I missed the big social media bullet train of this week. I did not watch Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate! It took me all of this week to let the truth sink in, and, Mr. Khan, I am happy to report that I finally shaved and showered and watched the rerun of the pilot on the weekend and the second episode first thing Sunday morning. Here I am in all my football finery, no image required or available.
As a nation, we have survived the Jaiprakash Narains, the Bhagwans and the Sri Sris, Mother Teresa, the Tagores, the Roys, the Annas and the Patkars. None of them have been able to dissuade us from practicing tolerance in areas where no tolerance should have been harbored (and intolerance where a good laugh is in order, really). Much of last week's social media chatter seemed to scoff at the thought that we will succumb to Aamir Khan and suddenly turn into models of virtue. If would be really cool if we did though is what I think about that.
Aamir Khan, the artist, ranks high on my list of Indian performing artists. Other than during his initial years, he has consistently delivered superlative performances in films that are meaningful and relevant. Still, the irony of a socially relevant show on prime time television by the man behind Peepli Live will probably not be lost on most viewers, or at least most viewers who remember or have seen Peepli Live.
Our times are a fun time, we are the fun generation, when the media is looking really desperately for the next big fun thing to bring to your attention. And if you are anything like me, you know that attention can be bought for pretty cheap. We have to be thankful for being reminded in two languages of the persistence of the devil in our midst. However, I found the attitude of the show a little too glib for my liking several times during the two initial episodes. It made me feel like an insensitive and ignorant retard, but perhaps I do not fit the description of the average television viewer. And I don't really mind if I don't. What worries me is that the producers might just have got that profile right. The repeated close-ups of the audience grimacing at disclosures and
facts also pushes the show closer to soaps than an attempt to enable
change. From my armchair, it seems to be an attempt to capitalize on and sensationalize facts that deserve much greater sensitivity. In a strange way, despite the gravity of the subjects being dealt with, Satyameva Jayate is fun. Kudos to the guys who put the whole package together, including Mr. Khan's encyclopedic understanding and vocabulary.
For example, the public outcry over female feticide and child sex abuse following the show made it sound as if most of us were unaware of the universality of the problem or, at best, in the din of the IPL and the changing fates of Congress and BJP and the hapless women on primetime soaps, had just forgotten. As did the honorable minister, I suppose. Or was it for the astute politician a question of capitalizing on the popularity of the show? In these times, it is easy to criticize and condemn. Look at the fate of the India Against Corruption movement for example. Let me refocus.
Aamir Khan is the man who gave us a film named after its villain, much before Ra-One, and portrayed the rage and impotence that the common man feels against a system built around greed, crime, abuse and exploitation. This is the man who gave us the euphoria with a capital E of the common people triumphing against the powerful colonialists which ran all of three hours but had us engrossed. Dang, this is the guy who made TZP, RDB, and DCH mean more than strings of letters. This is the actor in Fanaa, Mela, and 3 Idiots.
The good thing about Satyameva Jayate (something terribly familiar about that name, and I don’t mean from the refrain of a decade old indipop college anthem) is that it is set to run for 13 weeks, addressing 13 burning social issues (Gosh, I would never have dreamed there were that many, would you?). This also means a slightly disturbing Sunday lunch for many of us. The only way this will get fixed is if the SMJ team really sticks to the spirit of the show and addresses prickly issues and the rich and the powerful get a court order to stop the show from being telecast. But one can safely assume that Aamir Khan and his team would have figured out how to stay out of that kind of trouble.
The good thing about Satyameva Jayate is that it is backed by celebrity power and broadcast power (channels, languages, youtube, philanthropy partners, and telecom companies), and it is going to walk into our living rooms with the same impunity with which it will walk into the living rooms of those who abuse the system and violate the rights of people of our nation. And it is going to do that every week for four months. And only once the season is over, can the corrupt and the dishonest, the violaters and the abusers heave a sigh of relief and wait for us to forget.
The good thing about Satyameva Jayate is that it reminds us that we are aware of what is wrong with our society. It reminds us that we know but do nothing with our knowledge, our anger, our hurt and our rage. It reminds us that every step taken towards justice is a step away from injustice. It reminds us that sitting back in the presence of wrongdoing (and wrongthinking) is equal to perpetrating the crime itself. It reminds us that we forget. It reminds us not to forget.
Do leave your thoughts behind in the comments and bookmark and revisit
this post as the episodes unfold to keep the dialog alive in the light of time.