June 11, 2012

India: Aamir Khan's TV Show Stirs Up Social Issues

This post was first published in Global Voices Online

A new Indian TV talk show titled Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails) premiered on May 6, 2012 and took the nation by surprise. Its anchor Bollywood actor and filmmaker Aamir Khan is bringing out on the table taboo and sensational social issues which are engaging more and more Indians. Millions of vieweres across South Asia are glued to their TV sets every Sunday as the show is being aired in various channels of private along with public networks simultenously.
Amreekan Desi watched its first episode on “female foeticide” and here is the reaction:
Our daily lives allow us the option of closing our eyes and pretending there is no problem. This show brings it right inside our living rooms, with full facts and figures. We can no longer pretend that this is somebody else’s problem. It is OUR problem.
The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker shares an email from a courageous survivor of child sexual abuse who watched the second episode on the same subject:
Satyamev Jayate touched a deep wound. Listening to the survivor stories a memory came haunting from the past. A dark secret buried deep inside, something that must have down the line changed my whole personality and what I am now. Talking to my son I realized that however open a household environment is there are certain things that stunt the growth and health of a child. Child abuse doesn’t occur only in houses which are chained by so called social “norms, values” etc it happens wherever there is a child who is vulnerable. Abusers target children who can be soft targets, knowing everything about their background and psyche, winning their trust and providing that comfort zone which sometimes a child lacks. I am a survivor.
After almost 30 years I broke the silence.
There are more reactions in the blogosphere. Half a cup of tea shares a story of maltreatment in a hospital, inspired by Aamir's show on “Corruption in the Indian healthCare system”; Ugich Konitari shares that her maid could associate her daughters story with a case on the Satyamev Jayate episode on “Dowry”. Mahesh Murthy wished if Satyamev Jayate was a social movement backed by TV. There are many discussions in the Twittersphere on this show:
priyasaha1: watched my first episode of satyamev jayate yesterday, it was simply fantastical. now i know why people r loving it.
Aamir Khan. Image by Flickr user gdcgraphics. CC BY-SA

The show is not without controversy. After an episode on malpractices by doctors the Indian Medial Association claimed that he defamed the doctors and demanded apology but Aamir defended his actions saying he won't apologize. It has also been alleged that Aamir Khan receives a high remuneration of Rs. 3 crore (USD 600,000) per episode is this high budget production. However Astitwa defends Satyamev Jayate and provides a reply to those critique Aamir Khan:
Even if 1% of this 121 crore strong nation is able to change its attitude, I think Aamir Khan’s endless gyaanbazi (edification) and the so-called irritating marketing gimmicks will be palatable to us. What say, India?
Debolina Raja Gupta posts a list of the topics featured in Satyamev Jayate till 10 June, 2012:
1. Episode 1 - Female Foeticide
2. Episode 2 - Child Sexual Abuse
3. Episode 3 - Dowry
4. Episode 4 - Corruption In The Indian HealthCare System
5. Episode 5 - Honour Killing
6. Episode 6 - Problems Faced By The Disabled In Our Country
She thinks that the show deserves applause, not criticism:
I really appreciate the idea that finally, Indian television audience is glued on to something else other than the mindless saas-bahu (mother-in-law vs. daughter-in-law) serials, or television serials in general, that are such a shitload of crap.
Indi.ca from Sri Lanka praises the show:
With many social problems, the shame is on the victim and they are brought into the conspiracy through silence. But breaking that silence can have a knock-on effect, and it’s great that this Khan is using his celebrity for such a worth cause. It’s also very compelling, immediate television.
Debolina concludes:
Aamir has managed to create a stir and shake us all up, but how much that really affects us and how much we actually do about it remains to be seen.


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