Commentary: Star’s bold and the beautiful act with Satyamev Jayate

Some may call it the mother of all reality shows. The truth is that Satyamev Jayate goes far beyond the run-of-the-mill reality shows. It may well turn out to be a serious social game changer

By Kalyan Kar


May 7, 2012

It is no mean achievement for a GEC channel to remain the genre leader almost eternally. Something has got to be working for it, and it has to be content at the end of the day. On Sunday morning, May 6, 2012, Star India proved once again that it is the king of good content, and by the same token, content will always be king in the mad race for TRPs. After weeks of marketing and multidimensional promotion, the channel aired the first episode of ‘Satyamev Jayate’, which also marked Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan’s classy debut on the small screen. Some may call it the mother of all reality shows. The truth is that Satyamev Jayate goes far beyond the run-of-the-mill reality shows. It may well turn out to be a serious social game changer – something that all the ubiquitous, meaningless saas-bahu soaps across all GEC channels have never come anywhere near to achieving.

The strength of the show, if one were to go by the first episode yesterday, is that it aims to go down as an effort that could make a strong social impact, set viewers thinking, and lead to a social movement with people’s participation. It is not a ‘TRP only’ kind of show, though the TRPs are bound to come. More importantly, Star India once again showed that a TV channel can be bold and yet be beautiful and effective. With Satyamev Jayate, Star has boldly made a move to capture the forgotten Sunday morning slot when the entire family used to be glued to TV sets across the country for Ramayan and Mahabharat. Somewhere along the way, Doordarshan lost the plot, and Star has now decided to recapture that golden time slot which was a TRP dream. There was a strong social, moral and philosophical message that the Ramayan and Mahabharat epics gave to viewers. Satyamev Jayate too has a similar message, but with contemporary relevance.

That Satyamev Jayate has kicked off in great style with a strong connect with viewers can be gauged from the fact the official website of the show reportedly crashed shortly after the show began airing. And those given to twitting went into overdrive. I did come across two interesting tweets. Vikram Sakhuja of GroupM tweeted: “#Satyamev Jayate has the potential to bring out a social transformation. Strongly recommended viewing.” And T Gangadhar of MEC wrote: “Success of #SatyamevJayate is not its ratings but in its enormous potential to generate conversations. Something no show has ever achieved.” Both these comments sum up the true worth of the show. Let’s not forget, these are the people who will finally dole out clients’ money for ad slots on the show.

Aamir Khan is very much a part of Bollywood’s commercial syndrome. But he is different from the other two Khans: he is more serious, he is not about rippling biceps or six-pack abs. He is a sensitive actor with a mind that has shown an inclination to grapple with social issues, a citizen at heart who is pained at what is happening in society. Most importantly, he is far more credible in these situations. The show, mercifully, is bereft of the mindless histrionics that one gets to see on many other shows of a similar nature – couples squabbling and cussing at each other on air while a celebrity sits in judgment trying to resolve ugly family or marital problems. Satyamev Jayate is bigger in scope. It promises to take up contemporary social issues that portend a grim future for Indian society. It is well-researched. And it also takes the last-mile approach in trying to actively catalyse people’s participation for positive action on the ground. Yes, this “jadoo ki chhadi” is a clincher that takes this show to a different level.

The research is commendable. Didn’t most of us – the so-called urban, educated class – suffer from the notion that female foeticide is a rural phenomenon? Aamir proved us wrong – with sound statistics and case studies. He succeeded in shaking us out of our stupor: that the biggest culprits in our anachronistic society are the educated ones – doctors, for instance, in the case of female foeticide.

A chance conversation with Sudha Natrajan of Lintas Initiative Media last evening brought forth this response: “It is slickly produced, well edited, hence gripping. Very relevant issues chosen, no rambling whatsoever, each word, each sequence was uttered and included carefully. The show ends on a note of positive action. It takes up a couple of cases for perusal and solving, as short-term result, and gives possible simple solutions for the long term. All in all, quite effective. But one word of caution: I hope the larger Indian public can keep their interest up and involved for 13 episodes on bright, laid-back Sunday mornings, because this is not really Mahabharat, which was an out and out entertainer.”

I am not given to spending 90 minutes in front of the TV to watch a family show. For me, television is for watching football, cricket, and news. But this Sunday I did. It reminded me of those long forgotten Sunday mornings more than two decades ago when I used to live in Kolkata, making sure I didn’t miss a single episode of Ramayan and Mahabharat. Has the wheel turned a full circle for the Sunday morning slot? I would like to think so. Why else would I have missed a home-baked cake yesterday? My wife promised to bake one – after years. She kept her promise all right, but the cake did not look like a baked item this time! I don’t blame her: she too was glued for 90 minutes in front of the telly, mesmerised by Aamir Khan ’s debut episode. Satyamev Jayate!


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