Sunday, June 17, 2012

Satyamev Jayate

Opinion is divided on several aspects of Satyamev Jayate the new `reality’ show by Aamir Khan. Strictly, this is not supposed to be a critical assessment or review of the show. However, there are a few troubling aspects and a question I keep asking myself.

I find the first 7 episodes of the show to be shocking in how really violent they are. I accept that what the show portrays is largely a correct picture of India. Consider the violence covered. Episode 1 dealt with Female Foeticide, violent? Episode 2 was on Child Sexual Abuse, violent? Episode 3 on the Big Fat Indian Wedding was tame in comparison. Episode 4 covered healthcare, thankfully tame again. Episode 5 had the violence of the `Khap’ killings and hate crimes. Episode 6 once again was a damp squib discussing the travails of being handicapped. Episode 7 was full on violence again, wife beating. Aamir was back to form, thank God! 5 of 7 shows being horribly violent. This in a land that gave birth to M K Gandhi? I don’t mean to knock Aamir on this, but, India is really an extremely brutal and violent country and its inhabitants are certainly not peace loving. Each of the practices dealt with on the show are practices that have prevailed from times immemorial in India. No amount of religion, God, prayers and education have reduced any of these primitive violent practices. So do not fool yourself that India is a land of peace, religion, yoga and love. It is not.

I do not have the stomach to watch an entire episode and neither do I have the time to watch every episode. I have on occasion sat in and watched parts of the show, the latest being the recent one on spouse abuse. I find the typically Indian, [is `Tapori' the correct word?] filmy and Bollywood practice of clapping, bizarre. One interviewee on the show, a woman who had been abused by her husband, spoke of the time when, fed up of the constant violence, she finally retaliated and hit back. Loud applause, or as we say `Taaliyan’, enthusiastically led by Aamir. At another point in the show the same woman said that now her identity is not merely merely that of a daughter or wife [or words to that effect], she is now known as `Shanno the taxi driver’. `Taaliyan’ again. Could the producers please get a little more serious, especially when dealing with such blood curdling topics and remove the needless applause and grandstanding from the show?

Critics and analysts of this show should be a little fairer on poor old Aamir. His show cannot possibly change these practices in India. They are deeply ingrained. Frankly, even if the greatest Indian Sachin, along with Aamir and Anna Hazardous for good measure, co-hosted the show, it would not make those practices/problems disappear. It will take time. This show, all said and done is a step in the right direction.

I now come to my question. A few days ago when the twin shocks of the petrol price increase by Rs 7.5 and the fact that the US Dollar was almost Rs 57 a close friend S, told me that with the Governments inaction in dealing with the economic crisis India would be pushed back 20 years. I told him, not to worry and India was 200 years behind the Western world in any event. My reason for saying so? Well, India was widely regarded [until our Nanny decided to throw out the baby and the bathwater by completely screwing up our economy] as one of the best investment opportunities. Leading FII, fund houses, investors and MNC all flocked to our country to get a slice of our markets. The middle class in India would, according to those in the know, be the `drivers’ of our growth. I may be paraphrasing here, but I am sure you get my drift. Is this not the same middle class guilty of the horrors portrayed on the show? Not that the rich and upper class are not, no, I am not condoning or excluding them, but I am only saying that the great middle class is all of what India’s future is supposed to be, and most importantly, the great middle class vastly outnumbers the rich and the upper class. So it’s this great mass of people guilty of such brutish crimes that are going to take India into the future. Is there really a future? Are we not really living in the dark ages with all this brutality at so many levels in daily life? Are we leading these delightfully dichotomous and dual lives of great consumerism and aspirational purchasing one the one hand and conservatism and violence that could only exist in the dark ages? So, will this great India Shining we live in, continue to be a land where we aspire to buy the latest SUV and continue to trash our wives and kill female foetuses. Is this our only future? I am not a social scientist, but I leave you with these questions.

Scary if you ask me. Very very scary. 


  1. The rise of the moral brigade and the increasing violent intolerance to any idea or thought not conforming to the general view adds to the very very scary or should one say,terrifying scenario.Even if one person is positively affected ,as the cliche goes, SMJ would be worth it.

  2. Violence sells. This is an OLD TV formula. Ask Aamir, who asked the TRPwallas, who told him that violence would sell.

    And yes, the sort of violence we read about everyday is terrifying. All the bhajan-singing, topaz ring wearing, fasting and pooja-mandal middle class are also the Skoda*-driving wife-beating, dowry-demanding, tax-evading and black money hoarders. We live in times of interesting duality as the Chinese might say.

    Aamir is also an anchor-producer who sells violence while promoting brand Coke (incidentally a sponsor of Satyamev Jayate) and earns Rs 5 crore per episode.

    Vote against violence. Vote with your remote.
    *Skoda also sponsors Satyamev Jayate.

  3. Just saw the episode on Khap killings last night- my first and only so far. I thought Aamir Khan did a great job managing to keep the focus on the guests, addressing the issue from so many different perspectives and being very respectful to the panchayat folks. You cannot change a society of a billion quickly so it was impressive that atleast there is some discussion reaching a very large audience.
    I can see change coming in the middle and lower middle classes where it is social education. it is the upper class that has had it so good and are an aware group that manages to insulate itself- kind of like the 1% here- can you tell my political leanings!!

  4. You forgot to mention legislation when you said "No amount of religion, God, prayers and education have reduced any of these primitive violent practices." Great insight.

  5. Thank you AK. Yes you are correct. No amount of litigation has helped. In the current ultra conservative environment we have, our Nanny will no doubt, propose more litigation for all these `evils'.

    I wonder what the `Karva Chauth' brigade has to say? Long life for a wife beater?

    1. A recent (within the last 3 months)report in the TOI stated that a majority of college students surveyed in the metros felt that it was okay for a husband to beat his wife.This view endorsed by urban, educated, female students is deeply disturbing.