Of the Bollywood Khans, only Aamir has any pretence to an intellect. Of the others, Salman is basically an imbecile on steroids, and Shahrukh is no more than a performing monkey! Why then does Aamir’s well intentioned crusade on TV leave one rather cynical?
Satyam-eva-jayate (Truth-alone-triumphs) has seen four episodes by now, and is already beginning to drag. Despite Aamir’s copious tears (he’s paid a whopping Rs 4 crores to shed them every Sunday) the angst looks a bit put on, the outrage of the studio audience a tad staged, the solutions a bit too pat, and – as was the case of the `branded versus generic medicines’ debate – the issues too dangerously over simplified!
True, the show seems to have captured the public imagination, and apparently some somnolent state governments have stirred awake to issues that are certainly not novel.
My problem lies in the over kill. The reactions of the studio audience are pitch perfect – from tears to shock to anger to disgust, it’s all too pat. The background score too is tailored to effectively reflect these emotions, and the live performance at the end of the show, meant to convey a `feel good’ factor, is too `Bollywood’. In one episode, a winsome Sridevi sashayed on to the stage, and actually signed a pledge or a petition of sorts!
Heightened emotion makes for great television viewing. Cathartic revelations, shocking testimonies, interviews with experts, cutaways of a shocked or tearful studio audience, with the host himself sometimes wiping away a tear or covering his mouth or shaking his head in disbelief – all accompanied by a weepy background score. Great! But there’s the danger of the whole thing looking too `put on’, of a fictional element intruding into a non fictional show!
The other – and major – problem I have with the show is that it is blatantly and totally one sided! The `culprits’ have no say, no chance to offer a different perspective if not a defence. A husband or a doctor is painted jet black, and that’s it – surely if his side was given a hearing, things would appear more balanced! The show pillories its targets so relentlessly and ham-handedly, I for one was left with a feeling closer to fatigue rather than outrage.
Aamir Khan is being touted as India’s Oprah Winfrey, but in terms of impact it’s too early to say how much his show will actually achieve. None of what he projects is really news to his audience, nor is there a feeling that a workable solution to the problem is being offered! The viewers, therefore, are left only slightly more sensitised to problems that are already quite familiar. Asking them to text in their answers to `Yes’ or `No’ questions that are so obviously loaded is, at best, infantile!
Aamir Khan may be a star with a conscience, but maybe he’s pandering to a nation that mistakes its anxieties for a conscience!