Aamir Khan, universally loved for his recently acquired story-telling prowess and widely respected for his social consciousness was taking a crack at Television; a medium which has brought a whole new level of success for the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan and even Sanjay Dutt.
But whilst those actors attempted to cash in on the public’s febrile, voyeuristic fascination with reality TV, Aamir is attempting to tap into the nation’s conscience.
The star’s aptly titled ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (Truth Triumphs) burst on to TV screens round the world Sunday, devoid of fanfare and razzmatazz and the topic of discussion was the abhorrent issue of female infanticide in India.
The superstar conducted a series of heartrending interviews with ordinary women forced by partners and families to abort baby girls. One described how her family had colluded with a gynecologist to drug her before aborting her baby.
It was poignant, distressing stuff delivered with a stark realism and a few tears from Aamir, a la Oprah Winfrey, backed up by some startling facts: 30 million baby girls killed or aborted in a matter of 4 decades and how the practice was encouraged at government hospitals.
Female infanticide is an issue that perennially lurking just below the surface of public discourse in India. For the first time however it was brought spectacularly to the fore by a man adored and watched by millions in a medium that has the widest possible reach.
And it was all lapped up by the public and Aamir’s fellow actors and filmmakers.
Actor-director Farhan Akhtar called it a “show with a heart” while Shabana Azmi said “it can bring a revolution”.
Ekta Kapoor – the Queen of Indian soap operas – proclaimed the show “the best of the decade”, while trade analyst Komal Nahta said, “I cried while watching the show. I think people will watch it as it has touched an emotional chord.”
The show was mentioned thousands of times and was trending on Twitter.
The first episode was preceded by a publicity blitz and it didn’t disappoint.
Aamir is reportedly paid a staggering Rs. 30 million (more than £350,000) PER EPISODE and a 10-SECOND ad slot on the show will set you back Rs 1.2m.
With that kind of money involved, it remains to be seen whether the showcasing of the myriad social evils that continue to blight India’s advancement, by one of the country’s most well known figures will translate into anything approaching real action on the ground or whether it is all yet another exercise in a select few people making copious amounts of money while the rest get by on 50p a day.
- Vijitha Alles