The ripple effects of ‘Satyameva jayate’ are being felt all over the nation. Actor Aamir Khan has roiled up the stagnant system by picking out burning issues for his TV show. The nation, so drowned in trivial sitcoms, ‘reality’ shows and talk shows that can put street cockfights to shame, seems to be finally experiencing self-awakening moments.
What is it that Aamir doing to wake up a nation that prides itself on the pip-squeak number of flyovers and malls it builds, but shuts its ears when it comes to female foeticide, child sexual abuse—the issues that Aamir handpicked for his first two episodes? Did these episodes act as truth-finders?
No, they did not. Any Indian with average reading skills would know a good deal about how sex determination tests and many other methods are eliminating female foetuses. As for child sexual abuse, it was out there in the media. But it’s a different matter altogether that deserving follow-up stories, investigation were lacking as usual.
Here’s the thing: while the media lost itself in its own labyrinth of mindless reporting about political scandals (most of which don’t deserve the kind of reportage they get), Bollywood stars’ affairs and the kind of creatures that go pantyless, Aamir Khan exploited the same to send out one crucial message: there is audience for such shows, too. In this case, an entire nation if media reports are to be believed.
This, I would say, is the greatest revelation of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ that the Indian media must sit up and take note of.
Being an actor with an intellectual bent of mind going after sensible cinema, Aamir has brought some of these qualities into his show:
- He presents mind-numbing facts and immediately backs it up with real-life incidents. You might say all TV shows do the same. But the difference is Aamir is letting his guests speak and he, listens.
Thank heavens, one anchor finally did it—just sit and listen. As gut-wrenching and soul-stirring they get, the narration of his guests—mothers who fought to save their girl children and young men and women who were sexually abused at a tender age—goes on unhindered. All that Aamir does is ask relevant questions in between, acting as a bridge between the narrators and the audience.
- There are no star guests, but people who have been dealing with these issues in the background day in and day out like activists, researchers, counsellors etc. Another welcome break from the usual shows where the anchors hide their journalistic shortcomings and lack of sufficient knowledge about the subject on hand by inviting star guests to their shows who may often be equally ignorant or worse.
- ‘Satyameva Jayate’ aims at creating awareness than draw juvenile conclusions. After all, what is there to be concluded? The worst is happening every day. All you need to do is scratch the surface and throw light on it. People will draw their own conclusions. It’s their right. If they can’t, then no TV show can help them.
- No summing up, thank you! You can’t possibly draw conclusions to such issues in an hour. No saying, “India wants an answer right now, right this moment to this issue” nonsense. No mud-slinging at other people who differ with your views. No personal attacks on individuals, but well-crafted discussions on issues (as must as the time permits).
- Tight editing. No digressions, unnecessary extrapolations or incorrect inferences. The camera focuses on the anchor after the guest has made an important comment. Aamir emphasises it and the focus is back on the guest.
- No cockfights, please. People really talk here. They listen. They are not behaving like cooped-up hens fighting for space (read, microphone).
- Although Aamir is a superstar, the only one who has guts to dismiss all and sundry award functions, he doesn’t dominate the show. It’s anything but a one-man show. He is playing just one part and he does so very convincingly. He is concerned, and that’s a quality that doesn’t come by easy.
- Maudlin? Maybe. But the narrations of the victimised souls are so heart-rending that you would immediately realise that their tears (and the host’s and the audiences’, too) continue to tell the story when the narrator chokes and the studio falls silent.
- No special effects. No jarring music. There is such depth in these real-life tragedies that they need none of this.
- Awareness, nothing sensational. Conducting a workshop with children on sexual abuse as a climax is a pointer at the host’s ability to take a TV show to another level altogether.
Suffice to say that Aamir had to do one thing to prepare himself and his team before going shooting: watch other TV shows and decide what not do. The rest would fall in place all by itself.
And it did. Hope it continues.