MUMBAI — India’s Supreme Court has decided to turn the clock back. On Wednesday it ruled that all cinemas must play the national anthem before every commercial film screening.
The anthem must be accompanied by images of the Indian flag and cinema audiences must rise and remain standing for its duration. Cinema exits must remain closed while the anthem is playing as people walking in and out constitutes disrespect, the court said.
The Supreme Court bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said: “The time has come when people must respect the national anthem which is part of constitutional patriotism. People must feel that it is their country. It is because of the country that they are enjoying freedom and liberty.”
Cinemas in newly independent India used to play the anthem after screenings from the late 1940s. But the practice ceased in the 1960s. The song “Jana Gana Mana” was composed in 1911 by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and adopted as the national anthem in 1950, more than two years after independence in 1947.
Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur tweeted: “Hope Supreme Court orders Indian Parliament to sing our Nation Anthem before each session. Often its drama too is movie like.”
Until recently, it was only the state of Maharashtra, home to Bollywood and the Marathi-language film industry, that required the anthem to be played prior to screenings. Now, in 10 days time, all of India will have to follow suit.