Movie stars in India are placed on a very high pedestal by us mortals. The people who live our dreams, overcome ridiculous odds, and win hearts with an almost cartoonish ease, besides enjoying a level of reverence, probably second only to Sachin Tendulkar. And while people analyse every detail of a celebrity’s lifestyle, it is not often that we find the situation reversed.
This is exactly the case with ‘Satyamev Jayate’, a talk show hosted by Aamir Khan, a celebrity who seems interested in the affairs of the people who flock to watch him, to listen to them, and to share their experiences with those of us who are fortunate enough to lead normal lives. The show airs every Sunday (at 11 a.m.) on most regional channels, and describes the many issues plaguing the nation today. Apart from speaking to victims of child abuse, dowry related harassment and so on, experts are called in to explain the causes and suggest solutions to these developmental hurdles.
Are the trials of the average Indian worthy of over an hour of airtime on national television once a week? Or would we be better off watching talented youngsters being tested on their ability to hit a gong with a hammer while lying on a bed of nails?
Aravind S. Nair, a final year student at Sarabhai Institute of Science and Technology, seems to think the former is time well spent. “The main difference I’ve noticed about ‘Satyamev Jayate’ is that it does not follow the obvious revenue generating intentions of many other reality based shows. Aamir and his team have taken a very brave decision by tackling issues such as dowry and the malpractices in the healthcare system. It could have created an even bigger backlash against them but at least they are making the right people take notice of the wrongs others suffer. The fact that State governments have started taking some action based on the research shown on the show is heartening,” says Aravind.
In its own way, amidst the advertising and song sequences, ‘Satyamev Jayate’ reminds people of the shadowy corners of our country. While this is witnessed as a major achievement by some, others believe it may end up as just a flash in the pan if the interest generated is not used effectively. Aarish Muraleedharan, a member of Make A Difference (MAD), a youth network focussing on educating underprivileged children, is of the opinion that coming up with solutions should be given more priority. “Personally, I’m not the show’s biggest fan. While it is a good initiative and having a well-known figure like Aamir as its host is a definite plus, it’s hardly an absolute solution to our problems. Instead of just showcasing issues such as female foeticide and alcohol abuse, shows like this should spend more time on what is being done to solve them and how people can help be a direct part of that solution. Also, as far as Kerala is concerned, a lot of these issues are already well taken care of. So its relevance here is somewhat less compared to other parts of the country.”
The many different issues tackled on the show have gained it a fair share of supporters, especially among women. Says P.R Sarada, programme executive at Doordarshan Kendra, Thiruvananthapuram: “I was rather impressed by the episode on domestic violence against women. It was sad to see how some women had suffered for over a decade just for the sake of their families. Hopefully these women who had the courage to come forward against this treatment will be emulated by others who are still suffering silently. I think this is an important step towards gender equality in our country. It may shake the foundations of our way of life in some ways but a change for the better has been a long time coming.”
She is also quite appreciative of Aamir’s efforts to serve society, coming at a time when game shows and massive endorsements are what Bollywood is best known for. “It’s a great concept, especially coming from a person of his status. I would love to see more celebrities taking efforts like this and if they give even more focus on issues related to women maybe our status in society will improve greatly in years to come.”
There has also been the usual uproar about Aamir using the programme to boost his own image and bring disrepute to many people who take their profession and their part in the nation building process seriously. Whether ‘Satyamev Jayate’ achieves what it has set out to do remains to be seen. Nonetheless, a round of applause for a show that had the courage to go beyond airing the love lives and breakups of ambitious teenagers and instead tell stories of people who deserve the respect society did not give them.