Salil Chaturvedi, who represented India twice at the Wheelchair Tennis Tournaments in Australia and Japan in the mid 90s, has not watched a movie at the cinemas for nearly three months now, thanks to a harrowing experience during his last outing.
The 48-year-old paraplegic — paralysed from the waist down — had visited a multiplex in Panaji to watch the Rajinikanth-starrer Kabali in the first week of its release. As the national anthem was being played, a couple seated behind Chaturvedi stood up and sang on.
“The couple sang the anthem loudly. But suddenly, the man slapped my back and signalled me to stand up,” he said.
Chaturvedi, a son of a Air Force veteran, said he did not utter a word and turned to look at the screen. After the anthem concluded, the couple confronted Chaturvedi and accused him of disrespecting the national anthem, he said. “They didn’t even bother to take a look at my condition and turned aggressive. I said they had no right to touch me, but they wouldn’t listen,” Chaturvedi added.
Soon, others in the hall intervened and asked the couple to calm down. “Eventually, they realised my problem and started speaking apologetically. However, in the middle of the movie, they left the hall,” he said. Chaturvedi, who originally hails from Allahabad, said he had written to the Inox management, narrating the incident. “But I did not get any response,” he said. He added that he did not complain to police because he hoped that the management would investigate the matter.
Chaturvedi said that since the incident, he had not visited a movie hall. “My wife Monika Kshatriya was with me last time, but if I am confronted alone, I would be in trouble,” he said. The Indian Express contacted the Inox management, seeking their response. A representative said she would get back, but did not do so.
Chaturvedi became paraplegic due to a spinal cord injury he suffered in a road accident in 1984. However, his confinement to the wheelchair did not stop him from pursuing his endeavours. Over the years, he donned many caps — author, tennis player, environmentalist and an actor. “I was the voice of Jugaadu in Galli Galli Sim Sim, a TV programme for children,” he said. “Irrespective of my contribution to the country, I still need to prove my patriotism,” he added.