May 9, 2012

Satyamev Jayate: Will Truth Triumph?

I do not want to play the Devil's Advocate. Not at all. I also do not wish to extinguish the 'rays of hope' that have emerged in several peoples' eyes after watching Aamir Khan's much hyped television debut 'Satyamev Jayate'. Hereby, I just intend to debate, discuss and examine the actual prospects of Satyamev Jayate, as a 'path-breaking talk show', and the kinds of challenges it faces in coming weeks.

To be honest, the show took me by surprise to an extent. I did not expect Satyamev Jayate to completely stay away from the 'entertainment angle', given the mad race for TRPs in the TV industry. At the end of the hour long show, my heart was filled with different hues of emotions.

The Positives:

  • It is perhaps for the first time that a celebrity of Aamir Khan's stature has taken up social cause in such a big way. Full points to Khan for venturing into a dangerous category, economics wise. We often complain about our stars not associating themselves with social causes, specially in comparison to gigantic humanitarian and social services rendered by celebrities from the West. So, here is an immensely popular Indian film star choosing to debut on TV through a social-theme based programme rather than a usual game show/ reality show affair.
  • Satyamev Jayate has thankfully revived the Sunday morning primetime slot! Remember the good old days when the streets of big cities and small villages presented an absolute deserted look Sunday after Sunday from 9 am or 10 am onwards. Once the slot of some legendary tele-serials like Mahabharat, Chandrakanta, Ramayana and Sri Krishna, the Sunday morning bracket had suddenly gone off the radar of TV producers. Kudos to the makers of Satyamev Jayate for reviving the potentially 'jackpot' slot. If the show manages to hit a chord with the audience, its timing will have a big role to play in it. Also, not to mention that the decision to air the show simultaneously on DD National also seems to be a very prudent and responsible decision. 'Change' can not be expected in the society without reaching out to maximum number of people.

  • Lets face it. Satyamev Jayate is not a whirlwind 'change' that it is being made out to be. Shows with similar concepts have aired before on various channels from DD National to Satellite networks. Some of the examples include Kiran Bedi's show where she delivered 'justice' in public court kind of setting, debating social evils of different kind, numerous tele-serials on issues such as child marriage, female feticide, gender inequality etc. The only change is that never before a prominent celebrity has taken up such causes through a proper TV programme. And yes, perhaps the earlier shows were also not as well dramatized, sprinkled with emotional spices and backed up by sound research. And this much you definitely expect from someone like Aamir Khan.
  • The major challenge that the show faces is from the second episode onwards. Yes, we all were eagerly waiting for Aamir's TV debut, there was tremendous promotion, internet frenzy et all, but what happens from next week? Will the same number of people sit and watch Satyamev Jayate next Sunday, now that they know what the show is all about. There is not an iota of entertainment involved. And this appears to be a weak link for the show in the hindsight. Is the opulent upper class and the restive middle class ready to swallow plenty of bitter truth, along with its rich and healthy brunch, every Sunday morning? The first episode had the novelty factor, the curiosity quotient. I am pretty sure at least some of the viewers who went gaga over the show last Sunday, and flooded internet with praises for Aamir Khan, will not religiously follow the show next week onwards. And I am not saying this because I had a special 'vision' last night. This assumption or rather fear is based on the very fact that we, the middle class Indians, are experts at shrugging off responsibilities. 'Yes, Aamir is the man! Hats off to him for bringing about this change!'. And the story ends there. Where is the follow up? Where is your contribution? Will not you switch to a Govinda potboiler when the goings become very 'preachy' on Satyamev Jayate? This is my genuine fear.
  • Now lets strictly talk about the merits of the show. Satymev Jayate heavily rides on the star power of Aamir and his strong emotional connect with the audience. He does a remarkable job of 'moving' the viewers, sometimes even coming close to 'overdoing' it. As the show progressed, I had a strong feeling of it being a desi version of Oprah Winfrey Show. But, for me, that is not a problem. In fact, full marks to the show's team for going through the rigors of research and it very well shows during the entire length of programme. What worries me about the show, from now on, is its slight 'predictability'. You and I can very well guess what all 'issues' will be taken up by Aamir in the coming weeks. This fact, along with the general apathy towards social issue based talk shows, may just prove to be a hindrance for Satyamev Jayate in coming weeks.
So, Satyamev Jayate's biggest asset as well as undoing is its audience. The initial euphoria and online frenzy will definitely not satisfy Aamir and other brains behind this show. If their idea is to bring a 'change', they will really need to go beyond TRP ratings, holding impromptu press conferences etc. Perhaps writing a letter or meeting Rajasthan CM is the right way forward. Then, if and only if, Satyamev Jayate is able to 'retain' and 'energize' its core middle class target audience, 'truth will triumph'. Or else, we will just have a praiseworthy or rather 'perfect' TV debut for Aamir Khan, his credentials will go sky high (I have no issues with that), his fan base will further swell, but the real 'change' on ground will never happen.

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