What is it about the use of historic recordings as mobile ringtones that has petrified the Government of India? The Films Division, in charge of the original tapes of famous speeches that include Subhas Chandra Bose’s ‘Dilli Chalo’ crie de coeur and speeches of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, sold these pre-Independence gems to a production house which in turn sold it to a telecom company. Now the mobile company wants to sell the archival material as ringtones in a completely legitimate manner.
Considering that our elders are always complaining about how ‘today’s youth’ are clueless about history in general and the Independence Movement in particular, historic speeches as ringtones is a fabulous way of getting history out of textbooks and into the popular imagination. But Minister of Information and Broadcasting Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi thinks otherwise. In typical government-bureaucratic fashion, Mr Dasmunshi is horrified at the prospect of a ringtone that goes “Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny...” competing with one that has “Mitwa-a-a...” as its chorus. To borrow a phrase from the lexicon of ‘today’s youth’, Mr Dasmunshi and the GoI should chill. The reason why nationalism in India ends up being a ho-hum gesture faithfully exhibited by most young Indians every Independence and Republic Day is that the State is paranoid about displays of nationalism and patriotism straying from ‘proper norms’. So, instead of a genuine celebratory feel to our historic anniversaries, unhindered and genuine patriotism is seen only in cricket stands rather than in cinemas playing Jana Gana Mana.
Till recently, there was such a strict (and complex-ridden) set of rules for us to celebrate with our own national flag that one couldn’t blame even a true-blue patriot for wearing a Stars and Stripes T-shirt or a Union Jack jacket. In fact, the courts had to step in to hand over the tricolour to the people that was, till then, confined to the hands of bureaucrats. Mr Dasmunshi mustn’t worry about phones ringing to the voice of Gandhiji, Tagore, Nehru, Bose et al. In fact, he should himself spread the patriotic tone through the most popular medium available today.