Truth Shall Prevail

If there’s one thing that can define the national character, it would be cynicism. We believe changes should happen overnight. Each of us has one remedy that will cure India of its ailments. Military rule, educated politicians, secularism, feminism, Jan Lokpal, Hindutva, or even Maoism. We believe the moment this change comes up everything will be fine. A Maoist believes that a violent proletariat revolution would transform India and a Swayamsevak believes a Hindu India would be a great place to live.

Anyone coming up with non-aligned concerns are questioned, criticised and torn apart. They have to align. They have to be messianic or mundane.

In this context, it is not difficult to believe that Aamir Khan’s show Satyameva Jayate attracted such scathing criticism. The show was declared a run-away hit. Today the phrase ‘Satyameva Jayate’ is googled more than the name ‘Aamir Khan’, which, according to one media house, means the show is more famous than its anchor. The first show attracted a mouth-watering 400 million viewers, the kind of number usually commanded by international shows such as the Oscars.

Yet, there were scathing criticisms of the purpose of the show, of Aamir misusing the social issues for making money, of starting a tears for TRP trend, of Aamir starting something and then leaving it and moving onto another issue, etc. There are thirteen episodes in total and, obviously, there will be thirteen different issues taken up by the show. So, on the thirteenth episode not many are going to remember what came up on the first. So, Coke will end up selling more bottles on the tears of the oppressed. So, Aamir Khan will have his pockets lined up at the cost of the suffering. So, if Aamir is really interested, he should become an activist. So, will Aamir be joining politics?

And so goes the argument.

In the light of all these scorn pouring in through media outlets, it is difficult to identify what really was the problem. Is it that the media really unhappy about the success Aamir Khan received in a single show? Do media consider themselves activists for a cause?

Aamir Khan is not an activist. Satyameva Jayate is not a rent-a-cause programme. It certainly has a potential to be a TV phenomenon. And we can confidently say Aamir has done it again! The show was emotion-packed as it lived up to its name. It evoked tears and clearly Aamir’s tears weren’t acting either. The show succeeded in not just in evoking tears but also response from a state’s chief minister. It is a spectacular achievement for a TV show. If Aamir had hosted game- or dance shows, like other actors, none of these criticisms would have been voiced. The trouble was he chose to talk about social issues in a high-profile, high-budget show. And got a thunderous response. If someone else, without Aamir’s star power, had hosted such a show would it have attracted such as response. Possibly not, but is it a bad thing?

On the other hand, there are several non-super-stars who could have attracted similar response, at least from political circles. There are activists working all over India on several issues. There are many politicians in showing interests in projects that they feel passionate about. There are journalists, each one of them, writing on subjects that are close to their heart. Corporate houses help many causes through their charity programmes. And there are celebrities lending hands to such causes whenever they can.

Collectively all these things help transform the nation. None of these changes happen overnight. They are slow and painful but they do happen. And there are people, from all walks of life, working on them – day and night. Cheers to that.

These are the things that make us proud of our Indianness. We have a zillion issues around us. We have extreme wealth and poverty coexisting next to each other. We have villages living in fourth century and people in the cities living in the 22nd century. We have greedy and ruthless politicians and we have saintly leaders. We have ruthless film actors and we have artists dedicated to their art. We have celebrities who are artists and artists who are celebrities. Thankfully we live in a democracy, however sham it may be, so that people like Aamir Khan cannot be jailed like Ai Weiwei of China. The good thing is, we have a million Ai Weiweis.

Aamir Khan is an extremely creative artist. He is socially conscious. He also has an impeccable public image. And this deadly combination has been resulting in some ground-breaking cinema in the past. Lagaan changed the face of Hindi cinema. And now he is all set to change the face of Indian television.

And three cheers to that.