A lot of blame is usually thrown around when we talk about the decline in quality of art over generations, and a huge chunk of that blame goes towards capitalism. Materialism is ruining the industry, they say. What else can we expect when everything is ruled by money? The talented artists seem eager to compromise quality in order to earn a little extra cash. What’s the solution? Some people think we should do away with capitalism altogether. The rest just don’t care. Very few seem to address the elephant in the room — the rotten taste of the consumers.
As most of us are aware, the goods and services produced through capitalism are mere reflections of desires of the society at large. The consumer is the god of the system. Hence, the education and awareness of the consumer is of primary importance.
Let’s start first by acknowledging the power of an average consumer. He does not put a lot of thought into which movie he watches or what music he listens to. He hears about a new blockbuster which his friends are going to watch, and he tags along. He has a fun time. Isn’t that what movies are for, anyway? He does not ponder on the effects of his trivial decision. He, and millions of people like him, produce the market for the cheap masquerade that is mainstream Bollywood. This in itself isn’t bad. I mean, sure, they are just bad movies, but they aren’t hurting anyone. Yet some underpaid film director who had invested all his savings into creating something meaningful just lost his career.
Add to this the recent fascination with horribly dumb things (Taher Shah comes to mind) which people watch just to see how dumb they are, the justification being “they’re so bad that they’re funny”. Yet we don’t see the same dedication for the extremely intelligent things — you’d think they should be interesting too. We’re sending a clear message to all content producers: don’t give us anything that lasts; give us instant gratification, cheap thrills and things to mock.
I’m not claiming that we should aim to change everyone’s consuming habits. That is an unrealistic goal. However, the ones who describe themselves as “art lovers” should be aware that they’re hurting the efforts of countless passionate artists whenever they spend time and money on things that lack artistic value, even if they think of it as mere entertainment. We simply don’t have that luxury. We live in a world where a film like Masaan struggles to survive while Hate Story 3 shines like a diamond. It’s time we acknowledge our role in the bigger scheme of things and put our money where our mouth is. It’s our duty to dig out the gold that lies beneath all the soot and expose it to the world.
Debapriyo is a member of LSD. This article was originally written for his blog (Scintilla: https://rijusarkar.wordpress.com/).