May 062012


After almost 3.5 years I turned on my parents’ TV set today to watch Aamir Khan’s show Satyameva Jayate. I must confess upfront that i am not an Aamir fan – i find his films terribly self indulgent, I find his projected persona very tiresome & self righteous. I far preferred the fun Aamir Khan from the QSQT and Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar days. Its almost as though something has sucked away all the fun and spontaneity out of him, and left us with this pontificating figure.

Having said that, i was curious about Satyameva Jayate, especially given that industry at large was scratching its collective head at both the timing (11 am on a Sunday Morning) and the content (serious, chat show, with no embellishment. Real people, real clothes, little make up – a show that puts the real back in reality). Many I spoke to, some as late as yesterday evening, were not sure if the show will be accepted by the audience.

Today’s episodes was on the desire for a male child and the accepted, though illegal,  practise of female foeticide. It is one thing knowing the data. It is quite another hearing a woman talk about her in-laws who forced her to abort 6 foetuses because they were female. It is one thing to know about a woman being hit, it is quite another to see the scarred face in extreme close up as well as pictures that showed the face when it was all stitched up. The woman’s crime – giving birth to a girl. The show also took head on the myth that female foeticide is rife in villages. It is not. It is practised just as much amongst my neighbours as yours. Statistics show that the richer localities have fewer daughters than the poorer ones. A clip during the show revealed the prevalence of an organised cartel in Rajasthan that provided end to end service in female foeticide. But it was not just about the doom and gloom – it talked about how one DC of Navashehar in Punjab reversed the trend. Solutions are important. Problems are known but is it all beyond hope? no. and that is what is refreshing about this show.

Nothing presented in the show was new. What was new, however, was the approach. First person accounts of brutality suffered or loss endured are infinitely more powerful than experts in studios pontificating. Our journalists should take a leaf out of Aamir’s interviewing style – let the other person talk. The stories were heart breaking. Yet, the courage of these women was totally inspiring. There was nary a trace of self pity or negativity. these are women who give me hope and courage. Sometimes it takes a celebrity to drive a point home. Just as it took Amitabh Bachchan to drive home the point of giving kids polio drops.

The other thing that was very interesting was the treatment, starting with the  nature of the Set.  This is not a chrome and steel, post modern set with sharp edges. It is an old fashioned set in comfortable, non obtrusive  colours and with soft curves. Aamir is apart from the audience and yet is a part of it. The use of space and spatial distances – either by default or design – is very well done. Also interesting was the way it was shot and edited. No jerky camera movement, no ramped up shots. No extreme close ups. The technique was almost old fashioned. No jumping cameras, no racing trollys, no jimmy gibs, clean shots, clean edits… soft dissolves. a hark back to older, maybe nicer values.

This show is setting an agenda by using three things – a) Star value of Aamir Khan b) Star value of Star TV to reach an urban and semi urban household via satellite and cable, and finally c) Doordarshan for reaching households that don’t get satellite and cable. Hopefully a substantial chunk of the audience would be covered. For those of us who consume news on a regular basis most of the revelations are passe. but most of India does not consume news. At the height of the Anna movement last year, news consumption peaked at 11% of the total audience. While people may be aware that there is female foeticide in their family or neighbourhood – the stories don’t really hit home.

What is the reaction to the show? At home rapt attention. Friends of mine have liked it. many I know have spent their Sunday morning watching TV after almost a decade or so.  On twitter, a whole bunch liked the show. In fact most on my time line did. Then there were the moaners, those who wondered about the cost per 10 seconds and Aamir’s fees and the cost of production … not any issue with the show perse … am not even sure if they watched – but issues with the motivations of others.  Yet others were asking questions about Aamir’s religion and secularism . (yeah, there are those kinds as well). Reminds me a bit of the old Hans Christian Anderson Story of the Snow Queen - people who have a splinter of the mirror stuck in their heart and can only see an ugly world. But, hey it is a free country – and people are entitled to their misery and cynicism. And i am entitled to turn away from them and look at the sunshine streaming onto my face.

I am glad that Aamir Khan  has decided to produce & anchor a show like this. Am glad that the number one channel in this country has decided to move away from high pitched drama into sombre programming. I am grateful that it runs on Doordarshan. It has been a long time since Indian Broadcasting worked in the public interest – i hope that this marks the point at which the which an adoloscent industry goes towards adulthood by not just creating content aimed at titilating the lowest common denominator, but also at bringing the lowest common denominator a notch higher

And finally, Ram Sampath & Swanand Kirkire – o ri chiraya

May 182008

Stuff that made me – in no particular order – think, chortle, smirk, snigger , slurp, nod my head wisely. I shan’t identify which is what …coz it will be fun a year later to figure :)

a) Economic Woman
looks at different ways to see the world through worldmapper. The current way of seeing the world – even geographically – is skewed. Europe looks a whole lot bigger than it is, Australia a whole lot smaller. Even geography is politically appropriate.

b) TRP’s (or the equivalent) for Youtube - except that given the nature of the net it will be more accurate than TRP’s (which depend a lot on human intervention in terms of monitoring) – whether it manages to capture the vastness of the TG and it’s propensity to make things up on the net is a different matter.

c) It is nice to see the Indian Government get it right . It has been twice in a row that it has bucked international hype and saved itself from wasting more of tax payer money. The first was a reticence on the SWF . The second was staying away from the $100 laptop project. I remember having a conversation in 1995 with someone who wanted to put a computer in every rural school in India in the next 12 months — and the question I had was basic “Where is the electricity ?”. A vision is a great idea, but as SR put it once — to have sight (of issues) is as important.

d) The trouble with blogging is that you tell a lot about yourself to the world. Sometimes, when you decide to take potshots at others — you also end up revealing your immaturity…. Aamir Khan and the Big B blog ! Both seem to be obsessed with Shah Rukh Khan … I wonder why ? Oops … ok I didn’t read this earlier … That couldn’t have been easy …! Wow – in today’s day and age …it is nice to see such grace.

e) Salary delay for IPL stars - :) As part of the entertainment media they ought to know that normal payment terms are 60 to 90 days after telecast !

f) And, finally – it’s not the age, but the mileage :)
Image courtsey ( i hope) – Cricinfo.

Sannath Jaysuriya has been having a blast…..

May 262006

….on something and refuses to back down. In a country where backtracking seems to be the norm in public life, it is refreshing to see the occassional exhibition of a spinal cord. I hope that [tag]Aamir Khan[/tag] refusing to apologise to the BJP for his comments on the [tag]Narmada resettlement[/tag] issue kickstarts a sort of civic activism.

"If I speak for the rights of a poor farmer displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam project, what wrong do I do? If a political party faults me in this, I won’t apologise. Instead, I think it shows the apathy they harbour for such concerns"

So true. The political class find it so easy to run roughshod over those who don’t buy their agenda.