Sometime back the government introduced a rule that the National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana, should be played in all theatres before the start of the feature film. This was an attempt to put in some feeling of patriotism into aam janta. This has also been effective to a certain extent, because for all sorts of reasons, people do stand up and still when the National Anthem is being played. Many even sing along. And that is where the problem is.
We all have learnt Jana Gana Mana in a certain tune. Since our school days we have been singing it in that tune. We feel a sense of pride and also feel moved when we stand respectfully in front of our flag and sing our little hearts out. Playing the National Anthem in theatres is supposed to achieve the same purpose. Except that various makers have decided to bring in their own “touch” to the National Anthem. The “touch” can be anything from slowing down the anthem to adding different beats to adding pieces of music…to anything that the creative geniuses believe their muse has gifted them.
There are certain items cannot be messed around with as per the law. The flag and the National Anthem are two such untouchables. Yet, musicians change the anthem with impunity and the changed versions are proudly played in the theatres. Each time any such version plays, it doesn’t feel like our Jana Gana Mana. It does not bring in any sense of pride, patriotism or solidarity. Yet, so trained are we, that no one sits down in protest against the mauling lest we seem disrespectful. No matter how gifted a person is, no matter how successful and big, no individual can be bigger than the State. If there is a law against disfiguring the flag and distorting the National Anthem, every individual should be equally punishable.
Maybe, just maybe, this has escaped the notice of the powers-that-be (since they are so busy with more urgent matters including the innumerable scams) the issue has been highlighted by some strongly patriotic folks to the Home Minister. These are folks who want to sing along and cannot. (Interestingly there is a website where you can send messages to the Home Minister. Theoretically, the government has all the tools for good governance in place. Whether they are monitored and addressed is a different matter altogether.) They never did get a reply. And the “versions” continue.
Changing a single note or beat of Jana Gana Mana and then playing it in public as the National Anthem is akin to changing the colours of the tricolour (to maybe blue and yellow stripes and an orage or indigo Ashoka Chakra) or changing the placement of the elements (vertical stripes and the Asoka Chakra on the top right) and unfurling it as the flag. Now consider that each theatre has its own version of the flag that they show with their own version of the National Anthem. That is not going to be countenanced. It would be visual and unmissable. Just because the changing of Jana Gana Mana is aural, it doesn’t make it more subtle. Many years have passed in inaction. It is time that the law is reiterated for all to know and register, a cut-off time for the change to be made announced and then ensure that no further changes as per personal preferences are made to the National Anthem.