For Shekhar Kapur, it was just a passing Sunday thought, but for Bollywood, it’s a brow raiser. "National anthem being played in theaters is so sad and mournful. Is that deliberate after all the political scams? (sic)," tweeted the India-born Academy Award-winning auteur, admired for films such as Elizabeth and Bandit Queen.
The film fraternity isn’t amused. "I’m proud that it is played in theatres — it binds the nation, and it’s certainly not sad to play it," says veteran, Alyque Padamsee. "It is extremely elevating, and should be played as often as possible," says film-maker Prakash Jha, who requested cinema halls across the country to play it before screenings of his film, Raajneeti.
The national anthem is played in movie theatres in Mumbai and Pune after it was made mandatory there by an order passed in 2009. In Delhi, the custom, which dates back to British India, is followed by Fun Cinemas alone. "Our viewers appreciate this effort, and give full respect," says Deepak Taluja of the chain. DT Cinemas, too, play it, "but only on Republic Day and Independence Day."
Kapur’s comment may be suggestive of a deeper problem, argue some. "I think his tweet only points to the dichotomy and corruption in the country, and the sense of helplessness that the act creates," says lyricist Prasoon Joshi.
Adman Prahlad Kakkar agrees. "It’s like poor little guys putting their hands to their hearts and singing for a country that cheats them."
Film-maker Mahesh Bhatt says, "Movie halls are entertainment parlours where people go to amuse themselves. To stand up for the national anthem is not the only way to prove patriotism, and who better than Shekhar to have shown this!"
Others feel the anthem’s tempo itself needs change for such a feeling to go. “The tune could be more upbeat, like the marching songs that form the British and American anthems. Ours is like a dirge,” says Padamsee.
(with inputs by Minakshi Saini)