Thursday, February 9, 2017

Jottings - Slice of life - 98 ( Anatomy of fame..)

Jottings - Slice of life - 98 ( Anatomy of fame..)
I recently finished reading a book by Journalist, film and art critic Leo Braudy titled “ The frenzy of renown”. Braudy wrote it in 1986 and is a voluminous book running into over 700 pages in small print, and quite a deep read. Its subject is the notion and understanding what “fame” means, and changes in its meaning and manifestation over time from early Greeks to Modern day stars and performers. It is a fascinating study of history and human activity from an angle never conceived before. Almost everything man does has an undertone of fame substantiating its execution. It could for fame within ones family, or circle of friends, society, professional, national, global, inner, outer - any possible category - but it is an undeniable fact that it is our innermost desire to have our existence, our acts, our thoughts immortalized in some way or the other. We fervently wish to leave behind a “legacy”. Even those who conspicuously shun fame, mostly do it for fame. The very act of defiance of norms only enforces the need to be renowned as a retrograde or rebel. There are however exceptions, and those exceptions are when the light of fame is mysteriously turned inward, and a point is discovered where fame loses its meaning as an actively pursued object, but it descends upon one without volition or choice.
Artists in general are very conscious of fame. After all, perpetuation of their art depends upon how much they leave behind. When, in the past, the world was localized and fame had to be earned over a period of time in the midst of discerning and critical public, it was difficult not only to achieve fame but to sustain it. However, In modern times, fame is cheap commodity, because the reach of art has spread enormously wide. Every printed word, every note of music, very swab of paint brush , every click of a camera is instantly broadcast, if needed to millions and billions across the globe. Anyone who wishes to be “known” has only take the trouble of learning to be media savvy, the rest is taken care of. In such a case, fame can be very ephemeral. It burns like a fiery flame for few moments only to be mercilessly extinguished, and rekindled in some other form and place.
The point is ,when fame becomes so temporal, it leaves behind deep psychological scars in its possessor. When an artist used to accolades for few years suddenly loses it and their work is forgotten in the tidal wave of ever changing public loyalties and taste, it becomes difficult for them to inwardly reconcile to their new downgraded position on the podium of fame. Unless, they do something outrageous or miraculous, it is virtually impossible for them to get back within the radar of renewed public attention and adulation. For many, to put in that kind of effort may be an uphill task, simply because their art was mediocre at best to start with, and the little fame which accompanied them was sheer chance bought about by modern technology and nothing else. When this piteous realization dawns on them, their inwards selves take a steep tumble into desolation and self-pity, which in turn leads to tragic self-abuse and eventual annihilation.
However, there is no end to true art. Artists may come and go, but the life breath of art form which pulsates within them will resonate across ages through myriad forms. The reams of symphonies that Mozart wrote, the brilliant plays Shakespeare conceived, the marvelous tales of Jane Austen, the surreal paintings of Michelangelo, the lyrical brilliance of William Blake or Wordsworth, the filmography of Satyajit ray will continue to inspire and warm many an aspiring artists’ heart and intellect. Fame then, is not individualized in the final essence of it. Fame is for the act not the actor. The actor remains only a point in space and time for its consummation, but the artistry which flowed through them will takes various meanings, shape and form as ages go by, infusing different forms with the same zeal and spirit which sparked the original genius, and through them continue the everlasting process of creation - the principle of “Elan Vital” of Henri Bergson.
Leo Braudy did not revise his book after his wrote it in 1986. Thirty years later, he may have had to change his stance on some of his views. His book stopped shy of the internet age. Rightly so, the concept of fame in the digital world is still evolving, and we really dont know if fame, as we know it, will remain in its original form or not. Our attention spans have reduced, and so have artists capacity to create for long periods. In such a context, there is nothing called fame, there is only recognition. Like the beauty of a rose, which can be enjoyed while it is there and dont expect it to last long, fame now needs to be transmuted to suit the needs of modern age. So be it..
Was it Keats who said “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”? Well, it still may be, if we can wake up to it.
God bless…
Yours in mortality,
Bala

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