Indian Director Dheeraj Sharma released his first documentary film last year. The film titled “Nashebaaz: The dying people of Delhi” is a chilling picture of the drug addicts existent in one of the world’s largest and busiest cities.
The documentary goes to these people directly to talk to them about how they got where they are. The documentary, despite being around for nearly two years, has only now been brought to the fore.
Yet the director, Dheeraj Sharma, has made great hue and cry over the attention his film is getting. Said attention is being focused on the film because of a single short from the cover character, the shot that covers 13 year old Kamlesh, a boy from Bhopal deeply intoxicated and addicted to ‘solution.’
The short video of Kamlesh has by now received the unquantifiable title of ‘viral’ on social media. The eccentric behaviour of the boy makes for something which is instantaneously shareable. Yet along with its virality, it has now also reached the status of being an internet meme.
And this mockery of a young child’s suffering is what has put the director up in arms.
You see, certain trends in the current set-up of social media go viral underground. These things, fads, videos, pictures, clips, snaps, memes – whatever you want to call them – are often so insensitive to general human sensibilities, and so offensive to race, gender and religion that their creators can only share and propagate their work in circles where the others are equally guilty of the same actions.
The platform for the sharing of this material are private facebook groups, deeply buried reddit threads, isolated twitter handles, tumblr accounts and even deeper buried 4chan threads. The medium through which this material are shared are internet ‘memes.’
And while the meme has by now become an entrenched word of the English language, the topics that these ‘memers’ take on are what would otherwise be considered sacred and untouchable.
They are not, so to say, topics that are alternative to commonly held beliefs, or even blasphemous or radical for that matter. They are things that one cannot even think of ridiculing openly. From child molestation, to rape to the victims of terror attacks and natural calamities – to say that it is just dark humor would be to normalise such behaviour.
The complex mesh of communities that indulge in this behaviour are often very localised. The Kamlesh targeting of Kamlesh and jokes at his expense emanated from these buried groups in the Indo-Pak context. It is only after they have gone through the test of time on these forums, and when there are enough people in on the joke, that people begin to share and refer to such material publicly, which only further goes to normalise it.
The Kamlesh video has been around for some time. So have the people enjoying it and other tragedies of the same ilk. Yet when forums such as Mangobaaz cover or use such content, even in a negative sense, it is an indicator that it has gone public and will continue to become more acceptable.
When Dheeraj Sharma had captured the footage, one can just imagine him thinking this would affect the hearts of millions. Yet he probably could never have imagined exactly how that would happen.