We don’t know how much the uglier side of India will change because of Aamir Khan. Will tear-wiping add up to social transformation or at least the beginning of it? There have been inspirational real stories on entertainment television in the past –old timers will remember the wonderful series called Pukaar which featured Neena Gupta among others, and was eagerly followed across income groups. But the bestiality which pock-marks our society is still there.
It is interesting that the central point being made by the industry, Khan’s fellow actors, and the tweeting class is that he is doing some path-breaking for commercial television’s TRP hang ups. He is demonstrating formula breakers. The ad and marketing world is full of admiration for the least-conforming Bollywood Khan. This Midas man is going to show us the ugly side of India and Indians and deliver gold from it, on not one but several channels including Doordarshan! Wah Ustaad. A full half hour of advertising rides on what is actually one hour of programming.
This with a subject reserved for documentary film makers. By the time he is done with thirteen episodes the poor things will have had their territory well and truly invaded by the crass world of commercial television.
And what exactly is the point of Aamir’s ads being off air for the duration of his TV debut, as we have been told? To demonstrate that he doesn’t want to make money off presenting social evils? Everybody else is, including the Star channels. They have to, to recover the Rs 3 crore plus per episode that Khan’s company gets for making the show. So smitten are we all with this sainted performance that carping will seem like bad form but somewhere in those sixty minutes Khan’s crack research team should have told us there is a law for this offence which was passed in 1994, named it, and talked about how it should be used to complain. (If he did I missed it.) But they suggested a more dramatic option instead. We need to wait and see whether the newly awakened Indian will rush off letters to the chief minister of Rajasthan asking for action against the culpable doctors in that state. Or whether he will move on to his Sunday lunch and wait for the next week’s show.
Aamir Khan has make some great movies for Indian audiences. They did not change the world. Now he is bringing us what he hopes is meaningful television. Nor will this. But the TRP universe may see the beginning of change. That could be the real significance of Satyamev Jayate.