The Supreme Court of India has ruled that the national anthem has to be played before the screening of movies in theatres across the country, while making it mandatory for the audience to stand up and pay respect to it. The Indian flag will also have to be displayed on the screen while this exercise is being undertaken.
Before we are watch whatever movie it may be -- science fiction fantasy, historical romance or a romantic comedy -- the two most crucial sense organs we will put to use for the next few hours will have to be first exposed to a melody and a symbol, both of which, the honourable court believes, are supposed to make us patriotic citizens of India.
Even as we ponder why must this practice be imposed through a judicial decree, or what exactly it seeks to achieve thereby, here are some facts about the national anthem even avid supporters of the SC's decision may not be aware of.
1. While most Indians know the national anthem was written by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the language of its composition is not clear to many. Although composed in Bengali, the vocabulary used was heavily inflected by Sanskrit, giving it a flavour that is universal and easily adoptable across the nation. It takes under a minute to perform it fully, though is often curtailed to roughly 20 seconds in favour of a shortened version.
2. The words of "Jana Gana Mana" were written on 11 December 1911 and sung on 27 December 1911 at the Indian National Congress in Calcutta. Following this, it was performed in January 1912 at the annual event of the Adi Brahmo Samaj. Although the composition of the song coincided with the visit of King George V to India, Tagore denied it was written in praise of the monarch.
3. The lyric is originally set in Raga Alhaiya Bilawal, though it is sung with minor variations to the classical form of the raga. It has been performed by legendary vocalists of Indian classical music--both Hindustani and Carnatic--including Bhimsen Joshi and DK Pattamal, apart from a host of popular singers such as Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle.
4. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose commissioned a free translation of the national anthem from Sanskritised Bengali to a more familiar form in Hindustani. This version, "Subh sukh chain", was created by Captain Abid Ali of the Indian National Army (INA) and set to music by Captain Ram Singh Thakur. It was adopted as the official anthem of the Provisional Government of Free India in November 1941, later replaced in 1950 by "Jana Gana Mana", chosen by the Constituent Assembly.
5. In 2005, many objected to the reference to "Sindh" in the song and demanded it to be replaced with Kashmir. The controversy started with a public interest litigation arguing that the province of Sindh was no longer part of India since the Partition and should therefore be dropped from the country's national anthem. The Supreme Court, however, declined to tamper with the existing wording of the song.
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