May Truth Prevail

The perks of being a television producer is that everytime a new show is launched I can put on 3D glasses and get up on my high horse to judge it. Well, its the business of a television producer to have one’s show critiqued like it is to rate all other shows. But it isn’t everyday that a film star dons the anchor’s role and makes a shift to the small screen, a star known for being a  recluse, an actor known to keep limited interaction with his audiences and spinning great marketing stunts, and a man with a fierce opinion about a lot many things. And just by that Satyamev Jayate becomes a very interesting product on television. From purely a producer’s point of view, there are problems in the show, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s begin with what works in favour of the show:

The format is not new to Indian television. The Oprah hangover is not new and there have been enough shows that have tried to be the desi Jay Leno and Oprah. The idea is to jolt the viewer, to state the obvious, and even the not so obvious. To generate a discussion and state facts. To bring out stories that we have read in the papers and glanced through muttering, “Oh! What is happening to this country!” However, the show does tend to find the bright stories in the abyss of darkness. A few positive stories of construction and healing, voices that give the audience a sense of hope that all is not lost. In that case, the presentation becomes a healthy mix of despair and longing. What also makes the show a unique stroke of genius is that the producers are cutting across language barriers, clearly looking at covering the length and breadth of this country. In one sweep of programming it looks at bridging the urban and rural divide, a feat rarely addressed and attempted.

The anchor is not a person who we identify with. He is not one, among us, really. But he is willing to probe. He is willing to stoke the conscience of people who say, “This doesn’t affect us.” But when an actor like Aamir Khan proposes that we write to the Rajasthan Government to speed up the cases that are sub judice, it is an act no less than the candle light vigil at India Gate.

The debut theme was not new and neither were the facts that came out. The sting operation for instance is close to 8 years old and really even after that innumerable stories have been reported in the last decade. But what have we done? Nothing? There are clusters of groups and individuals who constantly toil to rid social evils and it is only now a trend to highlight the India positive stories, but it isn’t a constructive measure to ensure that the evils are banished. So the country waking up to the stark grim truth of female foeticide only because a certain Aamir Khan is talking about it, certainly makes it a talking point. And in that is a beginning somewhere.

A show that looks at shocking its viewer needs a rock solid research and in that Satyamev Jayate comes right on top. The three case studies were startling for audiences, even though one has seen a lot of Meetu Khurana in media, but the stories of Amisha and Parveen pinched even some seasoned and hardened journalists. The number crunching, statistics that have been carefully sifted, voices that add shock and paint the canvas more grey all add to the drama. Even Aamir’s tears do!
The pitfalls of course are a few, some that are perhaps overlooked by the newly awakened viewer. Aamir’s script for instance needs a dramatic facelift. He began the show with a description of the mother, saying something like “Khud geele mein soke, sookhe mein sulati hain humen”! Great imagery, but really, bad TV script. Also the anchor tends to get a little didactic in places. Now if Aamir Khan says that it is the male sperm that determines the sex of the child, it really must be, right? And yes, perhaps that’s when people when finally awaken to the truth of sex selection! I am not so sure.

Aamir Khan also needs some serious lessons in anchoring. No matter how sensitive, it isn’t always a pretty scene to watch an anchor feign surprise, be shocked and shed a few precious tears on a story that has been painstakingly researched and found! One can still pardon the tears, after all that is what connects the viewer to the star anchor, but the first two reactions are a tad too made up!

In a couple of places I found contradictions in the script of the introductory audio visual and what the interviewee actually said. For instance Ameesha’s daughter’s age was mentioned as 6 in the AV, Ameesha a minute later revealed its 8! The viewer engrossed in the story wouldn’t of course notice this.

The little 3G chat with bachelors somewhere in Harayana was a tad too contrite. It was evident that they were fed answers, and it was a miracle that they put it in as many words!!

Satyamev Jayate has consumed two whole years of Aamir’s life. He has spent Rs 6.25 Crores for 27 hours of promotion. A television show and a small screen debut managed to shift the focus from the hottest season of IPL. More than 2500 tweets before the show ended with Twitterverse netizens vouching for Aamir Khan as President, the show has grabbed eyeballs and headlines. But yes, I am not sure Indian audiences would like a tear jerker and a grim twist to the end of the weekend on a Sunday. The debut episode and the revelations may well have reached the lunch table, but are we willing to do this week on week? Perhaps not?

Despite that, the show is a winner. It is a winner because it at least brought the country together on a common subject. Call it the hype around the show, the lure of the star anchor, or the sudden awakening of our countrymen, whatever be the case, Satyamev Jayate will get its numbers. I will watch it next week, give it another chance and hope the misses are polished.

What about you?

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