“Not able to spare 52 seconds for the country, but you have the audacity to sit here and watch a three-hour movie? Are you Pakistani terrorists?” a man can be heard saying on video, as he and a group of others berate four people in a near-empty theatre. In a video that has spread widely in Bengaluru, Sandalwood actor Arun Gowda and a few other moviegoers can be seen shouting at four people — two men and two women — at a movie theatre in Bengaluru for allegedly not standing up during the national anthem.
The incident occurred on October 23 at PVR Orion Mall during the screening of the Tamil movie Asuran. Actor Arun Gowda and his friends can be seen trying to shame the four people for allegedly choosing to sit while the national anthem was played.
“When the nation anthem came on, these guys didn’t stand. Look at these guys. Just look at their faces once again. They are telling us to file a complaint,” Arun Gowda is seen saying to the camera. He then continues shooting the video, where his friends are seen loudly yelling at the four people. In the background, one can also hear a person using Kannada expletives at the four people.
“Our soldiers are fighting for us in Kashmir and you guys are sitting here and don’t even stand for the national anthem. Get out of this place,” one of Arun’s friends can be heard shouting.
Despite multiple attempts at ending the conflict, Arun Gowda and his friends can be seen calling out to people to remove the four persons in question from the theatre.
Speaking to TNM, Arun Gowda said that he and other audience members at the theatre noticed that four people were sitting down during the national anthem. However, it was when the lights went on for the interval that the people sitting in the theatre began questioning the four people, who did not stand up.
He justified the sequence of actions in the theatre when asked whether removing them forcibly was the right thing to do.
"How can they not care about army? We demanded that the four people must be removed from the theatre. They were eventually sent out,” Arun Gowda added.
This is not the first time people have been hounded for not standing up for the national anthem.
In May this year, a sound engineer was allegedly harassed and threatened with dire consequences by a fellow moviegoer for not standing up for the national anthem. The incident occurred at Inox in Garuda Mall located along Magrath Road in the theatre hall that was screening Avengers: Endgame.
In November 2016, the apex court had made it mandatory for all cinema halls to play the national anthem before the screening.
The November 2016 order mandated that people would have to stand up in respect for the national anthem when it was played in cinema halls. The order said that this practice would "instil a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism."
However, this order was overturned by a two-judge bench headed by former Chief Justice Deepak Misra on January 5, 2018. Chief Justice Dipak Misra had said that it was up to the cinema hall to decide whether or not to play the national anthem. However, if a cinema hall does choose to play the national anthem, people could stand up to show respect.
“Why should you presume that not singing the national anthem in a theatre makes a person anti-national?” Justice Chandrachud, who was a part of the two-judge bench, had asked.