Satyamev Jayate – more hope than substance

Satyamev Jayate hopes to turn the tragedies of India into Primetime entertainment. Atleast for the first week it has had the nation buzzing , but I don’t think this interest level will last for more than 3 weeks. The viewership of the first episode was driven by the slick marketing campaign, which to a large extant misrepresented what the show was about. It is afterall showing us the ugly reality of India which we all have very conveniently chosen to ignore and live with. Trying to sell it back to us on an entertainment platform wont be easy; Societies don’t change so easily.

Aamir didn’t tell me anything new about sex-selective abortion in India – there is enough information about it all over the press if you cared enough to notice it. Actually he might have missed out on telling us that the female sex ratio has actually improved in India. There is enough to be shocked by in India – open up any issue, and there is an ugly truth ready to jump out and grab you by your throat. But my blog isnt about the issue of sex-selective abortion, or the million other problems that India grapples with everyday – it is about the sentiment behind the TV show.

I am all for Indians waking up to becoming more self aware citizens. There is nothing wrong with using the power of TV, and packaging some of our worst issues into a easy to digest entertainment form with sprinkling of bollywood magic dust over it to try and get into the hearts and minds of Indians.  But I feel that hoping for change in this way is mere wishful thinking. We are all suspended in an absent minded existence, gorging on our Cricket and Bollywood to really notice anything around us.

Putting a Bollywood star to lead a social crusade is a sure recipe for losing credibility for the cause, and to some extant it even undermines the effort of the many unseen heroes who have been working behind the scenes. To see Aamir win a 3Cr fee per episode fee (and it is surely a win, given that he would have benchmarked it against what Salman, SRK or Amitabh would have got for their TV debut) and then to take on a social cause dosent feel honest – it feels like some higher order exploitation. Neeta Ambani too jumped onto the bandwagon with one-too-many mugshots of her in the Reliance foundation advertisement. Her blatant self promotion in the name of philanthropy was in the spirit of the show I guess.

As for Aamir’s performance, unfortunately that is what I thought it was, just a performance. Watching him was like watching him act in a movie – the tears, and pauses, and expansive gestures, the dramatic attempt at dialogue delivery; all just a bit too well timed for it to be genuine. For once, perfect acting wasn’t a good idea here.

But then any positive movement in this nation of miseries is welcome news, whatever the motives. In this country where a “wailing and a blood soaked news paper that gets delivered to our doorstep everyday” (borrowing from a friends twitter comment),  I want to believe that this will get atleast some part of India to wakeup. More power to Aamir and his ilk, and to the new attempt at commercialising the social change in India… Satyamev Jayate.

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  1. My thoughts on why #Satyamevjayate is more hope than substance, and why the buzz may not sustain-

  2. Oh, I so agree. To put a celebrity’s face – and do a high decibel shoutfest marketing campaign for a cause somehow makes it icky and vulgar for me. My cynicism would never take whatever information he has to give me at face value, only seeing it as a dramatic setup, dubbing it social-porn.

    Actually, my bigger grouse was the lack of closure. Okay, so you’ve given me the problem. I know this thing exists. But what new thing are you going to tell me? For example, what bit can *I* do? What we need now as citizens willing to DO something – is direction in action. Something more than wearing a topi, signing a petition, or waking up by 11AM on Sunday morning.

  3. @sardesairajdeep #satyamevjayate buzz wont last beyond 3 weeks. It is more hope than substance. My blog on this –

  4. rama patel says:

    satyamev jayate is a good effort for awareness on large scale.Even illetrates can understand by watching the show as tv is a very powerful media to convey any message.Those women who are forced for abortion will at least think and do the needful.For such women fast tract courts should be easily available.I think this can do wonder but for that every state of India should react promptly

  5. The show was released on Door Darshan along with the other channels. It was done in regional languages. Clearly the focus was not to impress wonderful and well-aware critics like you who have figured it all out. It was to spread awareness about the issue to the vast populace of India; they do know really fully know what female infanticide means and what the repercussions are. I think the show succeeded in that goal.
    I am for anything that moves the focus away from cricket and Bollywood, and I am glad this programme serves that purpose.

  6. Neha Sharma says:

    What do you think of Satyamev Jayate? Would he will be able to reduced female feticide and other major issues in India?
    You must watch this video if you havn’t..!

  7. Good post. Well written.
    There is a type in your 4th paragraph. Dosent should be Doesn’t.

  8. Vijit Sreedhar says:

    Heard that the official site of the show crashed soon after the show was over. Aamir Khan was also flooded with emotional messages. Looks like an indication enough of the reach and impact of ‘Satyamev Jayate’. For Aamir, the show is like a campaign. Special screenings of the show are being organized in villages. Anyways, the show’s a long way to go. Hope its just not about female infanticide!

  9. Aradhna Mittal says:

    How does it matter what Aamir Khans intentions are ,he maybe making money off this ,but hes also collecting funds for the causes and giving the victims a platform.Sometimes people need to face the ugly truth ,however indifferent they are .If Aamir is coating it and giving it a bollywood -ish twist it really doesnt matter.NGO’s need money ,however it reaches them & the show is giving them a shot and recieveing a whole lot of funds.Im sure atlast 40 % ofthe viewers would send a text and maybe even write a cheque.We shouldnt look at this so suspiciously.”when a ray of sunlight highlights a pigsty ,we curse the ray and not the muck”not a good attitude.

  10. I am disappointed to see the put down tone of critics of ‘Satyamev Jayte’. One person feels he(Khan) just puts a performance, second one says it does not offer solutions, third one mistrusts Amir’s intentions and that he is running a campaign and making big money etc-2. But it is like dismissing without doing anything about it. There are problems galore in India. The people quicky get bored if they are made to face the same old problems everywhere. Some people want to stay escaped. The mainstream media usually plays to this gallery of escapist people. So, obviously, these people will resent if sense of escape is taken away from them in the guise of Amir’s program. A social activist can bring small change. A social reformer can bring bigger change. In fact, India needs lots of Gandhis let alone one Amir Khan to bring about few changes in the mindset of this country and one should learn to appreciate whatever little improvement it brings to the thinking of rotten Indian system . Politicians never offered solutions. They only introduced new depravities. Anna’s movement is as good as over, the fight has to be fought continuously to bring about changes in India. I certainly welcome Amir as a new fighter to break rotten things in India. I only wish it to inspire copycat programs starting in similar vain in different part of India which may help change the country in the right direction fast.

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