Satyamev Jayate
Posted by Khamba  on May 7, 2012

Nazar Suraksha Kavach

I’ll be honest – I’m a little tired of Aamir Khan looking down at me from every hoarding in Mumbai as if I’m a pathetic human being. So annoyed infact that I’ll consider doing the exact opposite of what he tells me to do on the show just to spite the guy. If he talks about drunken driving – I’ll down a bottle of Old Monk and run over people in an auto-rickshaw. If he talks about pesticide dependency across farmlands being linked to cancer, I’ll drink bottles of Coke he endorsed a couple of years ago. If he talks about abor…well one doesn’t need to when its so easy to abuse OTC pills being sold in happy Shilpa Shetty packaging.

It’s like he’s the only one concerned with what’s happening around the country and pardon my French…like hum sab bas ch***ye bethe hain… as if staring at someone with keen intensity accentuated by soft lighting and adequate depth of field is going to solve the poverty of people’s backs. I understand one needs to play the emotional card, because without it Indians ko kuch samajh nahi aata, but I have enough people preaching their moral superiority to me everyday and I can do without another one.

But before I move on to talking about how the show told me more about us as people than it did about the issue it chose to address, I want to get some stuff out of the way.

Aamir Khan: Contrary to how annoyed I am with the marketing blitz; I actually have no beef against Aamir Khan doing the show. The intention is noble, and props to him for even trying something like this on Indian television. He’s using his star power to “raise awareness”, and while personally I will always skeptical of that terms intangibility, I hope some good will come of it. What and how? I don’t know, and I don’t even think anyone cares. People are just happy that Aamir Khan is “doing something”! And we as a people seem so starved of role models and hope that even “doing something” is enough to get them on your side.

One of the biggest challenges within the development sector always remains impact assessment – so while I don’t expect massive “societal change” (the term rich people use to say we hope poor people reach our level someday before making sure they never do) to happen through the show, it’ll definitely get rich people to think about the issues it raises through its run. (I like how rich people keep saying the show is meant for a “DD Audience” – our of saying poor bastards – because for us everything that is wrong with society only happens amidst these poor fuckers who dirty our streets and have no civic sense and have the audacity to ask for something more than minimum wage and more than one holiday a year while they clean our houses)

Again, parts of the show made me cringe (Aamir’s opening monologue – and the song in the end interspersed with pictures of helpless kids that we as society have wronged – straight out of the aao videshi tourists se gareebi ki numaish ke zariye paisa nikaalte hain playbook) but let’s face it – shots of people crying and a painful story are what work to get people’s attention and there the producers got their desired results.

The show: I don’t know why people are bothered about Aamir charging 3 crores per episode. Like any other professional he’s spending his time and effort making the show and will/should be compensated for it. I know for a fact that some of my friends who have been working their assess off on the ground for a pittance will be irked at so much attention being showered on issues they’ve been crying hoarse about for years and years purely because Aamir Khan has said it – but that’s just how we’ve become. We can’t eradicate polio till Amitabh Bachchan tells us its fucked up, so I don’t know why we’re surprised now. I am curious to see how sensitively issues are treated and whether the research is accurate – and I hope I won’t be disappointed given how television is forced to stick to broad strokes. I’m looking forward to the piles of academic literature that will flood JSTOR and the likes once the show is done, and how friends working on the ground and on campus react to it. On many levels, it is and can be a critical show.

The people’s reaction: The best thing that Satyamev Jayete did for me however was providing an insight into how people (using Twitter as a sample) thought. It immediately became taboo to even make jokes about Aamir Khan simply because “he was doing something and all we were doing was tweeting”. It’s almost as if you had to qualify yourself as having good karma before being able to comment on the show incase you didn’t like it. So what is it then? Does one have to had donated a certain amount of money to charity, spent x number of years working with an organisation, personally saved 8 kids from a fire? Why must one be chastised for not liking the show or joking about it?

It’s amazing how by just watching the show – people thought that they had done something amazing which made them morally superior beings. And while my first instinct was to mock it, I realized it became taboo to mock the show simply because Satyamev Jayete – for that moment – became a beacon of change. For that brief period, it became more than just a television show – and cheesy as it sounds – Aamir became the crusader who gave voice to people’s hope. We’ve become so disappointed and disgusted with our political and social representatives, that Aamir Khan became that one guy we could look up to because he seemed to have no personal agenda and was using his influence for something other than selling biscuits.

Here’s what made me uncomfortable however. The issue dealt with yesterday was one of female feticide and there really is no conflict within it. No one would willingly (I would imagine) admit to not wanting a girl, especially amongst the educated elite. So the sheer number of people who seemed aghast at the existence of this practice across the country was on some level – hilarious. How isolated does one have to be from the country one is living in to not have a clue about how widespread a problem this is? It was even funnier when rich people expressed shock at other rich people following this practice. “YOU MEAN EDUCATED PEOPLE ALSO DON’T WANT GIRLS?” I doubt if the upper caste farmer in Punjab who is crushed with debt and needs more male hands to help till the land will give a shit about the show, but that it hit some people on Twitter like a ton of bricks was very amusing.

What happens however, when Aamir talks about an issue that is conflicted? What when an Aamir Khan talks about caste based discrimination across religions and takes a side? What if Aamir says he is pro-reservation in educational institutions? What if Aamir Khan is against nuclear energy? What if Aamir Khan supports the ban on beef? These are all hypothetical questions – and we will likely not have these answered simply because it is a television show and Aamir cannot afford to get into so much trouble. But how will we as people react? Will we again give him the same wholehearted support we do so now when it offends our own sensibilities? In their heads people seem to have already made Satyamev Jayete more than a television show – but I don’t think we’re ready to be confronted by actual truths of our societal order. We are happy as long as we’re making a noise about issues we’re all against – but that’s not even a real debate. We will also avoid the real debate because we’re not ready for it – and instead of worrying about governance deficits we will like to be distracted by Aamir Khan for atleast he’s talking about some things we can all agree on. And that is where the massive support we’re giving Aamir right now seems to ring a little hollow. And that’s not Aamir’s fault at all – he’s doing what he can with his talent and influence and that’s a good thing – I just don’t know how much we as people are willing to be taken down that road of societal change, especially when it offends what we believe in.

I’m going to be watching the show keenly – simply because it has and can have so many implications. I’m sure everyone else will to, but maybe lets keep our shit together while we watch it?

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