Modi, Kejriwal, Trump, Salman Khan movies and now Pratham – How societies’ tastes are changing from “class” to “mass”

Class system isn’t new in our societies. While the western societies had a clear-cut feudal system to divide the society, Indian society had the advantage of its inherent caste system to divide the classes further and vice versa.

India has been a nation of the poor, run by the rich. Somewhere between these two, the middle-class man struggles to leap from one side to the other. The poor live by the day, managing to scrape through the hurdles of life, one after the other. The rich only want to get richer. It’s the middle-class which aspires to try shed its past and look towards a richer generation in the future. The ones that swear by their values and hope for a better, cleaner society while jostling for space in an over-crowded bus. 

For decades, this class system has been nourished well in India. The method of segregating residential buildings and plots into LIG, MIG and HIG groups was a nice, albeit unintentional, way to ensure there’s a divide in the society. AC First Class, Tier-II, Tier-III, Sleeper coaches and “General” Compartment were the sections created by the Indian Railways to cater to different income groups by providing appropriate services based on the price of the ticket. The typical middle-class mentality would be to aspire to move up the ladder, tier-by -tier, to reach AC First Class – that compartment which has exclusive cabins.

Cultures and traditions are given utmost importance in a middle-class family. The mindsets are stuck somewhere between superstitions and progressive thoughts. The sandwiched class always wonders what’s right and what’s not, because it’s a matter of dignity for us. Our clothing choices, our food, our activities, the movies we watch are all defined by these. It’s this mindset that makes me wonder whether what’s been happening around us in the last few years is a healthy transition.

I strongly feel societies all over the world are losing the value systems they built over millennia. Our tastes are degrading in almost every aspect of life.

People we elect

Democracy is as much about the elected leaders as it is about the people. The power of people in a democracy lies with the representatives of the people. India once had stalwart personalities in its political system who were role models thanks to their values and thinking, and not because of their flares and pageantry.

Even if we push the issue of corruption in politics aside for a moment, it’s becoming increasingly hard to fInd well-learned leaders with a vision. Political debates have turned into mere mudslinging, naming and shaming. Parliament’s sessions resemble fish market. Great orators have become a thing of the past. One can only pray for an orator like Atal Bihari Vajpayee to stand in the parliament to come up with an impromptu poem in Hindi even as the entire house goes silent just to hear him speak!

Movies we watch

Cinema influences culture and well-being of societies more than any other form of art. Indian cinema has played a key role in shaping our modern-day society. Even commercial cinema used to carry social messages for its audiences. Movies tackled issues ranging from war, plight of farmers, westernization, cultural invasions, survival of poor, social evils like untouchability, Sati system etc, and reached a wide range of audience. Cinema used to be a common platform where one dish was served to all.

That changed in 70s when the divide between art-film and commercial -tier appeared. Late 80s churned movies that can today be used as samples to study a degenerated society. Commercial cinema were all about rapes, kidnapping, money and villains. “Izzat” probably never enjoyed more coverage than in this time-period.

While the 90s went light-hearted on subjects and chose insane love stories over anything that’s serious, the new millennium has seen a wide range of movies handling an equal wide range of topics just like the 50s and 60s. The only difference is that the divide between art-films and mainstream films still exists and it’s hard to find a socially important movie succeeding in cinema halls like a Salman Khan’s no-brainer does. That either reflects what the people want today or it reflects what the producers think people want today.

The decline of good movies has been so drastic in a rich culture like Kannada that it’s hard to find the middle-class enjoying movies in theatres. The audience has been divided into “class” and “mass” and movies are being made to appeal to the “mass”. The generations belonging to my parents have seen cinema degrade and they have reached a point where they cannot believe good cinema are being made even now.

The inclination of producers and directors churning out movies with lame, violent and run-of-the-mill subjects and songs with pedestrian lyrics has alienated a large section of the society from cinema. Yet, there are very few who want to bring them back to the theaters. Appeasement of the “mass” is still the most important thing to generate some revenues, or that’s what they think.

The decline of quality in movies and songs doesn’t just affect a section of the audience. It affects the language and associated culture. Kannada – the language – itself is undergoing severe transformations that are not in its best interests. 

Theatrics, verbal abuses, taunts, gimmickry, daftness, pedestrianism, below the belt attacks have all become mainstream in both politics and cinema. 

It’s not very surprising that Americans chose Trump. When Modi was running for elections in 2014, he was only a tad civilized than Trump was during the Presidential campaigns. Kejriwal has ditched all his inhibitions and has stopped to lower levels in the last two years. The smaller elected representatives are worse.

Two other people fall into this category. And they both have been quite popular and have been celebrated by the “mass” and the media alike. Huchcha Venkat and Big Boss 4 winner – Pratham. Kannada culture, if not anything else, has just fallen down a thousand steps, but like they say “We’re here because of people’s mandate!”

Thank you, people!

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