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 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?