Don’t attack a Tamil movie for daring to say what millions of Indians couldn’t

Shobhaa De,

The most relevant question asked of the government in recent memory came from a three-judge Supreme Court bench, and this is what the learned judges wanted to know: “What stops you (Centre) from amending the rules…why should we be performing the job of the government? It is for the government to take a decision.”

This was in the context of the contentious national anthem issue, which for the past 11 months, has caused serious grief to countless citizens. Come on, what brand of patriotism demands an absurd ‘movie hall’ test that makes it mandatory for cinema halls to play the anthem before screening movies? God help you if you don’t spring to your feet and stand at attention while the Tricolour flies on the screen.

I have seen patrons displaying scant respect for the short duration it takes, chomping noisily on tacos, sharing popcorn, sipping colas or coffee, checking their phones, and worse. The last thing on their overcrowded minds at that moment is showing off their love for India.

I have also noticed patrons timing their entry to avoid the national anthem, and slipping in surreptitiously to catch the opening scene of their favourite movie of the week. Justice Chandrachud boldly asked, “Why do we have to wear patriotism on our sleeves? People go to the cinema for undiluted entertainment…. where will this moral policing stop?” Where indeed? Chief Justice Deepak Mishra had passed the order in 2016. Today, he along with Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, are part of the three-member bench hearing a petition to recall the order. Sweet irony!

Citizens are sick of this ding-dong attitude. Not just where the national anthem (playing or not playing) in cinema halls is concerned, but on a broader level. We just want to get on with our weary lives, earn a decent living, feed our families, and enjoy ourselves to the extent possible under very challenging circumstances. Yes, it’s time to say it out loud — GST and demonetisation are killing us! There! It’s said. That’s the bitter truth.

How was your Diwali, folks? Mine was the dullest in decades. I went to the markets and came back with very little to show for what I had spent. Most of the shopkeepers and traders were in a state of despair over low sales and overall despondency. Apart from our movie stars and possibly, Jay Shah, nobody was seen splurging with a jaunty, “Diwali hai!” attitude. These two financial monsters (GST and demonetisation) have corroded our pockets and spirits. What’s the point of hounding filmmakers for saying it like it is? That’s not going to change a thing.

On the contrary, there has already been a fierce backlash to the arbitrary harassment and in times to come, the film Mersal will attain iconic status for daring to articulate what millions of citizens dared not. By attacking Vijay, the popular star of Mersal, or orchestrating I-T raids on Tamil actor Vishal’s production office in Chennai, the BJP’s over-zealous flunkies have only displayed their panic and insecurity over the movie’s message.

This is a clumsy response, guys! Surely, with the best brains at your command, you don’t have to be this vindictive and obvious. Agreed, it’s going to be bloody hard to admit, “Guess what, fellow Indians… we screwed up!” Yes, my dears, you sure did! Admit it first, and make amends later. That’s the right way forward. By petty acts of vendetta, you achieve nothing, but attract more attention to what the entire country is upset about. Corruption has not magically ended thanks to demonetisation. In a country like India, corruption is a way of life. Black money is still floating around. In all colours and hues. You can introduce a saffron-coloured 200-rupee note and imagine that will solve the problem. But, hell it won’t. You know it. We know it. Worst of all, a whole new order of seriously corrupt fat cats has been created, post these schemes.

As of now, we are filled with gratitude for the judiciary. Our judges are our conscience.They reflect our hopes, dreams, aspirations, and faith. Like us, they are concerned about the future of India. And all the new definitions of patriotism. These autocratic patriotism tests are as offensive as those barbaric virginity tests of old, and force citizens into positions that are painfully uncomfortable. This is a good time to thank our learned judges; without them to protect our rights, we’d be slipping back into an area of darkness we believed we had left behind. But wait a minute, is it really the job of the judiciary to run the country? That’s pretty much what’s going on each time we face a crisis. Where does that leave the executive? Meddling in people’s lives?

Make no mistake, the national anthem is precious to citizens. Let it remain precious. Right now, it is seen as a bit of a nuisance. Its hallowed image has taken a hit. Let’s restore its dignity and withdraw the absurd order. Jaldi-jaldi rather than later.

Courtesy: Times Of India