Rahul da Cunha: Misogyny and multiplex mandatories


Illustration/Uday Mohite


So, in two days we will be celebrating our 70th Independence Day. Woohoo! Imagine that. Seventy years of being independent, of eating what we want, expressing freely what we feel, no boundaries of caste or religion. Okay, so some Stone Age men have taken 'independence' to mean they can 'independently' drive around the streets of the country, stalking, harassing and molesting women, chasing them in SUVs, occasionally kidnapping them. Other misogynistic ministers feel they can 'independently' voice their opinion on how women should dress. But this is not a piece about regressive men in progressive India. This is about the patriotism I'm feeling leading up to August 15.


On Tuesday, I will wake up and sing the national anthem. I'm a big fan of the national anthem. Wherever, whenever I hear the Rashtriya Gaana I feel a sense of deep patriotism. And I always stand up… always. Even if I'm watching a cricket match on TV, and Kohli's team sings Jana Gana Mana before the game, I automatically rise in my living room and sing along. Actually, I'm also an ardent supporter of it playing before a movie. I rush to films at multiplexes, to be in time for it.


There have been many artistic renditions of it over the years. There was one version where the Mangeshkar sisters, Lata and Asha sang the song as a duet, but it was clearly in slow motion, or whatever the equivalent of 'singing very slow' is — because the song seemed to take the length of the entire Independence movement. A badly created tricolor was animated to wave slowly to their harmonious voices.


In the recent past there have been many controversies and debates on whether it is wrong/right/ illegal/ legal/compulsory to not rise for the Rashtriya Gaana in public places, especially movie halls.


Patriotism has taken on many hues and colours which are best described by the following types of national anthem singers in a multiplex. Here they are —
1. Soapbox Hero: This patriot belongs in his heart to the Quit India Movement. He comes more for the 52 seconds of the anthem than the actual movie. He either salutes or puts his hand across his chest and sings aloud. Typically he's the guy who yells at those who dare not stand.


2. Mohammed Rafi Clone: This category of multiplex anthemer is the quintessential bathroom singer/karaoke king. This gent/lady will sing out loud with all the
inflections of a Mohammed Rafi. He always looks around for appreciation.


3. Popcorn Pop Star: This guy is a foodie. Traditionally, he is bullied into eating healthy back home, so comes to the movies with his pals, to gorge on junk food. But, as he settles down into his reclining seats, invariably he has to get up. He is always the guy who stands for the national anthem holding a red tray with nachos, popcorn and a coke.


So yes, dear reader, on that note, I look forward to the speech on the ramparts of the Red Fort. All I can ask is that our achhe din become a tad more 'achhe'. And for our stalking, chauvinistic, groping men, some 'bure din'.


Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62@gmail.com


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