Opium Of The Masses

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 AMNov (Cinema, Media, Musings, Soliloquy)

Speaking about media and sensitivity Kannada poet Jayanth Kaikini, in Manipal (30th march 2008) said that one of the TV channels asked him to write a script for a serial, where the story would revolve around rich people. Kaikini said, he was asked to have plots where these rich people would suffer and cry a lot. When asked for a reason behind such a suggestion, kaikini was told “The viewers are mostly of middle class who are envious of rich people. If you make the rich cry, they will love it and watch it.”

Carl Rogers, a psychologist of the humanist school, says that every individual has two ‘self’, namely ‘real-self’ and an ‘ideal-self’, one what he is and the later what he longs to be. The more the distance between the two, Carl Rogers argues, the more is the frustration. With the increase of the frustration, man starts envying those who have achieved the ‘self’ which he has idealised and also constantly looks for a ventilation for his frustration.

The labour class recognizes itself with the poor hero who out masses the rich man, which they would have loved to do in their real lives, but are unable to. The urban middle class which is usually caught in the mishmash of urban set up longs for a life shown in films like Dil Chahta Hai (the reason behind dil chahta hai clicking only in urban centres can be understood in this light). The audience see themselves in the characters and live their ‘ideal-life’ and ‘ideal-self’ second hand in a span of three hours in the cinema hall where the subconsciously driven desires and dreams come into light as the hall turns dark.

“Nothing can induce working men and women to read stories that treat of their own world. The working class detest anything that tries to represent their daily life” says a character in George Gissing novel ‘The Grub Street’. Probably these lines give us an insight into why some of the critically acclaimed and aesthetically rich films which by nature are realistic, do not work at the box office.

In this process of ventilation and identifying oneself in a cinema, the common man starts worshipping the actors who play the roles of the ‘ideal-self’. In Madurai a report says, there are as many as 500 fan clubs of actors and actresses, whose members mainly include the labour class. There is not much of a difference between Shree Rama being called an ‘ideal-man’ and temper being constructed for film stars, in whom the common mass sees its ‘ideal-self’.

The strength of an audio-visual medium can’t be neglected in this discussion, which can create spectacle in a much better way than a literature or a play can. S.S Vasan’s description of his production as “Pageants for peasants” makes a lot of sense, when seen in the light of this discussion.

Speaking about religion Karl Marx made one of his often quoted statements- “Religion is the opium of the masses”. If the word ‘religion’ is to be replaced by ‘soap opera’ and ‘cinema’ to say- “Cinema and soap opera is the opium of the masses” it wouldn’t be any wrong.

“If public men work for the good of the public” S.S Vasan had argued in 1955 “Showmen do, as a matter of fact, work for the pleasure of the public”. Things have changed now. Public men are now working for themselves and thus making the lives of the public miserable. Under such condition cinema and soap operas give some relief to the worn out public at the end of the day.

18 January 2008

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1 Comment

  1. Hours In The Dark | Crazy Mind's Eye said,

    […] one of my blog posts earlier, titled Opium Of The Masses, I had argued on similar lines as to how cinema enables people to live an idea-self, which is quite […]

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