NOTE: This article was written by me for the magazine Youth Incorporated (http://www.youthincmag.com/2012/08/01/indias-oprah-winfrey/) while I Interned there. Here are the links to PDFs of the actual magazine article(http://www.4shared.com/office/Ky47CzN-/64_online.html) (http://www.4shared.com/office/7iLnP07X/65_online.html)
6th May 2012 was a day unlike any other. It was a feverishly awaited Sunday as it was the launch date of Aamir Khan’s Television debut, “Satyamave Jayte”. Touted to have been the next big revolution after Anna Hazare in India, Satyamave Jayte or SMJ as it’s called popularly has done both, soared to the high skies and crashed miserably as well. SMJ demonstrated an absolute genius marketing coup by heavily promoting the show, highlighting its key unique factors i.e. the 11 AM timeslot and most importantly, Aamir Khan himself. The first episode about female foeticide was moving and so was the second one where Aamir broke out the vile nature of child sexual abuse in India. Hailed by people worldwide for its exceptional research, presentation and style, Aamir earned the title of India’s Oprah Winfrey. But soon the dream broke.
The sheer monotony of the show slowly has crept up and is now clawing into the viewership. A snippet from the Virar-Churchgate local floated through my ears, giving a fairly accurate summary of the monotonous nature of the show; “Aamir comes, Aamir speaks, Aamir cries, Aamir talks to a NGO, Aamir announces Reliance is the philanthropy partner, a song is sung and BAM! That’s it”. A thought to which, a huge majority agrees to. Coupled with the over-the-top reactions displayed by Aamir on the show (the dramatic oh! The watery eyes even before the tragic story begins), SMJ has slowly turned into a redundant Sunday morning show which Indian families just watch for the sake of entertainment during breakfast.
Such factors might have been ignored if the show had yielded some actual results. But apart from the two day long twitter hash tag trends, SMJ is yet to show a substantial impact. The key word is substantial because the truth of the matter is that certain influences have taken place, but not of the level which was expected by the sheer magnitude of Aamir’s brainchild.
Despite such fallacies, Satyamave Jayte has actually been a very vital aspect in rejuvenating awareness in the traditional, ultra-sexist parts of India. The unique strategy of being broadcasted simultaneously on over 10 channels simultaneously and the national channel Doordarshan has resulted in an exponential increase in the sensibilities of a vastly ignorant populace in places where a girl is nothing but a burden for her family and a child bearer for her husband. SMJ has dispelled the myth that boys are never sexually abused. The especially able were highlighted as their difficulties were projected for the first time in India. Dowry was satirically mocked with the “Mujhe Kya Bechega Rupiya?” song while Aamir subtly mocked the government for its dismal policy with regard to errant doctors and the use of poisonous pesticides under the guise of the Green revolution. The mere fact that it was Aamir Khan preaching the lessons has resulted in the content rising to national prominenc, similar to the flocking of Indian population to Polio immunisation booths because “Bachan sahib ne kaha tha”.
But, one of the unfortunate things that have come out of the apparent success achieved by SMJ, is that people have further lost their faith and touch in a government whose national policy making capabilities were always doubted in the first place itself. Aamir’s tears and the flowery theoretically simple solutions, despite being of a benevolent nature, have inspired multiple rounds of government bashing banter over tea breaks. To be completely fair, it is almost foolish of us to expect the government to function like Aamir does on SMJ. The government of India cannot simply take up a issue one fine Sunday and forget about it before the week ends. National policies are delicately crafted guidelines which are perfected over years and sometimes decades to ensure that the egos of the billions of Indian hailing from multiple backgrounds are soothed. It was gallant and extremely caring of Aamir to plead for the sale of generic drugs or for the usage of organic vegetables. These pleas were hailed by the populace but such simple and flawed statements cannot be a government’s official stance. Even if eventually becomes a government policy, it cannot take place overnight, as expected by a vast majority, due to the simple reason that the government has to debate, discuss and deliberate upon sub-issues which are never considered by us such as “If generic drugs are sold, is there any way to ensure top notch quality and non adulteration of these drugs?”. The issue is not with Mr.Khan’s ideas but the way society has perceived them. Aamir’s suggestions are well basically suggestions. But, the moment we start demanding them as a national policy, we border on the lines of absurdity, exposing how fools with democratic powers are nothing but glorified fools.
So, the verdict is of somewhat mixed results. On one hand, Satyamave Jayte has brought to India’s notice the seedy underbelly of the society i.e. the problems which all of us love to talk about, the topics we know about but have never actually done anything for. We got our own desi Oprah who could cry on stimulus and win our hearts with passionate true love for a nation which deserves nothing less from its citizens. On the other hand, SMJ has put forward weak solutions to hardcore issues and inspired satirical mocking from a sceptical crowd on both Aamir’s intentions and the state of Indian governance. By suggesting idealistic thoughts such as allocation of billions of rupees for organic farming in the form of subsidies, Aamir has unknowingly raised unwarranted and over-expecting demands in India’s hearts, minds and souls with respect to our government as financial decisions involving such huge amounts are in no way a cake walk. Staying true with our nation’s aspirations, it is imperative for us to be sensible and realistic changers. Nothing else to the contrary can work in our nation. Hat’s off to Mr.Khan for tasking the steps which should have been taken years ago. Still it’s not too late as eventually, at the end of the day, सत्यमेवजयते