(MY COLUMN ON SATYAMEV JAYATE IN SAHARA TIMES)
Aamir Khan is no longer just a hero. He is a phenomenon.
I attribute Aamir’s achievements to his simplicity. Aamir is not a complicated man and that is the chief reason why he is acceptable to audiences of all kinds belonging to different demographics. He reaches out to everyone through his work and through his presence on various media with a comfort, an effortlessness which relaxes those who watch him, hear him and absorb him, instead of exhausting them.
It was ages ago when I first met Aamir at a preview of his film Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin, at Dimple Theater, Pali Hill, Bandra, when I used to be an assistant director and I remember clearly that he sat outside chewing on his nails while others watched the movie inside the theater. At the end when everyone stepped out, Mahesh Bhatt hugged Aamir and told him not to worry because all those who had watched the film had loved it, so there was no reason for them to believe that that they had left any stone unturned while making the film, and Aamir had smiled quietly at everyone who congratulated him for his performance and stepped out.
I have never met Aamir Khan after that but followed him through media all along and watched almost every film which he had starred in. More than being a versatile actor, I believe that he is a versatile thinker. Over the years as he grew up, Aamir has understood the power he wields as a star and has steered himself and all his actions towards impacting people through some of the work he does and some that he supports. At the same time he realizes that in order to do that he needs to continue to be a star, therefore the Ghajini’s and the Dhoom 3’s carry on dominating the repertoire he is and will keep on building.
Having been in the business of television from the time of its emergence in India and having been one with its growth, I am but by default, a keen observer of what plays out in its universe on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. So when film stars began to see the commercial sense it makes to be a performer on the small screen, starting with Mr. Bachchan in KBC and settling down with Salman Khan’s, and now paired with Sanjay Dutt’s, tom foolery on Bigg Boss, I have seen many succeed and many fail. I believe, and stand firm by my belief that it is not a star that works on television.
It is a format, which either works, or doesn’t.
And no one other than Aamir Khan and Mr. Bachchan know it better. As the publicity of their respective show’s tears through media and grabs eyeballs for the release of their respective first episodes, they are both aware of the responsibility they have shouldered, and that is what drives them and keeps them working at it to make their audience not just stay, but to swell as well.
They know that television audiences are whimsical, that they are quirky. They know that if the format they choose to do is not sustainable, they will fail.
So when I first heard of Satyamev Jayate, and then heard that it was slotted to be broadcast on a Sunday morning, I knew that there was a thinking that had gone in here, and I know that a gap had been found which needed to be filled. I knew that it was going to be the revival of Sunday morning entertainment for an average Indian family which had been lost in the TRP driven madness that had gripped the media and marketing industries of our business, for them to have considered weekday evening’s as the only available prime time, for so many years now. I still remember watching Mashoor Mahal, Mahabharat and Ramayan when I had just about started my career. I still so know that good television and progressive television is what average television viewers want despite statistics proving and speaking otherwise.
Star TV and Aamir Khan have pulled off a coup of sorts. Not just because they have a fabulous program, now a yearly format, in place, but also because they have propelled the industry which had got lost in those woods which were crowding with money growing trees, back to the realization that television is a powerful medium which has the ability to change lives, change the way people think.
At this juncture, when India is poised to become a global power, and when the biggest road block it faces is corruption, there could not be a better time to release a show, on a Sunday morning when everybody can watch, a show that can have enough impact on minds of the viewers to change them, a vehicle designed to monitor change as it takes place.
In the life of Indian Television, there have been four defining moments so far.
One was when India’s first long running soap opera Hum Log gripped the nation with its perspective on the changing Indian middle class in the early nineteen eighty’s, followed by Buniyaad and the rip roaring comedy, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. The second came with the advent of Satellite Television in the early nineteen nineties when Zee TV emerged with a path breaking Tara which defined the contemporary urban Indian woman. The third defining moment which rocked the space and stopped the clock from ticking, that clutched at our conscience and has left us feeling guilty forever, was the era of the long winding saas bahu saga’s that came straddled on the KBC horse. Thankfully KBC remained and regressive fare was abandoned by the discerning Indian viewer.
And the fourth defining life altering moment for us to recognize is Aamir Khan’s and Star Networks Satyamev Jayate.
Not just has the clock been fixed and time started rolling again, it is a moment in time for all of us to realize that a nation progresses if its television progresses and a nation regresses, if its television regresses.
All those sitting on high chairs blindly depending upon statistics, must understand, that if it was only numbers which determined success and failure, numbers that decided what was relevant as opposed to what was not, then they should be on a holiday and let their drivers do their jobs.