It has been quite a few years since the National Anthem is being played in cinema halls prior to screening a movie. People who are seated comfortably with their Popcorns, Pepsis and Samosas in tow, grudgingly get up, sometimes partnered with groans and chair squeaks. Those in the aisles impatiently wait for the anthem to begin and end as soon as possible – wishing they had come in earlier to avoid groping for their seats in the darkness. It is sad to see that no sooner are the closing lines of the Anthem sung, that you see people sitting down and snuggling in the seat comfortably.
I thought I had seen all versions of the National Anthem. There is never a “bad” rendition of the Anthem. Till a couple of years ago, my favourite one was by Bharat Bala Productions, released to commemorate the 50th year of the Indian Republic. More than 30 acclaimed artistes from the musical fraternity in India, including Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosale, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, Bhimsen Joshi and others present a ear pleasing mix of harmonious sounds. And every time I hear A.R. Rehman sing “Jaya He” in the end, it sends a shiver down my spine.
Then came the one shot at the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range of the Great Himalayan Mountains. It is picturised on the brave soldiers of the Indian Army, who stand shoulder to shoulder, guarding the highest and most difficult battlefield in the world. The white expanse is in deep contrast with the Indian tri-colour, as it flutters in the sky – a tribute to our valiant Army. The mellow music reaches deep within and evokes a sense of national pride.
“Please stand up for the National Anthem” said the movie screen when I went to watch a film recently – What hit me after that left me speechless.
Children are seen standing in rows, impatiently, in the school playground. A little girl comes running through the corridor. She is clearly late for the assembly. She runs through the rows and stands in front of the stage. The music begins. It is then you notice the ear machines that all the children have worn. The entire piece is presented in sign language by children with hearing and speech impairments. And they begin to sing. They sing without words – they sing through their hands, they sing through their eyes and they sing through their moving lips which emit no sound. The best part? In the end, when the children gently wave their palms to signify the fluttering of the flag.
It is brilliant in more than one way – not just because the campaign won a silver at Cannes 2011. It shows how silence can be an effective way to commnunicate. A person means to say something which is understood in a completely different way by another. In a land where people are divided by language, we break free from the spoken words and possible miscommunication thereafter. Sometimes, the simplest of things are communicated with the least of words, or as in this case, none.
It was the first time I noticed that not a single person moved during the entire National Anthem. Everyone stood transfixed by the rendition. It took me to such a beautiful place where the mind and the heart both co-exist without argument. I stood for a while after it was over, sat down quietly and wiped a stray tear.
Truly, patriotism knows no language.