Producing patriotism

Bollywood screenwriter hustled out of theatre for not standing for the national anthem

He went for the film the next day with the policeman who defused the situation – tickets courtesy the multiplex's management.

On Tuesday night, all Neeraj Pandey wanted to do was to watch the new release Wazir at a multiplex theatre in Goregaon. Instead, he ended the night at the police station.

Pandey, who shares a name with the director of A Wednesday, had gone with two friends for the film at 8.15 pm. When the notice to stand for the national anthem flashed on the screen, his friends stood up. Pandey, however, did not.

“The anthem had not even started and I heard a woman ask from behind, ‘Kaun khada nahi hua, be? [Who hasn’t stood up?] Excuse me, excuse me, why you’re not standing?’” she said.

The woman was in the row behind him with four men. One of those tried to physically lift Pandey to force him to stand. As people began to turn around to watch the scene, another person from a few rows behind called out, “Let the national anthem get over and then we’ll take care of him.”

That night was not the first time Pandey had not stood for the anthem, as he believes standing is a matter of choice. Sometimes he stands, sometimes he does not and sometimes he waits outside the theatre.

He chose to remain seated that night as the anthem played.

That night was, however, the first time that anyone had objected to his actions.

A man in his 50s marched down from his seat and started shouting at Pandey for daring to not stand. Others immediately stood up to defend his choice to sit. People said the movie would not play until Pandey left. The manager came in to attempt to calm people down.

This is when the drama became surreal.

At the height of the tension, more than 40 people crowded around his seat, some ranged against and others for him. There were wild yells of how only a Pakistani would do such a thing and that if he was a Hindustani he would have to stand. When Pandey moved to leave, people shouted at him and told him he was wrong to leave and that he must stay in the theatre because he had done nothing that was wrong.

“I almost felt like laughing,” said Pandey, describing the confusion. “Everybody was shouting at each other in small groups but nobody was listening to each other. I was like, yaar, decide karo, jaana hai ki nahi. [Decide whether I am supposed to go or not].”

The situation intensified when someone Pandey described as a “deshbhakt” grandly announced that he had called the police.

A social problem

The incident, Pandey felt, did not show any lapses on the police’s part or of the system at all.

“The problem here is a social problem,” Pandey said. “I did not break any laws. These people who wanted me to leave probably went home and were happy for a few hours thinking I had gotten into trouble.”

The larger issue, he felt, is how people express their patriotism.

“Friends have been asking me why do I provoke people like this,” Pandey said. “But this is like asking girls why they go to gullies [streets] where boys will harass them. At the time people litter, there is no deshbhakti [patriotism]. These people did not know who I am, what I do or what I think. But this is how people’s gundagardi [hooliganism] comes out.”

Yet Pandey said that too much should not be made out of this.

“Unlike the incident in Kurla which involved a Muslim family, a writer friend of mine pointed out that I am an upper middle-class Hindu Brahmin,” he said. “So this is not a situation of victimisation here, nor is it a hero case. This is just an incident that has happened.”

On Wednesday, all five went for the film. This time, Pandey waited outside the hall until the national anthem was over.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

From pioneering businesses to conquering US television, four Indians show us that all is within reach

Young India is leading life its own way, changing the rules their parents lived by.

Living life your way is never easy. It takes a lot of self-belief and perseverance to carve your own path. In this age, when ‘being yourself’ is an over-used concept, it is easy to mistake it for superficial rebelliousness. But truly living your life your way goes beyond that to actually following your passion, pushing yourself even in the absence of role models or societal encouragement and letting your own fire fuel your potential. These individuals had a different vision for themselves, and chose to follow that:

Priyanka Chopra. Actress. Singer. International star. Priyanka Chopra doesn’t fit any single description. She has taken her career from beauty pageants to music videos, Bollywood movies and international television shows. Her most recent adventure has seen her turn producer of regional language films. Whether it’s taking up pathbreaking roles like an autistic girl in Barfi or recording a single with Pitbull or even starring in the hit American TV show, Quantico, Priyanka Chopra has broken the mould in every industry and she continues to delightfully surprise. She can dream and see her dreams through!

Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra

Juicepreneur—Anuj Rakyan. A former banker and jewellery entrepreneur, Anuj Rakyan’s love for health food saw him set up Raw Pressery, a Mumbai-based cold-pressed juices company. After returning from the US, Rakyan observed the lack of natural health drink options and decided to enter a market that was predominantly filled with processed juices. Even in the fresh juices space, few knew of and appreciated the concept of cold-pressed juices. It was a bold step, but Anuj remained convinced it would work. Today, Raw Pressery is proving successful with two rounds of investment from Sequioa Capital.

Anuj Rakyan
Anuj Rakyan

Zumba Queen—Sucheta Pal. Sucheta Pal in her own words was an unhappy 25-year-old living in Mumbai with a stressful 9-to-9 job. The only bright spot of her otherwise miserable day was the Bollywood dance classes she took. One day, she decided to give up her job and become a dancer full-time. She struggled with societal norms since dancing wasn’t even seen as a serious career option. In 2009, Pal discovered Zumba, the international dance fitness program, in the US and hasn’t looked back ever since. Pal is the lead Master Trainer for India and is certified as a Zumba Education Specialist by Zumba Fitness. She has trained over 3,000 trainers and is credited with popularizing Zumba in the country.

Sucheta Pal
Sucheta Pal

TV Tough Guy—Rannvijay Singh. Rannvijay Singh is known as the tough, no-nonsense host of MTV Roadies. Born in a family with six generations of male ancestors serving in the Indian army, Rannvijay took a very different path. He forged a unique identity as a tough guy on television and even made strides into the world of cinema. In a ruthless industry where most actors struggle to have careers beyond a few years, Rannvijay Singh is still going strong after 13 years.

Rannvijay Singh's Facebook page
Rannvijay Singh's Facebook page

Young Indians are finding new ways to display their talent and ability. They are also finding new tools of expression. LYF Smartphone+, the new smart phone brand from the Reliance Group, enables people to express themselves and their passions through its range of smartphones including the Earth 2 Smartphone+. It has a stylish 5-inch display with a pixel density of 445PPi. It is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and has a 13MP front and rear camera with flash and PDAF. It also has unique security features including retina unlock and a fast fingerprint sensor. To know more about LYF Smartphone+, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of LYF Smartphone+ and not by the Scroll editorial team.

×

PrevNext