactive disorder sensory impairment, psychiatric illness, motor problem, etc. most of them will have behavioural problems like flapping of the hands, screaming, shouting, abnormal body movements, difficulty in performing practical task, etc. [which] may hamper in showing respect to the national anthem… relaxation to such class of persons with disabilities may be considered.”
It’s ridiculous how these guidelines try to tackle a problem that has no solution. Who is it exactly that “may consider” relaxing the rules for “such class of persons with disabilities”? How do you convince a mob that you are not “flapping your hands” (really? These are the wieners we voted into power?) in jest but have a medical condition that prohibits you from paying respect? How do you explain to a surly mob that you can’t keep still because you have Parkinson’s? As if it was not enough for the disabled to navigate through a country that doesn’t make their lives easier by providing basic infrastructure, now you have to carry a doctor’s prescription just in case a drunken patriot thinks your autistic child is being anti-national by not keeping still.
The bench had also said that prior to the anthem being played or sung in the cinema hall, the entry and exit doors shall remain closed so that no one can create any kind of disturbance and the doors can be opened once it is over.
Let’s say there’s a fire incident like the one in Uphaar Cinema or a shooting like the one in Aurora, would the government rather have everyone in the cinema die a patriot rather than grant them a chance to escape? Anti-nationals like yours truly will probably not be martyred because we are usually late (what with all the stone pelting and presstitution). Earlier I used to arrive late in order to avoid the advertisements and Mukesh, now I arrive late to avoid the faux-patriotism.
In November, the Supreme Court immediately dismissed the petition by a young lawyer to have the national anthem played at the start of proceedings in courts across the country. This is like your alcoholic father ordering you to drink karela juice for a healthy life. Apparently, it makes more sense to ask law abiding citizens to pay respect to the country than the criminals who flout its rules. And then you have buffoons like this BJP minister who have the gall to make the national anthem compulsory for the public while not knowing it themselves. It’s like handing over the keys to the museum to a bunch of orangutans.
The problem with making patriotism tangible is that it’s bound to create chaos where those who think they are more-patriotic-than-thou will question those they deem insincere. In all the incidents reported across India’s cinema halls, it is clear that these pseudo-patriots are preying on the vulnerable. They are cowards who attack the elderly or disabled or the outnumbered. Which is why I want to carry out an experiment by taking fifty bodybuilders to my nearest cinema hall and instructing them not to stand for the national anthem. Believe you me, no 'patriot’ will be creating a ruckus during that screening. Bullies have a tendency to keep their tails between the legs when there’s a bigger dog around.
If you are one of those deluded people, who think that standing up at a bank ATM or during the national anthem at a movie theatre is in any way comparable or equivalent to sacrificing your life at the border, then you are a loser of such epic proportions that you make every freedom fighter or soldier who has died for this great country spin in their graves like kebabs on a rotisserie.
There are many ways to show one’s respect for the motherland. Don’t pat your back for taking the most convenient one.