Middle Class Guilt And Satyamev Jayate

86 Comments

It’s not easy being middle-class. Rising prices. Sweatier traffic jams. Global warming. And then there is that thing which keeps gnawing away at us, ceaselessly, like a rat at a sack of grain.

Guilt.

Guilt at how shallow we have become, how we choose that-which-is-fun over that-which-is-good. Social-media over social service. Junk food over vegetables. IPL over Tests. Katie Perry over Carnatic. Page 3 over the Editorials. “Oops pictures” over…you get the picture.

Of course, it’s never really our fault. It’s everyone else’s.

Authors write books that pander to the lowest-common-denominator. Greedy TV execs make TRP-friendly trash. Bad journalists peddle yellow copy.

If only “they” would give us something wholesome, we would consume it. And till they do, we just have to, with infinite reluctance, discuss how much weight Aishwarya Rai has gained post-pregnancy. Even though we should be talking about…mm…let’s see farmer suicides and child labor.

This pervasive guilt of course creates a demand. A demand for programming that is surreptitiously entertaining in a non-intrusive way while providing a “Look Ma, I am being socially conscious by watching this instead of a Zee re-incarnation soap” comfort-blanket to the middle-class audience.

This is when “Satyamev Jayate” steps up to the plate with less calories but the same great taste.

Dealing with issues-that-must-be-talked-about and helmed by Aamir Khan, whose image of a socially-conscious entertainer is pitch-perfect for the show’s general tenor, it has gasping audience members (the type last seen on Rakhi ki Insaaf), tastefully teary-eyed anchor (much more subtle than Rakhi Sawant not to mention pleasing on the eye), shocking personal stories of the kind that make morning talk shows such a darling of US programming, a dash of humor (the Salman Khan reference),somberly inspirational musical theme and, most tellingly, a concrete call to action designed to give the audience a much-needed sense of participation.

Yes it is commercial. Yes it is manipulative.

But it is also needed.

Because if there was no mega-celebrity, we would not watch. If there was not the egregious heart-string-pulling, we would change the channel. If there was not money to be made, the concept would never be greenlighted.

Is the treatment simple? Yes. It has to be. Is it non-edgy? Yes again. For the same reason—-it has to appeal to the mainstream in order to be commercially viable.

Would Aamir Khan’s 3 crores per episode be better used to benefit those that are the subject of the show, those that it claims it cares about?

Yeah. Sure. But it’s not as if anyone else would get this money if it did not go to Aamir Khan. We would not give Rs 300 to help a foundation that helps battered women. We would give 3 crores a pop though to see Aamir Khan’s handsome face and sensitively serious expressions of concern. Whose fault do you think that is?

Given the way we are and given how we like to spend our time, “Satyamev Jayate” is really the best one can hope for.And ultimately, if it ends up generating even a bit of awareness or, and I am being grossly optimistic here, the slightest of societal change, the show would be well worth it.

Even if it does neither and remains yet another exercise in massive money-making and audience entertainment, how worse will it be from everything else on TV?

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86 thoughts on “Middle Class Guilt And Satyamev Jayate

  1. Nice Article. Satyamev Jayate is a symbol of changing face of Indian reality face. If you decide to use media for social reforms it can create miracles. This is a example for other media people who beileves that media is only for entertainment.

  2. Very well said… We need someone to show us what’s wrong and if it takes a Amir after getting 3crores so be it. After all we were able to et kids vaccinated by polio only after Srbachan
    Said us to.

  3. Aamir can start the change he supposedly seeks by publicly donating, in every episode, a large portion of his fees.

  4. Sourya,

    Out of idle-curiosity, when has Aamir Khan said that he personally is starting the change or doing this as charity? If you think he is, that is your assumption. Why should he be obliged to donate? Incidentally, are you seeking change? If you are, are you donating a large part of your salary?

  5. Nice. A tad cynical but I understand why.

    On Aamir Khan’s fees, even from a “do-good” investment point of view, it makes more sense. As you rightly surmise, would even a rupee of those 3 crores per episode make it to the right hands? Probably not.

    Is there a chance even one man changes his mind about harassing his wife over an impending female birth because he saw the show? There is. And that’s good enough for now.

  6. @Greatbong: Ying and Yang – Although your poser on can one donate a part of the salary if we are expecting the Big Man to donate 3Cr is a valid one – I feel its also linked to Maslow’s law and PPP (not the party but purchasing power of parity) in a strange way – I earn 40K; hence 5K is something which I can donate without jeopardizing my family expenditure (hell – whom am I kidding – bacardi expenditure to be more precise) and in the same context – one is assuming that 3Cr is not a big deal for him. I am sure if he does that and donates once for every 10 episodes or a part of the same for every episode – HIS bacardi bills or family expenditure is not going to be under strain.

  7. In spite of how I just cannot stand how seriously Aamir takes himself and that smug air about him of thinking he is the only flickering hope that India has, I actually liked the show….probably because the subject was bigger than the star…to me, at least!

  8. No, I’m not. But then, I don’t earn nowhere near as much as Aamir Khan. At the same time, I do donate a small amount. Some people are better placed to do more.

    Just because you teach at a University, you don’t work at Teach for India, do you? But I’m sure you can contribute in your own small way.

    Donating time or money is not an obligation or compulsion. Else, it would be extortion or taxes.

  9. Sourya,

    It has nothing to do how much he earns and how much you earn. What matters is the intent. If you donate a small amount, do you donate it in a public way announcing how much it is? Why then do you expect Aamir Khan to do it? Why should a celebrity be expected to donate just because he earns a lot? By your logic, is Sachin Tendulkar also obliged to make public donations of crores (he certainly can afford it)?

    Mind you, I am not pointing fingers or expecting anyone to make a public contribution. So what I do, (or not) has got nothing to do in this discussion.

  10. @greatbong – Good one. Fairest assessment of the show yet.

    @Sourya – Asking people to part with their wealth purely because they have a lot of it is called something in economics. Presume you know what that is?

    • but that does happen a lot during diwali time. donate and not buy crackers!! like fuck!!! why dont you donate during christmas, and not fire crackers during new year and donate, donate donate. so that the world has more beggars and not producers.

      har weekend pe lagbhag rs 500 daru, cigarette pe phoonkne wale chutiye krupiya charity ki baat na kare.

  11. @greatbong

    Dada,

    I wouldn’t have asked you unless you asked me specifically. If that was just for the sake of discussion and I took it personally, my apologies.

    I believe celebrities can encourage others to contribute by making their contributions public. And yes, the likes of Sachin should donate instead of just “auctioning” cricket paraphernalia.

    @srinivaskc

    Economics was never my strong point, even during my MBA education. Kindly enlighten me.

    But I do believe that those who have more should do more, not by compulsion but by choice.

  12. I am fully agree Arnab. (Being a SRK fan ;)I had my own doubts about this show as I am working for a NGO. They surprised me by not manipulating the figures and statistics. What touched me was they presented the facts as they are. The show has emotions, drama, humor and of course a cause and that is why it is going to work.

  13. Satyamev Jayate is just superficial and aimed only towards reaping TRPs. I really don’t know who is not aware of female foeticide. Everybody knows about it. Instead of addressing the causes like dowry, inflexible and stupid Indian family system, etc., Aamir just focused on melodrama. This is show is just a modification of “Rakhi ka insaaf”.

  14. Hi GB, I’m a relatively new reader, maybe a few months old, but have been savouring tid bits from the archives.

    IMHO Satyameva Jayate (SJ) may want to up its awe / shock factor in order to stick around for a bit, a La ‘Kadwa Such’ that intolerable, but usual Indian noise barrier penetrating monstrosity of the late 80s (I think).

    That apart, the effort is appreciated, and I do hope that as a result of the serial and other efforts, at some point of time we do end up saying:

    “Hey Dude, I’m Cool, I don’t Do Female Foeticide.”

    Cool, In, Socially Respectable, Socially Accpetable, Peer Group Pressure, call it what you may, the animal doth influence at least some people’s behaviour.

    IMHO, Female Foeticide (the topic of Satyamev Jayate’s first episode) is a law & order problem, correctly managed by South Korea, as mentioned during the show. However, societal pressure is especially relevant, in an overpopulated country with an anemic law enforcement / judicial system.

    As a personal example (always dangerous as a sample for a survey, but nevertheless), I started out in life as the standard issue Bengali male, ‘Bhalo Chele’, without an option. I rebelled in multiple ways but chiefly through smokes, during my hostelite days, while pursuing, whenever time permitted, an Engineering education. I really felt that I ‘Damn care about society’. After serious attempts to corrode my lungs for around 10 to 12 years I finally quit for multifarious reasons, at least one of them being the uncoolness of smoking. As an exec., with a nice tie, it was embarassing to step out of a plush airconditioned office, out of the building complex itself, into the sunny (35 Deg C + usually), dusty, noisy & chaotic bosom of mother India with workers & helpers and the odd exec. smoker (frequently another Bong) while my contemporaries did not smoke.

    I do believe, that making some of our existing social evils like female foeticide socially unacceptable and their exponents socially unwelcome would help in the short term.

    The risk being ofcourse that if society reoccupies its earlier powerful avatar, courts and their verdicts would be less relevant on deeply divisive social issues, like say marital choices flouting accepted norms, including same gotra or same gender marraiges etc.

    Lets see how things evolve.

  15. health minister is responsible for dereliction of duty. plz ask him why no doctors are charged if the gendercide is so frequent ?!

    Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad
    azadg@sansad.nic.in Minister+91 11 23061647 , 23061751, 23061661 ( Off.)
    +91 11 23061648 (Fax)
    +91 11 23792052, 23792944 ( Res.)

  16. Well said GB !

    Even if the show turns out to be anything concrete , it is at least not as worthless as the other things on T.V.
    Instead of being cynical and not giving a damn, better we hope it may cause some change , no matter how financially or TRP motivated the shows makers might be !

  17. COUNTERVIEW

    Maybe the Indian middle class, to which I happen to belong, is NOT suffering from guilt, but rather has a little more of time, money and energy left after meeting their primary and to some extent, secondary needs, than their parents ever had and hence wants to make a difference, however small?

    We see these new found additional resources are getting channeled into different areas on a daily basis, including international tourism, gastronomic pleasures and yes, increased social awareness and activism.

    A program like Satyamev Jayate (SJ) provides an easy access to do one’s bit, to donate, or at least comment and create some social pressure on what is portrayed as a social issue. It may not be guilt, but rather a desire to do something meaningful without giving up what passes for the good life in India (but is more like the working class or even poor life in the US or Germany).

    I personally don’t believe Female Foeticide is anymore a social issue than corruption, these are law and order problems, but in the face of an ineffectual justice machinery, it might be good to exert social pressures on perpetrators of such atrocities as a short term, limited impact, solution.

    I found SJ boring, the topic stale, the compare shallow and not connecting with the audience. I felt Amitabh Bacchan did a much better job of connecting with people from disparate social strata in the last season of KBC. That apart, SJ is a start and I wish it Godspeed.

    Cheers.

  18. “ultimately, if it ends up generating even a bit of awareness or (sic) the slightest of societal change, the show would be well worth it.”

    Bull’s eye.

    “Even if it does neither and remains yet another exercise in massive money-making and audience entertainment, how worse will it be from everything else on TV?”

    Double bull’s eye.

  19. A TV show asking for donation can be of little help to fight against Female Foeticide. At the max, creates awareness. A donation is the easiest way to contribute, but at the same time, the weakest form to get active participation. The call to action should have been to ask the viewers to march towards the respective state head quarters and demand for political actions.

    Let’s not forget that “Quit India” was a movement, not an awareness or fund raising campaign. Lately, Anna Hazare was able to move Indians a bit off from their cushion, but excitement died soon due to political tricks.

    Campaigns for social reforms are easy to ideate & plan. But hard to execute and be successful with mass participation.

  20. Aamir Khan probably is not donating any money, he is not expected to and he did not promise to. Its the same with us. He made the show because he can a lot of money and probably viewership/we are watching because we want to see aamir khan’s face. so where is the question of awareness? why are we making a big deal out of this. This is just a programme like any other where one guy/channel makes a lot of money and we pass time.

    There might be a few who are moved enough to do something about this, but it will be a small percentage. Others have enough to do worrying about rising prices, heat, corruption etc.

  21. totally totally totally agree !! Many many thanks for putting in words and so well, thoughts that I am sure came to many who consider themselves not the lowest common denominator.

    I was tired of people saying how good it was. And, I was troubled at many levels with the way they handled the issues, and I don’t think it’s best one can hope for, even as an entertaining, commercial venture. The humor was misplaced, there should have been more of focussing on violence against women rather than, what will we do if there are no girls left…same emotion in the song ! The depiction of stories of violence was quite unethical.

    BUT, yes, we needed this, we really needed this. It will work with us, the way we are, the way we have become, the populist content will stay with us. And, a great initiative in that sense.

  22. Arnab look at where people are spending money and what are they watching in India..
    Large majority of Indians don’t like capitalism in the back of their mind. What’s wrong if he is making money. After all, people are ready to pay for his work. He can make same sort of money by doing some movie instead.
    And he might be involved in some charity work actively but may be he doesn’t like to disclose it..
    i can’t fully agree with u about this.
    He(the show) is creating some awareness. For example lot of Indians didn’t know/realized about how big the problem has become of unbalanced sex ratio. Even if the show can create some awareness..in country of 1.2 billion people it equals to hundreds and thousands of people!
    Remember good marketing is needed even to spread a good message

  23. A cleverly written article where the author already accepts all the shortcomings or the downsides of the show and then putting all the responsibility (and partly blame) on the shoulders of the audience. Meaning that, since THIS is the way our society today wants to see things presented to them, it is okay to follow the norm just like Rakhi Sawant and many others have already done it before in their shows. This time, just tuning down the mode to a more sober format.

    I have nothing against the author or SJ or Amir Khan. But I am still not convinced on the methodology of the presentation. How would anything change for good if the ways to promote awareness on important subjects are also build on the same fundamental faults as that of the society. If the audience is used to “following” a particular format of presentation and receives it in the same way then is it not logical that the other school of thoughts which it has been “following” over the ages will also stay the same?

    Then why challenge or blame Chetan Bhagat or similar authors for following what the readers want from them? [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17990766]

    I feel the last paragraph of Argumentative India above presented my thoughts as well.

  24. Probably this thread is to talk about Amir and SMJ but I do believe the ‘Guilt’ is worth more thought than the show, or a celebrity’s donation.

    The root cause of every evil.. social or economic.. seems to boil down to perceptions of an individual which contributes to a collective conscience.Therein lies our guilt/hypocricy. But that accepted and considering SMJ et al are money making endeavors. Where do we actually start? SMS votes? a donation .. big or small.. which ultimately just ensures our own feel-good factor rather than ‘helping’ a cause. or is it that questioning perceptions.. changing our ourselves individually? and hoping that one day there might be enough like me to alter the collective conscience? but then again where is the surety of it all?

    So do we just fast for Anna Hazare as we break queues at a railway station and flash out a ‘hari-patti’ at the first sight of a cop on road or do we train ourselves to wait in queue and accept the fact that people act corrupt only bcoz I think corrupt?

    Do we just donate against foeticide …talk of equality among male-females… as we consider the wives’ salary to be the ‘added-help’ for the EMI of an extravagant apartment.. (If in a society where the aged are expected to be cared for by the young, and a girl is educated and supported byt her parents only to the day she is married off to someone and the parents are supposed to survive on their own… wouldn’t that cultivate the wish for a male child) ??

    I really dont have any answers .. all I can is to share these questions.. and hope!

    A TV show (even an honest one), an NGO or a strong law can work on the symptoms, the disease is way more deep n strong.

  25. Whether Aamir pays them from his pocket or not, I believe this is the best thing to have happened to Indian reality shows. Aamir ensures crowd pull. Lakhs like me who believe they are socially aware but yet not aware of the extent of the evil(I never knew about that sting piece or abt that matrubhumi kinda village in haryana but now I am aware) would atleast be more socially responsible and would definitely contribute. No one can save those imbeciles who opt for foeticide but if the system can be made to reject their intentions, nothing like it.

    This is a baby step, but it is a step nevertheless and I am grateful to the makers of the show for putting this on national television.

  26. I fully agree with the author on the account that contributions are required on the part of the average Indian citizen and also the show Satyamev Jayte is a right step in this direction..

  27. Lovely article GB,

    I am yet to hear a logical criticism of the show. My only comment is , whats the harm. If not even one person changes , well it’s status quo in worst case. If even 100 people take active action, we could be significantly better off than before.
    I work in an office where most of the folks are males below 25. I consider that to be THE most cynical group of all, having been one myself aeons ago. Atleast 70-80% of these ‘laundey’ have actually sent SMS-es , signed e petitions for whatever it’s worth.
    Go for it , I say.

  28. GB,
    First – Khan ensures high viewership. If even 1% of the audience who watched Satyameva Jayate understands that it’s sheer luck and the male sperm that determines the gender of the child, we would certainly have a reduction on the violence against women.

    Second – We studied just before the semesters. We work harder just before the delivery date of project. If pressure (social and media; in this case) has a positive impact on the government and society; it’s 3 crore well spent.

    Third – Middle class have volatile memory; they will forget this issue by the IPL final. Nobody worries about the ‘guilt’ anymore. In fact, nobody has the time.

    Regards,
    Sowmik

  29. How dare Aamir Khan make so much money? He needs to donate generously. Miser!

    (oh and BTW, Sachin is known to donate to charity…he only asks for rebates when he has to pay for Ferraris)

    Nice post. I think the big change from previous years, say 15 years ago, is that there is now a continuous stream of feel-good movements happening in the media and by extension, in middle class’s consciousness. Remember Rang De Basanti (ugh!)Gandhigiri and Anna Hazare?

  30. I don’t think that one should get all teary eyed and develop sudden compassion for all human beings based on this TV show. Yes! whatever your are saying holds value but it is too obvious a marketing gimmick to fool somebody like me.

    Why blame an SRK or Salman for catering to the masses when Mr. perfectionist does the same by being more subtle. The formula is simple, cater to the so called guilt of the masses and rake in moolah like never before. Somebody’s comment about difference in earning is correct. Aamir Khan’s idea of becoming popular by playing to the emotional quotient of the desis is as fake as the soap operas , IPL parties and bollywood awards in this country. This also includes the tears which people shed in front of this TV show.

    Shed some tears and move on, that’s the Indian way of life and you are correct when you point out that their is nothing better on TV, however to get serious about this show is also foolhardy and can not improve the ills plaguing our society. At the end of it all the anchor would probably be richer by 300 crores and the teeming mass would switch on to watch Jalebi bais and find their entertainment in bollywood jhatkas and daily dose of spirituality in the Aastha’s and sanskar’s of the world.

    I don’t have a problem with such shows I only have a problem with cheapening genuine emotions to hammy acting and false concerns for the country.

    I am quite happy being a pessimist at our sorry state of affairs and have no such guilt, it is probably appropriate that this huge country crumbles under the weight of its own problems and a fitter more dynamic republic emerges from the rotten mass that we are today.

  31. Well for me this article reeks of double standards..if you so much support this program meant for arm-chair intellects why were you so critical about the ANNA movement..was it not for societal change? do we need an Amir Khan with those done-to-death antics to tell us that indian society is basically screwed up? hell we know it already…we need someone to take charge..to lead us in our quest towards some social reforms..Raja Rammohan Roy style..Jyotiba Phule style..

    This program will be nothing more than an ultra TRP achiever for some time and then fade into oblivion..Aamir will be richer by a few crores out of which a percentage (miniscule) will be donated to some charity and we’ll sing eulogies of the great man with golden heart on FB and twitter..SATYAMEV JAYATE..indeed..

  32. “why were you so critical about the ANNA movement?”

    Read again my posts on the Anna movement. My problem was primarily with Anna’s *solution*, which was neither feasible, nor effective nor democratic and of course the personality cult that has been cultivated around him.

  33. Hi Arnab

    I agree to what you have written, as middle class or as evolved urban class, everyone wants a change or wants to change but does not want to be one to do it. SO as long as someone else bears responsibility for it, they can only look on in awe of them and praise it as a noteworthy cause. At the same time there will be cynics, who i must say would have my every respect for their words, if they would have come out from side screens and taken up doing something about these problems rather than only criticize. But the every movement there are supporters who openly support, there are those who have no opinion and are not sure which side they are on and of course those who downright condemn, but at the end of it if anything good comes out of such shows or other such forms of activism they all will benefit from it. There wont be taking any sides at that time. There have always been Hollywood stars and other media people who have outspoken against governments, so what if star power or celeb status is used to bring awareness, the idea is people pay attention to numbers highlighted that will affect society and not what TRP’s are, or how much he earns per episode etc.

  34. I really don’t get the point of this post.

    You start of by criticising it, like you criticise every other thing and then, just not to anger people you tone down and say – Yes, it is needed.

    Is there anything in this world that is perfect to your taste? Apart from lousy C Grade Bollywood.

    Have you considered, maybe we middle class don’t really suffer from any Guilt. No I don’t suffer from any guilt when I eat junk food.

    Sadly, a lot of middle class are not as low class as you think.

  35. No harm in capitalizing on someone’s popularity for a good cause.. unless the though process matches Taslima Nasreen: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-08/tv/31625476_1_taslima-nasreen-aamir-khan-house-arrest

    The assumption that many seem to be making is that Aamir Khan is doing this only for the money.. Maybe, just maybe, he is one of the few lucky people in the world who have found their ideal job.. they love what they are doing and get paid for it too!! Nothing wrong in that..

  36. If there are people in this country who had to watch a TV show to learn about female foeticide, then I really pity India. But then again, I forgot, that’s the way this country rolls.

    Exactly a year ago, the chattering classes on Twitter and Facebook were busy changing their DPs, updating statuses as “I Am Anna Hazare” to take part in the “2nd Independence Movement” to eradicate Corruption. It was termed as a phenomenon, an awakening of national consciousness which would “change India forever”. Of course, as a year went by, the movement and its members have become jokes at best and, at worst, irritants and disgusting whiners no one cares about. If anything this farce of a show called “Satyamev Jayate” (wrongly spelled) is a miniature model of that kind, this time played out in comfortable drawing rooms coz Hey! the sun is scorching and the presentation is cool enough for people to go orgasmic on Twitter on a mundane Sunday. So, credit to the creative directors for playing the game right.

    Now, when the Anna movement took off, I told people that it’s a farce and the solutions he suggests will be nightmarish since his team are a bunch of left wing blowhards, retards, big government jack-offs. People abused me, called me names. But now they agree. I know, 2 years down the line, they’ll all agree with me on “Satyamev Jayate”. Face it. The men who beat up their wives, kill their daughters, won’t be watching this show and even if they did, they’ll continue doing that anyways. You’re all fools to think that one sunday morning a wife beater, baby girl abort-er watches this and gets teary eyed with guilt and starts loving the women in his life.

    And what guilt are you talking about, Mr Ray? I have no guilt whatsoever as a middle class guy. I’d much rather watch Katy Perry, easily one of the world’s most beautiful women, than a middle aged, sanctimonious Bollywood actor with enough skeletons in the closet preaching me about morality and other bunk, served over typical Indian sentimental bullshit.

  37. “We would not give Rs 300 to help a foundation that helps battered women. We would give 3 crores a pop though to see Aamir Khan’s handsome face and sensitively serious expressions of concern.”

    Yeah perfect

  38. Some issues I would like to see Researched and highlighted by Aamir Khan or by anyone else. I would like to know how the below issues from a higher perspective.

    How spurious drugs without approvals from DGCI officials is affecting the Indian Population?
    How adulterated food, pesticides in food, polluted air/water etc has impacted various families?
    How the families of Policemen, Army, low level Government servants etc are surviving today?
    How poor people are suffering when they have to go Government Hospitals?
    How bad quality education and educated but unskilled people are taking the country to the dogs?
    How foreign agents, people with malafide intentions are using unusual and subtle tactics to change the demography of India?
    How Hawala Money from Dubai has changed the demographics of Kerala?

    ..etc

  39. Female infanticide is a miniscule problem compared to other problems in India. While we don’t know what other topics would be covered by STJ, I believe that since there are too many problems in India, the only way things could improve is to target a few manageable problems ( a – la – Polio eradication).

    The biggest problems India has – Illiteracy/Elementary & High School education opportunities for the rural masses , Poverty, Lack of infrastructure , Energy deficit , Outdated and overwhelmed legal system, overwhelmed healthcare system and poor governance.

    An argument can be made that the solutions to the biggest problems require government participation while female infanticide might not. But a strong (fear of) legal system can provide a ready solution to problems like female infanticide. As such the TRPs gained by female infanticide is a digression..from the burning issues facing the nation. But its a more interesting watch than saas bahu serials.

  40. @Abhinav Agarwal : I am sure no wife beater would be guilt ridden after watching the show but the shows purpose goes much more than that .The ladies who came are perfect examples of triumph of the human spirit over inhuman torture .So any woman ,any class ,creed (me included) seeing them and facing similar circumstances would get all the energy and motivation to fight back . There are a lot of similar examples around us you would say but glamorizing anything just emphasizes the underlying point. I or you is in no position to make a judgement abt the efficacy of any movement for which we do not have complete information . The media as usual misreports more often . The movement could b a farce, could be successful or could just be a beginning to an impending big change . Only time could tell but to jump and call it failure is a tad bit unfair. And u may get all the satisfaction from watching Katy Perry but there are billions of feeble minded Indians who like to be fed emotional junk for all the above reasons so no point generalizing ..

  41. @Anonymous

    A few battered women in urban drawing rooms, watching a TV show and getting some feel good, token strength makes no difference at large to the realities that women face in this country. Governments and law enforcement authorities are supposed to look into that. But once we outsource that job to money spinning media companies, film actors and reduce that to Sunday morning brunch entertainment, we probably get a few answers as to why India sucks so bad. If TV shows could change society, world would indeed be a far nicer place to live in. You, of course, disagree. Cool.

    And when did I say it’s gonna be a failure?? I said it’s a farce. They are different. Look up these words. It’ll be a monstrous “success”. LOTS of money will be made, everyone will be richer, anchor, producer, director will have fatter wallets, music will be launched, Op-Eds will be written, photo ops with secular party mantris will be organised, secular party might even campaign for 2014 with SMJ theme like they did in 2009 with Slumdog Millionaire. The communal party will lose again. Everyone wins!

    How can it get any better, Ma’am? You win. I lose. So, I’ll just listen to Katy Perry’s songs to cut myself off from the crap. Have a nice day 🙂

  42. I am very scared of people that “want to change the world” If what one is and what one does “changes the world in the process” that’s fine by me. Truth is we need to “be the change that we want to see”. I am not sure where to put Mr. Aamir Khan, or shall I say Prof. Aamir Khan, coz he started his lectures from 3 Idiots, at least that was fun to watch.

  43. Excellent post!

    So Aamir makes money, some charity makes money, some corporates get to promote their products and the middle class gets to feel better about itself while being entertained. Win-win-win-win…. This is capitalism at its finest !

    Who knows, it is even possible that those journalists who exposed the abortionists will not be harassed for a few months.

  44. Hey Arnab,

    People are defined by the choices that they make. Amir might have copied another game show and would have made the same 3 crores. But he chose to do Satyamev Jayate. You could have made more money by giving more time to your consultancy/research career but you decided to blog and then to write a couple of books. Steve Jobs could have decided to work for IBM/XEROX but then he chose to compete rather than working for them.

    Like you said, Satyamev Jayate is a product which has a need and if marketed properly might even bring a social change. Amir doesn’t promise to be a Gandhi but this is perhaps one good way to give the stardom back to the society.

  45. What an absolute smug bunch of armchair- critics/’intellectuals’ sniping away at their keyboards, while an actor right at the top of his game takes a calculated risk doing a sensible tv show that talks of real issues that matter.

    Yes, Aamir could have continued to make his ‘once a year ‘films, another 3 idiots type hit perhaps, continued to endorse the few brands that he cares to; he could have released his Talaash thriller this summer, done a handful of films before turning 50….instead the man juggles his time between independent film productions, a tv show that involves a LOT of risk (angering specific groups like rightwingers, activist-NGOS who wonder why an actor is horning into their space), irritating the very public he had won over through Lagaan – this man is either a crazy idealist, a conman….or simply somebody with enough smarts and guts to take the path less trodden.

    Only the first episode out–and already so much bile all over the net.

    Reportedly there are episodes that that talk of organic farming (with Sikkim being shown as a state that is turning fully organic), substance abuse, the loneliness of the aged Indian…. issues that matter.

    This show is NOT aimed at the armchair intellectual/leftist-feminist kafila.org type journo–which is why it is being shown on Doordarshan and regional channels; plus shown to specific groups in rural areas; will be audiobroadcast on Vividh Bharati….I suggect that cynics stay away from this show.

    Yes, I’m an Aamir supporter, have followed the man via media and films for a decade–and have this gut feeling that this is one genuine guy. His latest interview to Tehelka–hopefully it may win over a few sceptics–

    http://www.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=hub190512SATYAMEV.asp
    Extract–
    What triggered the idea for you?
    ‘We often see things happening around us that disturb us but don’t know how to intervene. I thought TV is a very strong medium and if I can use it to reach every home, maybe a small dent can be made. The idea is to try and bring about an attitudinal change. We often want to point fingers at the government — sarkar yeh nahin karti — but there are many issues for which we are the solutions. We have to decide whether we want to think a certain way or not. Crimes like these are planned in bedrooms but you can’t have a policeman sitting in every bedroom.

    So the entire attempt is to talk to every Indian and see whether we understand an issue, and if after understanding the issue fully, we can have a change of heart. Through these shows, we’ve tried to bring out the personal angle, the sociological angle and, depending on different issues, the economic and, sometimes, the legal angle. Sometimes we have focussed on the way forward because we’ve found somebody has found a solution in different parts of the country. Can we learn from that?

    This is an effort to take 13 topics, one at a time, and really attempt a 360 degree perspective on it. What I understand from it is what I am presenting. For me, the journey is an internal journey of my change. I believe each one of us has to see if it makes sense to them.’

    Read the article if you care to–or dismiss him and his supporter. No problem. I just wish he gets through these 13 episodes (3 months) with minimum damage to himself ( hopefully no ban from rightist groups affronted with risky topics like child sexual abuse, no death threats, court cases…)and a good amount of benefit for the average honest Indian, not the cynic behind a keyboard.

    Will await his return to cinema–Talaash, Dhoom 3 and the Raju Hirani film. At worst he will be accused of poor acting/hamming.

  46. Quite a bunch of losers, the Indians are.
    Aamir Khan, takes 3 crores to show a bunch of losers that they are losing. And the losers are paying for it.

  47. Hi GreatBong,

    I am visiting your blog after a long time. Excellent post!

    Living abroad, I have been somewhat out of touch with Indian popular culture for a while now.
    I particularly admire your sense of humour and am inspired to incorporate such a tone on my blog.

    Loved the “Katy Perry over Carnatic” line. I am guilty of that, too, but, hey, I also listen to high brow rock and pop which are musical achievements in their own right, ha ha:).

    I just read your post on Anna and I must say, the comments on your blog are as enlightening as your posts. Can I link to your posts on Anna and this one? I had something to say on corruption, too, but I’ll save the long post for my blog.

    Personally, in brief, this is what I feel about corruption and social issues:

    Corruption is not something that can be eradicated once and for all. We can devise better systems and create a culture of adherence to law and order over a period of time which is what Western society has done very well.

    Fighting corruption is like fighting crime. We will have to keep punishing offenders and make government processes devoid of red tape. May be make government smaller as someone else commented.

    The unsavoury influence of money and special interest groups is burdening the US political system, too, so even legal practices such as lobbying and Super Pacs can twist the system to benefit a few people.
    The price of living in a democratic society is eternal vigilance (I forgot who said that eternal vigilance is the price to be paid for freedom).

    As for social issues such as female foeticide and dowry, etc., I don’t think it is only uneducated, uninformed Indians who follow such practices. I have heard of software engineers with Master’s degrees living abroad who don’t think it is wrong at all for a woman’s family to shell out all the moolah for a ‘grand’ wedding or even a fat dowry.

    I suspect it is the same for female foeticide. It is good that Aamir Khan, one of my favourite actors, is doing something to raise awareness. If he succeeds in even changing one person’s mindset or inspires one person to fight back, I think that itself is a great achievement.

    Legislation is a step towards change but the law can only work effectively when there are both excellent enforcement and cultural change to go hand in hand with it. Changing the mindset of people is far more difficult than legislation.

    Above all, as another commenter pointed out, “be the change one wants to see in the world”. There was a Yahoo news article recently about an 18-year-old girl from Rajasthan who fought back and broke off her childhood marriage to a guy who was also very young (I think they got the marriage annulled). It is individuals and families who will ultimately carry social change. And, yes, I do not discount the influence of films, music and literature in this regard as these media have immensely shaped my own opinions.

  48. This show is not going to bring any perceptible change in typical indian mindset. For that matter no TV show can ever do that.

    Such social issues can only be dealt with a strong law. There were many ageold ill practices prevailing in our society and few are still existing. Many which have been largely suppressed or eradicated like polygamy, Sati Pratha, Child marriage etc are only because of strong law and its effective enforcement. Although we still see some sporadic instances of such evils.

    We need to buckle up and fight against Dowry, domestic violence, eve-teasing, conman/godman looting people…Only a strict legal action can bring a change. Unfortunately I don’t see it happening in near future..

  49. tis is jst another crap GB..this is india..ppl here like/love watching other ppl suffer to assure that they are not alone..but aamir is an excellent businessman..chitragupta is very busy becoz of him…

  50. Scenario 1 : Amir Khan makes a lot of money, but there’s NO change at all in our system. Female abortion continues unabated.

    Scenario 2 : Amir Khan makes a lot of money, but there’s a slight change in our system. Some government agencies take concrete steps and save a handful of daughters.

    Scenario 3 : Amir Khan makes a lot of money, and there’s a big change in our system. There’s no case of female forced abortion by 2022.

    Which of these scenarios is most likely? I am sure, most will vote for #2.

    I will take that any day. Let AK make money. A 1% change in the system has a massive impact in India in absolute terms. And it has already started.

    On another note – I’d like AK to take up the topic of “vulgar display of money and power” in India, even if it embarrasses the co-sponsors of the show – Reliance Industry.

  51. It is tempting to explore commercial angles and bring about viewpoints of self interest in something generally deemed in a positive light of social good. But certain things need to be plauded and lauded, as active members of a society. Applauding the efforts of a commercial serial is not any middle class guilt coping mechanism, not all are intellectual critics but I would rate an average man being moved by justified reasons a far better human being than someone peddling cynicism for acclaim. Often, the sentient role of a devil’s advocate defeats its own purpose. – hope you are getting me GB

  52. Great reply by Abhinav Agrawal. Though this line has been repeted many times but still i am saying this”Bhyya is desh main log Geeta, Quran or Guru granth sahib padkar nahi sudhre. TV se kya sudhrenge”
    But hats off to Aamir. He has this amazing knack of social service Aka Ghajni fame. I mean some time on some time off. He went to Narmada bachao movement then forget about it. He went to Anna’s manch then disapired. He is dong Samajsewa via TV after 13 episode. Sab khatab. Everybody in win-win situation except ADVT who booles tha ad slot in very high rate but TRP is very low.

  53. Satyamev Jayate is really doing well. And I agree if it weren’t for Aamir hosting the show many of us wouldn’t have given it a second thought. How different would it be, for instance, from the pages we seem to so casually ‘like’ and ‘unlike’ on Facebook? Not very.

    I’d gotten a very Oprah-ish vibe from the very first episode of Satyamev Jayate. But that’s okay, least to say Aamir is to the Indian middle-class as Oprah is to the world apparently. Today’s issue, for example, was something that Oprah had covered on her show too. I cried then too over the futility of being one of those molested in childhood. I cried today too, knowing a couple of my friends who went through the same experience.

    Right now I don’t even care if the show is airing to pay someone 3 crores or shoot the TRP’s up or even to replace the slot previously occupied by Mahabharat. All I care is that yes someone else out there is also like me – perhaps a girl who wasn’t aborted ‘fortunately’ living a life of chance, perhaps a girl/boy who is still scarred by human relationships and yes someone who is also crying with me. That’s all. In the end it’s all about that guilt. 🙂

  54. So it seems, people have already moved on to the next #OUTRAGE!!! – child sexual abuse, after today’s episode. Female foeticide is sooo last week. Let’s talk about little boys getting touched now! I guess that was it for unborn baby girls, then. Okay.

    Frankly, rather than guilt, the middle class needs something to talk and intellectually pontificate about on Sunday’s, and then comfortably forget about by Monday morning. In that regard this show scores 200 on a 100 marks paper. Pure and cold capitalism cashing in on sentiments. Which is absolutely fine in a materialistic and superficial world.

  55. Don’t agree with the article.

    “Those who’ve more wealth, should do more for society”
    this communist mentality is the biggest reason for WB being one of the most backward states, even in India.

  56. Arnab,

    In one of your comments, you mentioned about the girl being educated and cared for by the parents only till she gets married and thereafter the parents are expected to take care of themselves. Just to buttress your point, I asked all my employees (software engineers) to give details of their family members whom they expect to be covered under the Company’s Medical Insurance Scheme. Out of the 5 married employees at least one didn’t bother to include his parents-in-law although I specifically asked for the same in a separate column. Though a small sample to be called a statistic, just goes on to say how much deep rooted this mentality is.

  57. I find all the commentary very strange as the “made up, fake” argument a little off the track. well one is entitled to his or her pessimism.
    The fact that 1000s of people were watching the one and a half hour show instead of sleeping the mornings off is a step.
    The fact that despite making the money (which i think is every person’s right), this man is not just walking off with it over a cola advert, but making an effort for some cause, no matter how small or big it is.
    the fact that my mother decided to discuss sexual abuse and ask whether she has ever ignored our pleas of help or if we ever needed them, instead of just turning her face and saying “oh good episode” is another big leap for me.
    the fact that my friends have been asking whether i can help them find an NGO to volunteer/ donate instead of just liking a fb page is another.( i work in one, so im supposed to be in the know)
    One of the neighbour aunties was talking in the park (where they sit everyday and gossip) and decided to start talking to all her relatives who she has seen treating their daughters badly and has decided to support a child and was asking if anyone knew how it could be done.
    My office has been discussing how the show has helped raise awareness and may help fund raisers to raise funds more easily, and the project people may now be able to openly talk about it if they can bring in amir’s topic somehow within the community. (high hopes!!!)

    Like anna hazare it may be a short lived high. But somewhere 10 people have decided to think before they kill their girl child. just 10 families may be saved. and that i believe is a big enough change. Maybe the ‘guilt’ as arnab has pointed out may tug 5 people’s hearts and they will just reach out to the next person in need. It maybe just a wave, but i hope atleast some parents will look out for their children themselves and try and listen to them, instead of handing them over to the ayahs and the relatives because they are too busy partying.

    some issue may touch each person’s heart watching this show. If it hasnt done for you yet, im sure there is more to come, something may be relevant for you that you may think your heart goes out to. and then dont donate to reliance or whatever NGO smj is supporting if you dont want to, just find a victim and reach out.

    mentality has to be changed. and it cannot be changed if someone doesnt start. amir is probably the shock/star value that the country needed, so they would atleast watch. because obviously news channels havent been able to, for whatever reasons, bring attention to all the issues being raised.

  58. @ajit tai to… bal er to hobei…
    ta tumi ki korchho ei “sucker” country ta ke change korar jonne? hoyeto amader mota buddhi te ektu alo phelle bodh hoye “sucking” ta paltabe to?
    ar tumi kotha theke eshechho, ei sucking india theke? na onno kono planet theke… change keno korbe? gaye chador mudi diye, mati te matha gujei beche thako… this sucking country needs help, but it cannot just keep coming from outside.
    Jatrai bolo ar jayi bolo…. even you were watching it. obviously entertaining. tumi entertainment er jonnei dekho… atleast TRP ta badhbe

  59. @Abhinav Agrawal

    I know some people who are highly respected & rich. They had opted abortions after having 2-3 daughters. i guess they may have stopped abortions if they had clear idea what it is!! So SMJ should have shown the pics of the aborted child or asked people to see that pics.

    There is some misinformation,That its just a foetus …its undeveloped etc !!!

    but if someone sees the aborted foetus ..they will be shocked to see the developed body. We need to know that if the foetus had developed their sex their body too has developed !!!

    they can feel pain(correct me, if i am wrong). And they are sucked and chopped out during the abortion !

  60. @ Atm,
    perhaps in replying to your comment, I digress from the main topic of SJ, which till date has focussed more on social than socio economic issues, and I apologize to GB for the same; However:

    “this communist mentality is the biggest reason …” I can’t agree fully.

    While growing up, in my late teens / early twenties, Ayn Rand was the biggest influence in my life, more than my teachers & parents combined.

    After twenty years I perceive the world to be imperfect, the people frequently weak.

    In utopia, capitalism works superbly. But then, so does communism.
    In the real imperfect world, capitalism fails less than communism.

    Untrammeled capitalism leads to the kind of socio – economic issues we have witnessed in the US from 2008 – 10 and continue to do in Europe.

    A relatively more sustainable model maybe a society, where wealth creation is encouraged & respected, poverty unromanticized & de – glorified while at the same time, sharing of one’s wealth is equally respected.

    De – glorification of poverty and respecting wealth sharing are not mutually exclusive. I find the social accpetance of the unwillingness of a poor, able bodied & minded wo/man to make efforts to change her / his situation, which by the way is not uncommon in Poschim Bongo especially among the ‘Bhodrolok’, as repulsive, as the lack of a decent orphanage or old age home in most parts of India.

  61. @not funny

    Yes, you’re right. I didn’t mention that in my comments but thats also one of the reasons why I dislike the show – too much time spent on emotional, sentimental crap and too little on the cold, hard facts and cruel realities of abortion.

    If abortion is done within the 1st or 2nd week of pregnancy, generally cases like rape, unplanned pregnancy, premarital sex, underage sex, where there are really no alternatives, then in such early abortions, the foetus is a cluster of cells which can’t feel pain. But if its done later on, as in gender selective foeticide, then the foetus is much developed and CAN feel pain. It practically sucks out the lively baby with a vacuum pump/hook which is then killed. I wonder how these people sleep at night.
    But of course, the cruel images of aborted baby girls with little legs and hands won’t be shown. Too extreme after all, for stupid, duplicitous Indian middle class.

  62. Abhinav, Im not so sure why the images of the foetuses have to be published to garner attention. The media doesnt necessarily have to resort to sensationalization in order to present an issue and its reality. Those are tactics that are undertaken by the right winger, anti-abortionist groups in the West – and they are just plain distasteful.

    The Indian populace isnt ready to have conversations about female foeticide or child abuse – and credit should be given where its due. This show is pushing the boundaries of the general public and forcing people to have these conversations. I thought this last episode of child abuse was done quite well. Even though I felt it didnt tackle the fact that most molestors were molested in childhood themselves.Perhaps that was because public reaction is rarely nuanced. Maybe, it was to avoid backlash against those formerly molested people who mustered up the courage to come on the show. Thats what I thought about after the show ended. I could see those people who came on the show having a hard time if in the same show the possibility of they themselves being molestors was brought up. I cant even imagine what its like for them already, India’s populace isnt ready to have these conversations, and the fact that the show is forcing it into the public arena is pretty awesome. Im sure, these people who came on the show are facing some sort of disguised repercussion already.

    I for one find the show very well researched, very well presented and generally able to overshadow Aamir Khan’s oft heard of ego trips. I think the show is controlled, and careful – we have to remember what India is like. Sensationalization doesnt just give rise to TRPs – it also causes unrest and unruly behaviour.

    Its one thing to say the show doesnt go far enough and its another to sit at home on your couch and criticise whatever little steps are being taken to try and effect change where its necessary. Like I said, credit should be given where its due.

  63. @Rini

    The American right wing is opposed to all abortion because they’re Bible thumpers. I’m not opposed to abortion, it’s all upto personal choice. I’m however strictly opposed to gender selective abortions at a later stage of pregnancy, before which gender can’t be determined. This is planned and cold murder. These people need to be pointed in the eye and shamed into seeing the extent of their crimes. Why do we have those pics of deformed burnt out lungs on cigarette packs? And American women aren’t aborting their girls selectively. So your argument is dead at inception.

    And you might live in your world satisfied with thinking that a TV show which probably reaches, AT THE MOST, 5% of India will make a difference but what you ignore is that we have already tried many such stunts for ‘awareness’ already. (Now I’m not opposed to the show, great business model, should be case study at IIM-A.)
    And well researched, eh? Then why no words against the world’s largest, best funded, tight knit and well protected group of child molesters that operates by the name of the Catholic Church? And this Fortune 500 company is spreading its tentacles far and wide in India since Christianity is declining in Western Europe. Google up “Joshua Project”. Western thinkers like Dawkins, Hitchens have spoken out against the Catholic Church again and again, and that’s precisely why I’d listen to them rather than some weekly Sunday tamasha.

  64. @Rini

    And also apart from that, on female foeticide issues, why no words of praise for Narendra Modi’s genuine initiatives since 2001, for the last 10 years, which have ACTUALLY brought results in Gujarat and lauded by UNICEF? In 2011 census, Gujarat is improving its sex ratio, female child mortality. One of the few states in India to do that. Taking a cue from him, MP, HP, Chattishgarh, K’taka are all bringing out similar schemes. So, no words of praise for him?

    Oh! Wait a minute! I forgot……………now please go ahead and call me communal/saffronite/hindutva fanatic and other epithets that are trending this week! Thanks in advance!

  65. @ Abhinav
    You listen to me saar!
    How dare you bring up Hindtuva, progress and mutual gender respect in one sentence.

    We educated urban liberals cannot accept that.
    We have created a alternate paradigm of what WE percieve as progressive, egalitarian, secular, modern society, aptly supported by our peers in the electronic media. We solve all issues from the comfort of our air conditioned rooms, over cigerattes and margaritas. And we write books and papers for our doctoral thesis about commoonal Hindu people who are opressing the Kashmiri Muslims, hoping that some University in the west will give us a scholarship or a Booker.

    What? Modi changed the gender ratio in favor of women in the past 8 years with his grassroots programs?
    What? All these BJP ruled states are actually achieving progress in child welfare, education and womens’ health?
    What? BJP ruled states are seeing a rapid reduction in the number of farmer suicides?

    Cannot accept that. All politicians are bad. All political parties are equally corrupt. Hindutva is stone age crap. Therefore I dont vote in elections. I want a revolution. You know, the “Gandhi with Guns” type of revolution. Aint that cool.

    Damn! Look what you did…. I spilt some Margarita on my Che Guevara t-shirt.

  66. My message to many people –
    1. People who say that everyone is aware – There’s a difference between being aware and being sensitive. Everyone knows that there is domestic violence in the neighborhood through news or gossip. But you don’t care consciously about it, it only goes around in your mind subconsciously. You start caring when you hear the shouts of the one being beaten. There’s a reason why media is there. It’s one objective is to sensitize matters. Aware to sab hi hote hain.
    2. People who say that Aamir Khan is doing a good job and we all love him for that – Oh puhleez. Though it’s your personal choice and i can’t comment on that, but please don’t tell me that you actually find him to be a pure-hearted person. Read @Sushmit ‘s comment. That’s what i think of him too. His act of him being the ultimate intellectual and hope for society – sad.
    3. @greatbong – Agreed. Well written article. But if you talk about the intent of the show or the actor, i’d disagree. His/Their intent is definitely not good. The reason why this show was put on, or is becoming so successful is because – what you also stated – it is offbeat. And good. We middle class people crave for something good. Even the slightest of improvement is a big establishment for us. But then, it is also very sad to see, that we only care about the product. We care about the demands and the results, not the motives. We fail to realize the darkness behind the so-called “intellectualism”.

  67. dj wrote: “Though this line has been repeted many times but still i am saying this”Bhyya is desh main log Geeta, Quran or Guru granth sahib padkar nahi sudhre. TV se kya sudhrenge” ”

    With all due respect to you…

    Anyone who has read both the Geeta and the Quran would never make such a blanket statement.

    Those who ardently read the Geeta said this: Quotes by intelligent people

    And those who read the Quran said this: Quotes by famous people

    I rest my case.

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