Monday, June 20, 2005

The Anti - Populism Brigade

I came across this interesting post via blog-crawling (the ajayvb web-spider at work on a bored afternoon). It links to this essay in Esquire (behind a wall, sorry- will need a pesky reg or something, bugmenot should have something) Quote:

"Every so often, I look at the condition of the world and suspect that our most widespread problem is the ever-growing sentiment of anti-intellectualism that seems to permeate everything, particularly politics (where intelligent candidates are attacked for being intelligent) and advertising (where everything is designed to convince smart people they'll be happier once they agree to become dumb). However, this is something I'm wrong about. Anti-intellectualism is a dangerous problem, but it's not as annoying as pretend intellectualism, which invariably manifests itself as antipopulism. "

Pretty well put. The media hype over popular things notwithstanding, liking something that the junta takes to, is somehow considered infra dig among the so-called 'elite' crowd. Govinda was that way in the late 80s- early 90s, till he suddenly turned acceptable. It is now cool to watch a Govinda film, a fact that leaves me in a minority, since I genuinely don't enjoy his films except for a few notable exceptions.

At this point, the favorite target for the anti-populism crowd I see is the Karan Johar/Yash Chopra school of film-making, and Shah Rukh Khan. It is cool to make jokes about Shah Rukh Khan or Karan Johar, even if the topic is totally unrelated. I saw a really funny one on a blog comment somewhere . To sum it up:

"they are banning everything starting with 'S' in Indian films. First sex, then smoking - it would be great if the next thing is Shah Rukh Khan." WTF? (Sorry ,cannot attribute it, don't remember where I read it)

I get weird looks when I say I like SRK as an actor and importantly, as a star. The funniest statement I've heard about that is "You're the first guy I know who likes SRK". I like him, so I like him. Period. He has the charisma and the intelligence to carry the aura of being a superstar. His interviews are refreshingly candid, unlike the pathetic sycophancy of most of the industry. Of course, his choice of films leaves a lot to be desired, but honestly, his experiments like "Swades" or "Asoka" didn't go down well at the box-office.

I don't like the Johar/Chopra school myself, but I find their movies reasonably enjoyable for a family outing, which is the exact audience they serve. My parents sure as hell are not going to watch "Kill Bill" with moi on a weekend when they want to escape it all. Escapist? Sure. Entertaining? Hell, Yeah.

Having said that, media hype is a genuine problem. Once a thing is accepted by the masses, it is increasingly difficult to escape it. Without even watching television either here or in India, it is difficult for me to escape the flavor of the moment Mallika Sherawat. She seems to have a new outrageous quote attributed to her every day on Rediff or on ExpressIndia. And yes, Tom Cruise marrying Katie Homes. Does this really merit frontpage mention on any news portal?

Karan Johar making a movie every other year is one thing, but seeing his mug once every week on "Koffee ..." with copious quotations everywhere is another. Liking Howie Day when he did the coffeehouse circuit and you listened to bootleg records of his live concerts is one thing, while listening to "Collide" (and getting half - sick of the song) on radio every morning is another. I think the bigger challenge for mainstream content is to remain alternative enough to be acceptable. Having no credible competition like in the case of the iPod helps.

So there you have it. I like SRK. I think Kal Ho Na Ho was an awesome movie. I don't like Govinda's movies mostly. I liked the few episodes of "Desperate Housewives" that I've seen. I can't wait to be skewered the next time any of this topics comes up in a social discussion.

Edit: Typo corrected.


Sumedha said...

Dunno why Shah Rukh would go out of style. I used to think he was ugly(not any more!)but he's always been kool.

Ajay said...

I dunno myself, but it's been my experience - especially in the US. Except for a couple of my friends who are BIG fans, everyone I talk to seems to dislike him. Of course, my sample space is mostly guys (engineer's dilemma - no girls in vicinity means sample space is significantly skewed), but the few girls I know don't like him all that much either.