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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Satyamev Jayate and Aamir Khan: Deserving Applause, Not Criticism

Sunday mornings were a relaxed affair, really. There was the usual stuff most of us living in a cosmo city are used to doing - waking up late, nursing a hangover, heading out for a brunch, laying sprawled on bed leafing through the Sunday paper and sipping the morning cuppa. Things were going pretty 'regular.' Till a revolution happened on Indian Television that suddenly shook us all up.

Satyamev Jayate, the much-hyped and much-publicised TV show made its grand debut in our homes on the lazy Sunday morning of 06th May, 11am sharp. Hubby and I were all super-charged to catch the first show, as were millions of Indian viewers, all glued in front of their television sets. And then - it happened.

The first episode of Satyamev Jayate, in a total of 13 episodes that will be aired, talked on the inhuman, yet real, issue of female foeticide.

At the end of the show, the song 'O Ri Chiraiya' by Swanand Kirkire and Ram Sampath conveyed what we all know in our hearts - that daughters are precious, that it is NOT BLOODY justified to kill an unborn baby just because she happens to be a girl. I have a little daughter myself, and to me, she is the best thing that could ever have happened to me. Without being preachy or flashy, the song manages to hit just the right spot, conveying just the right message.

As cameras panned towards Aamir's face and showed the flowing tears, along with the tears in the audience, most of us wiped at the tears at home too. I cannot simply understand how anyone in the world can even think of hurting a child, let alone kill one. And the reality is that it still happens today, not only in villages, but amongst well-to-do, educated, so-called 'high' class people as well. Of course we cannot expect the Indian government to do much about this, now that these issues are being brought out in the open and reactions of the common man and woman are out there for everyone to see. But this is a beginning still!

As happens with anything that suddenly makes you sit up and take note, it was expected that a lot of things would be said and written-about Aamir's initiative. Especially when so many brushed-under-the-carpet issues were being brought out in the open and the reality of corruption and hypocrisy being played out in our living rooms each Sunday morning, it was obvious there would be a lot of hue and cry too. But it really makes me happy to see that youngsters have taken to the show in a positive way and are coming out in the open in support of Aamir and the issues he is raising.

There is so much that is being said about Aamir and his show, some good some bad. Here is what I feel about the entire Satyamev Jayate debate:

1. The first point where I really want to applaud Aamir and his team is the topics they have decided to talk about and dissect. All the issues raised here are issues we know happen for real, some we may have personally faced, some we know happened to those we know, some we read in the newspapers. But we all know for a fact that these are issues that are keeping us from growing as a country, keeping us from growing as humans, and it's a shame that we, as citizens, as mature individuals, and the government, are still allowing these practices.

2. The second point where I feel Aamir and his team deserve applause is the thorough research that has gone behind each and every episode.

3. The sheer courage that Aamir has shown in coming out with a bold and I-don't-fear attitude is commendable. While most Bollywood stars and those in positions of power talk about 'doing good' and 'bringing about change', how many have actually shown an initiative in this direction? How many have actually taken it upon themselves to proactively go out there and do something, rather than sit back and comment?

4. I personally feel that some of the reactions that Aamir shares on screen are a bit over-the-top. Of course I understand the tears and the look of surprise, but to be honest, many of those reactions look fake at times. Maybe 'fake' is not the right word. But it just does not look sudden or genuine. I wish the cameras wouldn't be in Aamir's face trying to map his reactions. Rather, it would be good if we could see some genuine reactions, be it tears or surprise or anger.

5. I really appreciate the idea that finally, Indian television audience is glued on to something else other than the mindless saas-bahu serials, or television serials in general, that are such a shitload of crap. Finally, the shit that is out there in our society, is being thrown back at us in our living rooms, making us take note of the stink and moving our asses to do something about it. And kudos that, in a first-of-its kind initiative, the show is simultaneously telecast on the DD channels too, taking it to the villages and interiors. Star is doing simultaneous telecast including Star Utsav, Star World, as well as Star's Bangla, Marathi and southern-language entertainment channels. Maa TV, which is not owned by Star, airs the show dubbed in Telugu.

6. There's a big debate going on about the financials involved in this show. *Aamir Khan gets Rs.3 crore per episode. Each episode costs more than Rs.4 crore to produce (a 30-mn. episode of prime-time Hindi soaps cost an average Rs.8-9 lakh. Reality shows cost between Rs.35lakh to Rs.2crore an episode depending upon the anchor.) There is a lot being said about the amount of money being put for a TV reality show. But what happens when so much money is being laundered everywhere in the country without any valid reason? For a change, give the man a break and instead of talking about the financials involved, focus on the issues raised and how we can best work on them.

7. Many people have said that they feel the show is a bit preachy. To be honest, I too felt it at certain times. But this is a new show, a new concept in Indian television, and there is a trial-and-test period for anything. So I will give Aamir the benefit of doubt here.

8. The songs used in the show are absolute gems. *And these are the exact words that Aamir himself used while describing the original compositions. Of course my most favourite is 'O Ri Chidaiya' by Swanand Kirkire and Ram Sampath. But the other tracks are amazing too, in their sheer ability to say so much and emote so much with those few lines. Rupaiya composed by Ram Sampath, Swanand Kirkire and performed by Sona Mohapatra, Dheere Dheere Haule Haule composed by Svati Chakravarty and performed by Ram Sampath, Maasoom si Naav by Ram Sampath, Chanda Pe Dance composed by Ram Sampath lyrics Munna Dhiman and performed by Sona Mohapatra, Ghar Yaad Aata Hai Mujhey composed by Ram Sampath and performed by Sona Mohapatra.  

9. I am happy with the timing of the show. It's interesting to note that the 'prime-time' being the 8-11pm slot on TV, the channels and Aamir decided to air this at 11 in the morning. I remember the first reaction I had when I heard about the timing was 'Oh, the Mahabharat-type timing.' Remember how when we had only the DD channels, all streets would be empty on a Sunday sharp by 9am? That is exactly what happens now, well, not the emptying of the streets literally, but people check on their watches and generally, the audience is in front of the TV sets by 11. I particularly like this time as its perfect in its casual timezone. There is no rush, the day has just begun, and there is still ample time for the next day to arrive, so no problems about hitting the bed early for the next morning. Also, I feel that for those children who are grown up and mature enough to understand the concerns raised here, this is a comfortable time, not too early, not too late. *It is interesting to note that Aamir did not want viewers to be 'in a rush to run to the mall or the pub' while watching the show, and hence was keen to occupy the time slot during which Ramayan and Mahabharata used to be shown in the late 80's, resulting in the emptying of the streets in parts of India (even New Delhi!), but according to critics, TV viewing habits have changed drastically since then. Well, I go with Aamir on this one.
10. Being a regular on FaceBook and having visited the official website for Satyamev Jayate, I feel there is much that can be done there. For once, the official website does not provide much information for someone who would be willing to work with any of the NGOs featured on the show. Also, the FB page looks more like an advertisement campaign right now. I'm sure the team is working to make these options more realistic.

A List of The Topics Featured Till Date:
1. Episode 1 - Female Foeticide
2. Episode 2 - Child Sexual Abuse
3. Episode 3 - Dowry
4. Episode 4 - Corruption In The Indian HealthCare System
5. Episode 5 - Honour Killing
6. Episode 6 - Problems Faced By The Disabled In Our Country

Of course there will be both positive and negative reactions to the show. But one can't expect that Aamir alone will take on the burden of all our vices and cleanse us of the dirt that has seeped into our society. A 01-hour show (I watch it on HD TV so it's a one-hour show instead of one-and-half) cannot take all aspects of a topic and discuss about the problems, solutions, loopholes, everything. It is logistically not possible. It is upto us to take it from where Aamir started it, to proactively work on the evils around us, to take note and protest whenever we see something wrong being done. Aamir has managed to create a stir and shake us all up, but how much that really affects us and how much we actually do about it remains to be seen.

Here's what a few of our readers had to say on the topic:


Gunjan Singh (New Delhi): Genuine effort. Dare to raise serious real issues. Kudos.

 Ashraf Peer (Kashmir): Appreciate.

 Dr. Namita Lolge (Mumbai): I criticise it. Lots of doubt regarding his research teams. Well, cannot talk about other episodes but yes, lot of false allegations and data aired on TV when he spoke about the health care system. He really needs to get the things right before speaking it out.

Kunwar Ajeet Singh (UK):  It's good. Creating awareness and showing us the mirror.

Vikram Gupta (Mumbai): A big applause to Aamir and the entire team.

Naved Shaikh (Mumbai): Its worth appreciating.

Till then, Satyamev Jayate - Truth Alone Truimphs........

And like I always believe in and say:
"Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children" - MJ

Debolina Raja Gupta