Hero Alom’s sudden ‘stardom’ continues to survive. Its new sponsor, as it seems, is now Indian mainstream media and social media community.
Now a folk hero, Alom gained prominence last year in Bangladesh after a bunch of video clips featuring him with a number of girls as his heroines emerged in social media and went viral.
These armature clips, made by unskilled hands and available on the YouTube, soon made it beyond our borders through the Internet. With hilariously odd performances, coupled with extraordinary choice of music, those clips took no time to attract the attention of the Indian social media community. The Indian Twitterati, unsurprisingly, went wild over Mr. Alom’s unwitting yet knee-slapping performance.
The curiosity about Alom beyond Bangladesh can be traced back to December last year when he took a photo with Mushfiqur Rahim, the Bangladeshi cricket team captain, and an Indian website reported it. On 16 December, BBC Hindi briefly profiled him. Suddenly, he became a sensation in India’s serious mainstream newspapers and websites, where, intentionally or not, he was described as one of the stars of Bangladeshi entertainment industry. One can understand the number of his followers in Facebook prematurely determined his so-called prominence. Plus, the fact that he was featured in more than five hundred such clips carried a weight for the Indian media.
The whole saga went to such an extent that Hero Alom for a period of time was searched more than Salman Khan, a top Bollywood superstar, in search engine giant Google.
Some in Bangladesh weren’t amused. They highlighted the fact that such a histrionic coverage of Hero Alom by the Indian media apparently tries to portray a negative state about the standard of Bangladeshi entertainment sector. As he was represented as a “Bangladeshi artist’, trolls, hashtags and satirical posts often ridiculed Bangladesh as a country. Beside “Hero Alom” featured hashtags such as #Bangladesh and #BangladeshiActor.
In part, the ignorance – unwitting or intended – was because Bangladeshi TV channels do not have access to Indian satellite sphere. However, let us not forget the plain fact that the entertainment industry of ours consists of nothing that could interest Indian viewers. So the bottom line is it is we who are to blame for it.
Back to Bangladesh, some people question whether Hero Alom should be considered as a ‘hero’, despite his sudden fame. Others argued, he has become, nonetheless, a known face. His YouTube video clips have seen renewed visits. Like other conventional celebrities, ‘fans’ have created numerous community Facebook pages, although, to troll him.
Furthermore, his life, it appears, has been more dramatic than one we see in a cinema. His intense desire to become a ‘hero’ led him create some amateur video clips for his own cable operating service, which eventually ended up in YouTube.
In the studies of mass media, the case of Hero Alom can be considered a phenomenon. At first, he showed it’s not necessarily a heroic being that makes you hero. It’s rather your approach.
In India, for example, the case of Rajinikanth goes well beyond the concept of a hero. Ananta Jalil in Bangladesh also created hype, which albeit was not so widespread.
A debate can be spearheaded whether what Hero Alom did should be regarded a perfect example of ‘community entertainment’. Hero Alom’s heroines were local girls who didn’t have any professional or academic expertise or skills. His video clips went through local cable networks, and indeed acclaimed some appreciations from viewers originating from rural areas. As our traditional Jatra Pala (stage drama) and Palagan are disappearing due to the rise of information and communication technology, Alom showed popular folk entertainment could be resurrected using the very technology responsible for its extinction.
True, not all cases will be as successful as was Alom’s. But from villages to villages, local ingredients can be of use for spreading a new aspect of community entertainment.
The writer is a Lecturer, Communication and media studies University of Development Alternative, Dhaka