After the euphoric rise and the subsequent fizzling of Anna Hazare’s corruption campaign, our national consciousness has been rattled again. This time the platform is more engaging, well executed and hovers around hosts of social vices that have maligned the deeper fabrics of the Indian society.
The deadly silence that has pervaded within the hearts and minds of millions of our citizens for years has found a robust public platform for expression. Sundays have never been so cathartic for the thousands of meek and innocent voices who have faced embarrassing and sleazy attitude of their own caretakers, relatives and acquaintances. For millions glued to their TV sets, on the always neglected, commercially nonviable, Sunday 11 am slot, Satyamev Jayate (SJ) brings a refreshing change from the uninspiring sameness of multiple reality shows that have mushroomed on the small screen, in the recent years.
The brainchild of the maverick youth icon and cult Bollywood star, Aamir Khan, SJ has received staggering number of Twitter followers, unprecedented TRPs, national and international media coverage and has broken all broadcasting barriers to be aired in multiple languages, covering an array of regional channels, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. From the age-old, nostalgic Doordarshan to the radios, newspapers, social media, and websites; SJ has been a huge marketing success, resting as much on the laurels of its host’s brand image, as on its quality, well-researched, craftily documented and emotionally wrenching content.
Just four episodes into the show and it have attracted tremendous response from the ‘aam junta’, with the state governments launching mass efforts to curb the vices highlighted in SJ. Amidst all the new surge of optimism surrounding SJ, there have been some preposterous claims that have tried tooth and nail, often overdoing arguments, to just prove one point that ultimately it is Aamir Khan and Star TV, who will emerge winners from this show. Personally, I have no association with Aamir Khan and neither I’m an employee involved with the show. Just like any other Indian, I’m too analyzing this issue from my own sense of understanding.
Firstly, I believe, we should keep economics out of this debate. There has been an incessant hue and cry related to the mind boggling money Aamir is charging per episode and the copyright deals he holds. It is to be noted that Aamir has never tried to take the role of an actor-turned social activist, living an altruistic life with no bank balance. He is very sure about his task. He is doing a show to the best of his abilities and he is taking his work seriously, like his movies. He is doing his work professionally. That’s it. Who are we to challenge his fee and financial commitments? As audience and people who like to see him on screen, we should only judge his shows based on its quality. Many people may not be aware but on ethical grounds, Aamir had dropped all his advertising commitments for complete two years, just for this show.
Secondly, many people have frequently argued that they are aware of these vices. It would have been much better if he had debated on the solutions rather than desperately making everyone cries. It is quite obvious that nowhere in the show Aamir challenges to solve all the problems. Neither is he underestimating the scope and extent of the issues he is covering. His letters to the CM of Rajasthan or SMSes to garner support from public are just a few steps, to come closer to solutions (contrary to what Sohini Ghosh has argued in Kafila on May 9 and Farah Naqvi in The Hindu of May 12, 2012).
Thirdly, we should not expect intellectual and legal debates within a one and a half hour program. It is beyond the purview of limited-time shows to conclude final solutions to problems when there are courts and constitution to really filter the issues and come out with speedy solutions. We should understand that a TV show in our country will be unsuccessful to reach to everyone if it is full of complex data, legal jargons and too much details. SJ is just raising awareness. And why we tend to forget that it is trying to reach to the lowest common denominator in our society? The simplicity of the show is meant to reach people of all classes. Any praises for the simplicity of the show?
Fourthly, we should view the role of today’s media in our lives. Barring few talk shows, live debates and decent programs, all we feed on is eye draining soap operas and incessant abuses of reality shows. Even if we take a look at Bollywood, a major fraction of our movies are just casual Bollywood chick flicks, with quite unrealistic portrayal of India. Honestly, Karan Johar romantic numbers and the royal lifestyle of their characters are rarely the truth of the Indian youth. In such cases, if we are being shown the stark reality of our country, we should face them head on. It is fantastic that we are being made aware of our vices, which should awaken us to eliminate them. SJ is also spreading some deep sociology lessons, for the major fraction of Indian youth is least aware of the nitty-gritty of our society. Why so much fusses to face our demons?
Fifthly, SJ gives us some cues to make our society frank, open and educated. It gives us examples to drop all cultural prejudices and blind faith in old age customs. After watching the four episodes, don’t you think we undoubtedly need sex education, marriage counseling, psychiatrists, emergency helpline numbers, parent counseling and school counselors? We need them and in huge numbers.
Lastly, no show, no revolution and no personality can change us unless, beyond a certain point, we make efforts to change ourselves. We should be least bothered about what will Aamir do post his show. Instead of thinking about his PR image, we should try to extract the positive messages from his show, which he is doing with unwavering dedication to perfection.
I have also read ridiculous controversies associated to SJ or Aamir Khan. Some people have problems because they find it irritating to see Aamir looking down at them, on every nook and corner of the billboards of their cities. Some think he is faking emotions and acting to seek audience. Some want instant and cooked solutions. Some think nothing will change in this country and celebrities like Aamir Khan are just filling their wallets by exploiting human emotions. Some have time to sit for hours and enjoy unpredictable, quite arbitrary IPL matches but not to listen to some research and data about their country’s situation.
Our collective memory is very weak and our individual memories don’t work unless the problem happens to us or to our closed ones. The point is not to waste our time debating on futile issues related to SJ but to really be aware and take action to change our nation. How should every citizen do it? By just SMSing Aamir? Definitely not. Wherever you’re. Whatever you’re. Ensure that you and your family are doing your best to break the habitual norms of these social vices. That will be perhaps your best effort. Even if 1% of this 121 crore strong nation is able to change its attitude, I think Aamir Khan’s endless gyaanbazi and the so-called irritating marketing gimmicks will be palatable to us. What say, India?