A news item, at the end of the year 2016, from a small village called La Joya in Mexico is probably manifestation of a phenomenon that has had far-reaching effects that the world has seen lately, in the fields of popularity, talent and fame. The invitation for ‘quinceanara‘ party or coming-of-age party of a 15 years old Rubi Ibarra by her father Crescencio went viral (the expression used in the Internet age for something that spreads with the speed of the viral fever from person to person). Whilst Crescencio meant by the words: Everyone is invited, people in the neighbouring communities, the local event photographer who posted the invitation video on Facebook omitted to mention that. The result: everyone landed up for the birthday party. The media and social media, both domestic and international, covered it as the event of the year.
Five years ago, at the end of the year 2011, we had a variation of this phenomenon in India. A Tanglish (a hybrid of Tamil and English) song titled ‘Why this Kolaveri Di?‘ The song was sung by Dhanush on his own lyrics and composed by Anirudh Ravichander. Outside Tamil films, no one would have heard of them, not even the name of the 2012 psychological thriller simply called: ‘3’ (the shortest name of a movie in the world!). However, the success of this song on YouTube made it phenomenal (here is it from Wikipedia):
“Upon release, the hashtag #kolaveri topped the Indian trends in Twitter on the evening of 21 November 2011. Within a week of the official release of the video, it received more than 3.5 million views on YouTube, more than 1 million shares on Facebook, while trending in India on Twitter the whole time. By 30 November 2011, it had more than 10,500,000 YouTube views. By the start of 2012, it had crossed 30 million YouTube views. The song and versions of it account for more than 75 million of YouTube’s total views. The song became the top downloaded song on mobile with 4,100,000 downloads within the first 18 days of release.”
Dhanush, the singer, was invited as a guest of honour by the Prime Minister. Various parodies of the song also became viral (You can read my own parody: ‘Why This Valentine Valentine Di?’ on the subject of opposition to celebrating a foreign fest in India). Here is the song for you, again: Why this Kolaveri, Di? (Why this killing rage girl?):
What do these two phenomenal events tell us? Simply this that there is – what I term as – democratisation of talent – and one can be a star overnight. First, lets compare it with the olden times:
Even if one were very talented, it would be years before one became popular or achieved fame. William Shakespeare, the greatest author in English language, for example, during his years of struggle, used to go incognito to various bookshops in London, asking for his plays, so as to influence demand for his works. There are many factual stories of actors around the world who paid (instead of being paid) for acting in movies and plays before they became famous.
And, very few became popular and famous. For authors, poets, playwrights, speakers and actors, one had to wait for years before their works were noticed; sometimes merely by fluke. Ordinary people – except for the rare ones who made big – couldn’t even dream that someone, other than in their immediate and local community, would see or read the product of their art or skill. Overnight success was a rare occurrence. As an example, in the 16th century, just think of an ordinary street play in Bengal becoming famous all over India, let alone world-wide or for that matter a bard in say, Punjab.
Similarly, amongst the great speeches of the world, we only had to read about great personalities delivering these and at best we could read the text unless parts of such speeches found their way into some documentary or movie.
Nowadays, everyone, is a writer, actor, speaker, singer, photographer, poet and playwright (‘All Photographers And Writers, No Viewers And Readers‘). And if you have talent, suddenly the social media makes you famous without your having to stand on your head to be noticed. Everyone of us, for example, sees a number of videos everyday of unknown authors, actors, speakers and singers. As another example, earlier ordinary people would not have access to worldwide listeners and viewers until platforms like TED Talks made it possible. Recently, we heard an Indian Army major convincing us of the rationale of deploying army in Kashmir.
One of the valid critical observations on this phenomenon is that media-savvy people (that being their only talent) can make themselves or others famous who have little or no talent. Conversely, there are still many talented people still to be discovered. I have only this to say to it that any new video game that you buy also has a cheat program. In democracy, talent would sometimes suffer because it is based on majority acceptance and majority is not always the best judge of the quality of art, skill or talent.
However, the chances of ordinary but talented men and women being watched everyday by millions have increased manifold. How many of us, for example, listened live to Beatles or Mohammad Rafi or seen live great dancers like Gene Kelly? However, these days, ordinary but talented singers and dancers reach us on the telly, cellphones and other devices and we watch with bated breath to see their talent on, say, America’s Got Talent or Sa Re Ga Ma; literally millions of us, many more than those who watched the famous and the popular in the olden days.
What about the dilution of real talent due to this democratisation of talent? Well, there are both sides of the coin here. The good view is that excellence is pegged even higher than earlier since you can instantly see who are better and worse. The reverse view is that popularity often gets the mask of fame and excellence.
Lastly, whilst it is easy to be Good these days, it is equally easy to be Bad and Evil. One can learn, in fairly easy steps on the net, how to make a molotov cocktail or even a dirty bomb. Similarly, one can visit darknet or tor browser with impunity leaving no footprints to be traced whilst engaged in sinister things.
However, with some exceptions, I feel that democratisation of talent is a good thing, indeed. Whilst we, keep saying, largely erroneously, that God made all men and women equal (Please read: ‘Debatable Philosophies Of Life’ that I wrote on the last day of last year), the fact is that those who were born with silver spoons in their mouths often achieved success, fame and popularity. However, now, there is the beginning of an effort to make all men and women equal. Who knows, a time will come, when evolutionary changes would make everyone equally good singer, writer, actor, player or speaker?
And then, perhaps, everyone would be invited for and attend everyone’s party rather than being asked, just by accident: “Are you going to Rubi’s party?”
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