I saw Peepli [Live] yesterday evening. I have a few things to say about it but in a separate post. This one is about what inaugurates the PVR Lower Parel film experience. Their “Jana gana mana”.
We are a free country and thereby free to innovate our own national anthem. Keep more or less (very less will do) to the original score and feel free to do your own thing. At PVR they fly a plastic flag on the screen. It looks waxy and doesn’t really fly. It only kind of heaves a little. The opening line is sung by a male, the next by a female and so on till they join voices for the final crescendo, except that in this case we must coin an alternative word to crescendo which I hope will suggest itself to me as we go along.
It is as difficult to catch the quality of a voice in words as it is to catch a colour, a smell or a taste. But I will do my best.
Take a pot of honey. A fuzzy-backed bee bumbles by, spots the honey and stops off for a sip. Its throat grows dreamily sticky and sweet. Now transfer that throat to the male singer of the first line of the national anthem at PVR. Naturally, the words that slip out of it are covered in this sticky, sweet substance. But that substance is further refined by what the Indian understands as the proper voice projection to express noble sentiments. The result is an added glaze of haziness.
The second line is sung by a female. She too has been on the honey pot. But the glaze she has added to the cloying leftovers of that outing is what the Indian understands as the essential sweetness of womanhood. In the role of the essential Indian woman, this singer is called upon to add cute little trills between notes. Her coup de grace is the trill on the dying note of the last ‘jaya he’. The anthem has been so slow and sweet that your dearest desire is to run out and puke when it ends. Then you get this last little trill and you’re nailed to your place in horror.
The idea of playing the national anthem before every show is to instill in us a feeling of pride in a nation that is marching ahead, however reluctant we may be to having such a feeling instilled in us. At Edward theatre, Dhobi Talao, where Majlis held a screening of faded old FD docus about (then) Bombay, a split second before the anthem came on, the usher commanded, “Khade ho jao”. There was threat in his voice, necessary, we inferred, for the Edward regulars. I mention it here just to point out that there are people who may not think there’s much truth in the notion that our nation is marching ahead.
We at PVR are also not encouraged to think so. Rather, the picture we are given is of a nation that has taken time off to sit in a garden stringing garlands of dainty flowers while everything else runs to seed. The charitable view of PVR then could be that, far from being proof of a wimpy idea of anthems reflected in a godawful choice of voices, their “Jana gana mana” is a heart-felt comment on the state of the nation.