It is with a considerable degree of surprise that I have been reading some articles criticizing the iconic show Satyamev Jayate and Aamir Khan, which are frankly way beyond my comprehension. There are views being expressed that the show is pure showmanship, commercialisation of problems, will Aamir return to these problems once show is over, the show is just Aamir, Aamir and Aamir… do they (the critics) do justice by their comments? Let us examine it in 2 parts: Aamir Khan, and Social Change
No television show has created as much of a buzz as Satyamev Jayate, the iconic show anchored by Aamir Khan. To a nation used to a diet of game shows, movies, soap operas, reality shows it was unthinkable that a television show based on something as serious as Satyamev Jayate could be a resounding success – but that is precisely what has happened. It is far beyond both my knowledge as well as the scope of my blog to analyse the precise reasons for its stupendous success, so I shall leave it at that. My concern is more towards the reactions – specifically negative reactions – it has generated, and its supposed role in our society.
First of all, let us get one thing straight: The anchor has placed himself quite literally on the firing line by highlighting various unhealthy habits of society. He ran a very real risk of doing serious permanent damage to his brand equity (The Aamir Khan Brand) – which would have meant an erosion of his earning potential. What the show was attempting was actually very risky. We have the benefit of hindsight: we know how it turned out. He, when he took the decision to do it, did not. That took courage – far more courage than anyone from his industry has ever shown. That is beyond dispute. We have to look at things from that perspective.
Secondly, Aamir Khan was getting into uncharted territory; in his line of business, his stock-in-trade is a combination of his face-value and the combined impressions of his performances & associations that is formed in the audience mind. His paycheque is derived from what the people think of him. Therefore, the attendant risk of attempting Satyamev Jayate was of a very high grade for him. Further, you also have to take into account one additional point: Aamir Khan’s movie career is far from over. That apart, he is spending a good deal of his time on this project. He does not need to do television yet: he could be doing production or acting; but he chose TV. If for that he has to be well compensated, I do not find anything objectionable in that. Especially since the end-product is an awesome production with the capacity to jar you to the deepest part of your soul.
Third, as we have seen over the past few weeks, he even had to take personal risk: with several affected power-groups, professionals etc threatening to take him to court. He knew what the content of the show was; he was also mature enough to understand the repercussions of the content. Despite that, he went ahead. His commitment has been held up to scrutiny in the face of allegations and threats – and he has not backed down.
Fourth, let us all not forget that he is also a member of the production team!
Fifth, the show is creating a buzz, and it is also leading to a spotlight on some issues that have been on the backburner. It has to be understood that these issues being taken are deep-rooted habits, and are embedded deeply in our society. The agenda undertaken is social change: and one man cannot change a society. It requires concerted effort by a variety of change agents, one of whom just happens to be Aamir Khan. He is a change agent – only thing is, he is just one of the catalysts to change. Instead of panning the show, we should welcome it! How does one change a society? Is everyone so naive as to believe that it will happen automatically? Or that change will happen overnight?
Sixth, just how are societal and cultural norms formed? They are formed by countless social interchanges within members of a particular culture or sub-culture over a long period of time – time that may extend to hundreds of years. Honor Killing, Female Foeticide, Dowry etc all have their roots in the overly patriarchal structure of our society. These social attitudes were not built overnight: they have their roots deep, deep in the past. Other problems also were developed over a period of the past 50 – 100 years, and have now become endemic. How are these to be removed? Someone has to make a start. I certainly do not have an issue with a celebrity lending his name to these issues: it serves the dual purpose of highlighting them as well as acts as a multiplier.
And the clincher: this concept could have been thought of earlier: these points could have been highlighted forcefully earlier. No one took the trouble of doing so, and now people are panning the one team (Team Satyamev Jayate) that is doing a fantastic job! At least they are doing something – which makes them far, far better people; far far better professionals than those of us who choose to sit in the comfort of our environs and pass comments.
I am not stating that all of us are armchair commentators: for all I know a good many may be equally – or more active: as indeed countless social workers are. My point is that let us support efforts like Satyamev Jayate rather than pan them; by panning them we run the very real risk that henceforth no one will attempt any such effort…which will be catastrophic for us as a society. If that happens, the current focus, and the multiplier effect and the attendant positives, will forever have been lost. Such efforts act as force multipliers: it is upto us to encash them!