Aamir Khan's Satyameva Jayate: End of Reckoning?

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.

27 comments:

  1. I agree with everything you have written...but get upset with post-show cacophony of kindergarten voices that seem to drown the emerging sighs and sobs of those who have been there and get irritated with childish hearts who imagine once the silence is broken all is well! You may want to read my reaction to this sunday's episode.

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  2. I agree the close-up of people's reaction is manipulative on part of producers, but if it makes the bad guys and gals uncomfortable I have no problem with it.

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  3. The close-up shots is a part of the strategy involved in running the show. Aamir's social sensibilities and responsibilities have to be hugely applauded and I hope it brings about some real change, something beyond mere talking.

    Great post, Subhoji!:)

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  4. Compared to the mind-numbing soap operas in many languages that haunt our TV screens , day in and day out , this soap opera is at least thought provoking. I understand, that learned people see through Aamir khan’s tactics and shrug off.
    But consider the mass audience, who are impressed by daily dose of tear jerking family dramas , impressed by those over dressed , over made-up actors ,follow and discuss every twist in the story, however conservative and obsolete it may be . It is this audience who can be nudged. And I hope Aamir is doing that.
    Otherwise, he is a performer, it is a show, and it is rehearsed. However, the people who are on the show are real , and the issues are real. The drop in the ocean philanthropic gestures from big corporate crocodiles can be appreciated.
    I think a beginning has been made. It might lead to many others taking it to proper perspectives.

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  5. Hi! Its nice to follow your thoughts about the show. I am somehow skeptical about this whole thing. I was anyways planning to write a blog on that. So will pen down my thoughts there. :)

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  6. I was wary of what the show would be and watched only a rerun mid week of the first episode after colleagues raved and ranted about the impact the debut episode had! The show is a bold step in reality television and has stirred serious social issues as a part of bedroom conversations! There is star power and media supporting it... no doubt... apart from the producers riding on a grotesque face of reality (pun intended) to reap profits! However, at the end of the day what was shocking was not the episode itself, but the fact that as a nation we are so deep in slumber dreaming our urban dreams, that we forget that these ills are breeding right there in our backyard. If we forget to tend the garden of its weeds, the roses will eventually wither! The show remains merely an agent for deweeding on a supermarket shelf... it is up to us how we want to use it!

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  7. Good post Shubo!!
    The optimist that I am, I am hoping that even though it is a rather soapy way of making such a serious show, it will at least stir the society a little; not just during the duration of the SMJ series but for sometime after that as well.

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  8. @Bhavana - I too feel that going forward a little more sensitivity to the issue in question is going to make the packaging less jarring and surely more effective.

    @Sandeep - I hope the bad guys and gals are watching. And yes, I hope it not only makes them squirm, but actually go and seek qualified help.

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  9. @sowmya - I think this show will make a serious dent in our complacence as a culture. Hats off to the man and the show, warts and all.

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  10. @Vetrimagal - Very valid observation, one that I missed when writing the post, and maybe I was being unduly harsh and presumptuous. I realize after the feedback that for a very large section of society these may be realities that they are not sufficiently exposed to and have no objective response towards, and this show will help them find their way out of suffering.

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  11. @Haritha - will be looking out for your thoughts on this as the season unfolds. I can identify with the skepticism. I guess most of us can, having lived with it much of our lives. But hope is what keeps us moving forward, and one can only hope that this show will enable change. Any progress in dealing with the issues being brought up is better than indifference.

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  12. @conversingwiththebuddha - Abhimanyu, your comment on this is very relevant given your role as an educator and education strategist. Like I mentioned earlier in the comments, when I was writing the post, I did miss some things, mainly out of my shortsighted and self-centred view. It is up to each one of us to take the learning in the show, disregard what we find not to our liking, and apply it in our own environment. I am convinced that this show is going to result in a greater awareness and momentum in addressing these evils in our midst. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. And congrats on global recognition of your work too.

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  13. @Ankita - Welcome to SJD, and hope you find what you seek. It does look like this will lead to a better world around us. Let us hope all of this effort does not result in us slipping back into complacence.

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  14. A different view.
    Well said.
    But,

    Aamir Khan is the man who gave us a film named after its villain, much before Ra-One

    If you meant Gajini, it was remake.

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    1. you are right, divenita. i was speaking more in the sense of mainstream bollywood cinema. glad you liked the post.

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  15. I am happy that issues like this are being discussed on Prime time television. And in a country that treats it superstars like God, what Amir says will make a lot of impact.

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    1. purba, as has been pointed out by others, the significance of this show is in the fact that it brings these issues to the masses. and for the masses, celebrity value makes a lot of difference.

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  16. I agree with this statement - "It seems to be an attempt to capitalize on and sensationalize facts that deserve much greater sensitivity."

    We all are very well aware of the fact how media was riding high on Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement wave. The show is good for creating awareness. But I don't think much can be achieved out of it. It's good that Amir Khan is showing some involvement in social issues but at the same time I'm afraid that he may be used by some political party.

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    1. the media is probably more fickle than political parties, yet, it is the only way movements like this can be taken to the masses. i too hope amir khan will retain the nonpartisan independence of this show.

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  17. 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







    true when you say "....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.....what we need to do is ask ourselves what hav ve done about the issue excep discussing
    the show and same goes for aamir.

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  18. Every effort has to be lauded... however cheesy it might be.

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    1. agreed, deepak bhai. and like i have been rethinking, it probably appears cheesy to only a small segment of the population who are already actively engaged in dealing with the issues that the show addresses.

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  19. Only Amir has the guts to raise issues related to society. You can see his report card at the silver screen also. He is working on the movie now a days which has some good message to the society. I m not saying he is the only one to doing this. I think most of the movies has some good part but the focus the issues in such a manner that conman men could know what he wants to convey from his role. He is the real hero by such a manner.

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  20. I think some conversation is better than no conversation. The superstar appeal can bring about 'some' change, that is for sure. But there has to follow-ups at regular intervals, to keep the momentum.

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  21. i really don't know if the programme really influences the way people think. i guess this show is also hyped. aamir and everything. and he is not the first person to do something like this. I must say that the team shows stats and all that makes it watchable.

    and i agree with you, the outcry after every is silly. like we didn't know that these problems did exist before the show. pathetic!

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  22. I think Vetrimagal has written what I would have liked to write. And, I wholeheartedly agree to your last paragraph. I hope that we don't put the onus on others to do everything for us. Yes, we are aware of the issues. What is the harm in showcasing them and bringing them to the discussion table? The approach might be faulty, but can you please all any which way? If I have learnt anything from blogging -- it is this. There are always two sides to every issue, perhaps more. And there is nothing like the "right" opinion.

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  23. Amir khan always rockkksss..

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