Satyamev Jayate: Aamir trotting towards mundanity?

Aamir’s striking appearance as that of a quasi-redeemer is bound to lose its sheen in due course of time.

Ananya Bhattacharya

With a pensive Aamir Khan and his teary eyes, about four weeks back, most Indians who have access to a television set were introduced to the phenomenon called ‘Satyamev Jayate’. And then, as they say, history had been created. The country acted witness to the entire process on the 6th of May, 2012. While curiosity burned bright in every heart, people frantically gulped down every scintilla of those ninety minutes that Sunday morning.

Aamir’s intentions were good, and the wizard played his trick well. With a flick of his magic wand, he sought to unite the entire country against that malaise of the society called female foeticide. And the overwhelmed, emotionally charged audience voted their unanimity of opinion with tear-streaked faces. Not even for a moment did the people vacillate from their positions of consent for the brilliance of the show, and never was any cynicism allowed to creep into their unsuspecting minds. What they missed, or willingly chose to ignore, is the fact that it was all a part of a televised series – one that was undoubtedly well-intentioned, but a televised representation of reality, all the same.

The chocolate-faced Khan wept on camera, he displayed emotions of shock, he cringed in disgust at the people who could commit a crime as heinous as female foeticide. And the O ri chiraiya song at the end of that first episode conquered all hearts, and set forth an avalanche of tears – that the people viewing the show had succeeded in controlling till that moment. Dil pe lagi, baat bani. The Rajasthan State Government set up a fast-track court and expedited the process of solving female foeticide cases, several medical clinics saw their licences being cancelled, and Aamir seemed to have shown Indians a snippet of a true Utopia.

The second episode dealt with child sexual abuse. The topic that was being addressed was one that is – almost always – discussed in hushed tones, and brutal realities always saw themselves being swept under the carpet. This episode, too, played an instrumental role in exorcising many hidden emotions of the people present in the audience and the ones in front of their television sets who were swallowing every iota of the show with tremendous enthusiasm. Aamir had struck a note that rang loud and clear in every heart, and it seemed as if India had finally found a messiah in a public figure. The many NGOs and social workers, who had devoted their lives to abused children, somehow saw themselves being relegated to the background, and the colossal Aamir loomed large over all of their existences. Perhaps that was the first chink to appear in the armour of goodness that Aamir had donned. Gradually, the misty eyes and bated breaths gave way to pragmatism and practicality.

With the third episode, Khan tried to bring into limelight the much-prevalent evil practice called dowry. The effect on the audience wasn’t stupefying; the issue was obvious to have appeared on the show, what mattered was just the question of ‘when’. ‘Satyamev Jayate’ had begun tantalising critics. Aamir’s mantle of a ‘patriot’ teetered on the verge of invisibility, and his intentions had begun to appear as being driven monetarily. What with the vertiginous amount of 4 crores that the actor charged for every episode of the show, the faith of his viewers had reached precarious territories. The pessimists unleashed their scathing criticisms, and the optimists still believed that Aamir was a messiah for the country. And the ones whose brains were still unclouded by emotions, knew that Aamir was just an actor. A brilliant one, but an actor. What he was doing was his job. The fact still remains that nobody had compelled him – at gunpoint – to make a show such as ‘Satyamev Jayate’. What he did was truly commendable, and despite the many stinging tongues, he had managed to steer his chariot to the fourth episode.

The truth that had aptly been submerged beneath the gallons of tears that the country shed had somehow begun to rear its head above the emotions. Aamir’s expressions of shock and disgust somehow appeared to be a well-dramatised sequence. His aptly-timed pauses, his heavy sighs, his bloodshot eyes – all appeared to be an act. He is a brilliant actor, after all. The question that weighs heavy on each mind now – is whether Aamir will steer clear of the cynicism and truly live up to the sobriquets that he has been bestowed post the beginning of ‘Satyamev Jayate’.

Cashing on women-centric issues has been the forte of many before ‘Satyamev Jayate’. Evils against women are so rampant in the society that ignoring them is like being an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. That Aamir’s show has gone a step ahead and foraged for actual victims and brought them out in the open, is a laudable act. But facts are facts, and better faced sooner than later.

Emotions apart, Aamir’s show will probably never be able to change the society that we are denizens of. One show can not change an entire eon of darkness. The minds that Aamir is trying to alter are ones that have stiffly resisted change for many centuries. And Aamir’s striking appearance as that of a quasi-redeemer is bound to lose its sheen in due course of time. The TRPs do matter for a television show, at the end of the day. And crossing over to the realm of the mundane is perhaps just a step away.