J is for Jana Gana Mana, the Indian national anthem

The national anthem of India is called Jana Gana Mana (Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people). Written in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, the anthem was first sung at an Indian National Congress convention in 1911. The anthem was  officially adopted on 24 January 1950 when it closed the parliamentary session that ratified the Indian Constitution.

Controversy has surrounded the anthem since its adoption. Some believe that the song is a philippic to Emperor George V, who was present at the 1911 Congress convention.

Like many national anthems, a variety of rules govern its performance. Two versions of the anthem can be played on various state occasions. Like the US, Indians  play the anthem before  sporting events. However, India has a unique location for anthem performance: before movies.

When you walk into an Indian cinema, especially in the home of Bollywood cinema, you enter another world. Indian movie theaters put even the most upscale US theaters to shame. The theaters are opulent. Big Cinemas and PVR Cinemas have theaters that include dinner service and recliners—complete with blankets!

180 theater at Big Cinemas in Ghatkopar

Brian at the 180 cinema at R City Mall. The cinema features electric recliners, blankets, and a full dinner menu.

Right before the movie starts, an announcement flashes on the screen for you to stand for the national anthem. At Big Cinema theaters, the following clip plays the national anthem.

This beautiful rendition by deaf students is my favorite version of the anthem.

For those who don’t understand Bengali, here’s a version with the Bengali and English translations together: