Indians search for Hero Alom more than they search for Salman Khan on the internet
Few things have incensed people ahead of the elections than Hero Alom running for nomination.
He is no dark horse, no underdog, he is only a hero in his slapstick videos, not qualified to represent the people in his constituency. This has spearheaded the ridicule from late night talk shows to Facebook posts.
Who is Hero Alom?
Born Ashraful Alom Saeed in Bogra to an impoverished family in the village of Erulia in Bogra, he was raised by an adoptive family.
During his teenage years, he sold CDs in the village to make ends meet. He provided TV cable. He did whatever it took to make a decent living in a time of staggering unemployment rates.
Ashraful, like millions around the world, aspired to be a star, a hero. He found a platform in Facebook and YouTube. With the simplest of tools - he produced music videos that went on to become viral.
Indians search for Hero Alom more than they search for Salman Khan on the internet.
Why is he controversial?
A self-made maestro in the digital age, a social media savant, the hero did not have a rocket strapped to his back to soar to stardom. He made absurdist videos that would baffle Kierkegaard and leave Camus agape, and we watched those videos even as we ridiculed his shimmering jacket, god-awful dance moves, and dreadfully acting scenes.
But the highbrow remarks and condescension heaped upon him, from what high horse did the critics preach?
Ashraful did not extort, murder, or commit any crimes to anyone’s knowledge, other than aspiring to a public office.
Why the hate? Is it because he is not the scion of a landholding modern-day “aristocrat” family? Or is it his bucktooth, diminutive stature and dusky complexion? Or is it because he found radical success in “social” media and not mainstream media?
On talk shows, hosts derisively question him: “You are already popular, why are you throwing your hat in politics?”
Another jibe over his self-given title of “Hero” went: “Well Hero, you’ve already beaten Shakib Khan, what do you want to do next?”
Ashraful has seldom had to defend himself, he has found an unlikely following among hundreds of thousands of highly educated, urban residents who are decrying every mainstream media misstep.
One of his advocates referred to an interview with a leading national daily and highlighted the fact that the interview was published with the interviewer’s speech in standard Bangla, and Ashraful’s speech in a vernacular. Emphasising how the interview attempted to present him as speaking a Bogra dialect, and depriving him of the standard language, sent a message to all the readers. This act of duplicity, considering that most people speak with a dialect or another, did not go over well with many people, who sharply responded on social media.
His defenders do not follow him out of loyalty to a party, or his cult of personality, rather it is his audacity to challenge the status quo, and his blatant honesty when he says “I’m running for elections because people like me” that has won people over.
The statement is backed by the millions of views racked up on his Facebook and YouTube videos.
Ashraful Alom Saeed, alias Hero Alom, might not be the hero a society with entrenched beliefs and traditions might want, but he is the one who rose to the occasion. And even as the urban elite scoff and jeer from talk shows, he might just be winning votes in Bogra.