Sunday, June 10, 2012

Satyamev Jayate

Satyameva Jayate, which literally translates to 'Truth Stands Invincible' but is popularly known as 'Truth Alone Triumphs'

In the past month and a half, it has gone on from being a phrase on the National Emblem to the name of a 'revolutionary' television show hosted by the actor/social activist Aamir Khan. The show deals with one social issue in every episode. It has dealt with Female Feticide, Child Sex Abuse, Dowry, Unethical Doctors, Inter Caste Marriages and Disability. 

The show is being touted as being 'revolutionary'. It is said to have made the 'idiot box' intelligent and smart. People wake up early (11am) just to watch this show!  Well, sorry to burst your social activist bubble but some of the presumptions you have about the show are just myths. 

Myth 1:  The show reaches out to everyone and unifies Indians against one social evil every Sunday. 

In India, television penetration is less than 25%. It means more than 750 million people in India have never seen Satyamev Jayate. So claiming that it is unifying India against a social evil is not correct. It is infact not reaching out to EVERYONE. To compare it with other shows, a newspaper article stated that Kaun Banega Crorepati's all seasons had higher average viewership than any episode of Satyamev Jayate. Yes, even the season that SRK hosted. Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chasma is almost as famous as Satyamev Jayate.

Myth 2: It's not just the show, its the discussions that take place at everyone's house after the show that are the real contribution of the show. 

Discussions don't take place in all homes. It is only a marginal number of homes in which meaningful discussions take place. Also, the homes in which discussions are taking place are the homes which would not follow any of the social evils even if the show was not aired! Discussions would have been fruitful if they happened in a home where change was required. A 'modern' home, where all family members follow social norms and are, to a greater extent, ethical, will not really benefit from just a discussion. 

Myth 3:  Satyamev Jataye is not biased towards any side and give a complete picture of the situation. 

The show takes a side. I am not sure why a show which is discussing real problems in the society needs to be a monologue. Why not give the other party a chance to explain their side of the story? Ofcourse, people who ask for dowry and kill unborn children are never going to defend their actions but what about doctors and offices which apparently 'discriminate' against disabled people?  I am sure they have a logical and reasonable argument for all the accusations that are made against them on the show. Bring them in. Make it a meaningful discussion and not a sob fest. In a few episodes, there have been grave factual errors. Statistics are often interpreted in such a way that they support their cause.

Myth 4: Aamir Khan/ Satyamev Jayate were instrumental in the getting the The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 passed in the parliament. 

If you really believe an episode on television is all it takes to push the parliament to pass a legislation then you are mistaken. Social activists do make a significant contribution to some legislations but Satyamev Jataye had nothing to do with the passing of this Bill. I have been told that a few NGOs had been demanding for this legislation to be passed for more than 5-6 years now. They are the ones who should get the credit for it. Their work in the field is substantial and has been going on for a long time.

Myth 5: Aamir Khan is the Anna Hazare that works. 

Aamir Khan has been involved in many social issues over the years. Be it the rehabilitation for people affected by Narmada Canal or Gujarat Riots or Farmer suicides. I was really happy when I saw that a 'Star' was making good use of his power. I was disappointed when I later realised that his interest in the first two issues diminished once Fanna released and in the third issue once Peepli Live released. My respect for him was revived when he went to support Anna Hazare but instead of shouting anti-government slogans, he urged people to stand for elections and vote for the right people. Alas, it was just a one off incident. 

I am often accused of being anti Aamir and I don't disagree. I don't like him and this might be reflected in the post. I have tried to give reasons for most of the things stated so as to convince you that I don't dislike the show because I don't like Aamir. I think the show is given more credit then it deserves. Just like Aamir Khan. I would have loved it if Aamir would have encouraged people to participate in the democracy and improve the system from within instead of fighting it. Awareness is important but implementing laws is an altogether different ball game. People now watch an episode and send a SMS to a ridiculous question at the end of it and they feel that their work towards the society is done. If Aamir Khan has the power and the conviction to bring about change in the people and the society and if he has the support of a lot of people, why no contest elections or even support a candidate whom best represents his views? For eg in Hollywood, look at Arnold. 

Preparing a script and making a show is easy. Everyone can whine. It's working to solve the problems that separate the men from the boys (or the women from the girls). Working on these issues in real life is difficult. There are a lot of organisations out there who are working tireless to solve problems. They do not get enough credit for their work. They are the unsung heroes of the country. 

P.S. : I am, in no way suggesting that Satyamev Jayate has done nothing good. I am also not saying that it is not working for the society. I am just saying that for the amount of attention and praise it is getting, it is not doing that big a job. There is scope for a lot of improvement.

P.P.S. : For all those who tweet about Satyamev Jayate, #SMJ is incorrect. It's Satyam Eva Jayate and not Satya Meva Jayate. 

Jai Hind! 


  1. Wondering what is the reach of your blog, how many families will discuss after reading it and what is going to change on the show by your myth breaking..
    Cynicism is welcome not always. At least few people are watching it and discussing. At least some people might get moved by this effort. At least someone is trying. Instead of dancing in a shaadi or checking IQ of others by reading from a computer...

  2. Okay, this is interesting.

    #1 - "It is infact not reaching out to EVERYONE."

    Very true. Obviously, only those with access to television, are watching the show. However, I think that something that is reaching out to even 25%, heck, 10% of the population, is worth appreciating. The disadvantaged do not need to be shown how disadvantaged they are - the advantaged are the ones who need to watch. In my opinion, the target audience is exactly the section of population who ARE watching it.

    #2 - "the homes in which discussions are taking place are the homes which would not follow any of the social evils even if the show was not aired"

    Child abuse. I think that episode hit the nail on the head. You would be surprised at the prevalence of abuse in most affluent and what you call "modern" homes. That was an issue that cut across economic, social and ethnic stratas of society, and I completely disagree with your premise that "modern" families are somehow immune to social evils.

    Your criticism is well-reasoned. I agree with your emphasis on NGOs and individuals who have been working against the problems in society for years, and the credit and support they deserve. But Aamir Khan is, well, Aamir Khan - He's an actor, he has a job, he earns his living. In my opinion, he could have been earning crores per week doing any random advertisement or endorsement (reference SRK or Big B doing Navratan tel ads), but he chose to make his airtime worthwhile, and I find that commendable. Awareness may not materialize as visible change anytime soon, but the value of awareness should not be undermined, and any medium of spreading it must be given due appreciation.

  3. Abhinav: I have clarified in the post script that I am in no way saying that the show is not doing anything at all. My prime concern is that people are treating it like a universal solution to all problems. They should not feel that sensationalying issues is the way to solve them. My blog has a very limited reach but then I don't claim that my blog makes a difference. This is more like a personal diary. :)

    Asmita: The problem is that all those who can make a difference are watching the show, sending an SMS, discussing it to a certain extent and then forgetting about it. It's a flash in the pan.

    Also, the double quotes around the word modern was supposed to make the statement ironic. I am not saying modern families are immune to social evils. I could not put it properly and hence the confusion. Apologies.

    I am afraid I cannot like Aamir Khan as of now. I would have liked it if he would have fought till the end for farmers or dam victims or riot victims. If he really wants to make a difference then why not stay till the problem is solved? Why stop worrying about it once the ulterior motive is satisfied? Medha Patkar is a crazy woman but atleast she has stood by her cause since the beginning. She is committed to the cause. Aamir is, unfortunately, not.

  4. I know that your concern is the people who believe that this show will make everything perfect. Of course it won't. My point is that there is no one in Movie Industry who is even trying. Aamir has a different job. He can only initiate. It is upto us that how we take it froward.

  5. "My respect for him was revived when he went to support Anna Hazare but instead of shouting anti-government slogans, he urged people to stand for elections and vote for the right people."

    "I would have loved it if Aamir would have encouraged people to participate in the democracy and improve the system from within instead of fighting it."

    Your statements in the post have contradicted the idea on which your post floats..

    Harsh N. Parekh

  6. Abhinav: Then let's not give him credit of changing the country even before anything substantial has been done by him or people inspired by him.

    Harsh: They seem contradictory when read together but read them in the circumstances that I have used them in. During the Anna Hazare support speech, he talked sense and was trying to direct the people in the right way but that was unfortunately just a one off incident. I wish he would do it more often.

  7. I agree with the comments. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion. Thanks for a detailed and well substantiated opinion which is valuable.

    The fact of the matter remains that social evils need to be dealt with social change, which is slow and tiresome. It requires the efforts of not one Aamir Khan but everyone who can spare even 'two cents' of time and effort(even if it is the two spare months you have before the release date of your movie or the materialising of an important project in office). It will take decades and maybe the entire lifetime of you and me. But the movement needs to grow and reach out and Satyameva Jayate is a great platform for isn't the only one.

    PS: I think that your opening statement might be incorrect. I have studied Sanskrit and "Satyam Eva Jayate" would literally (word for word) translate to "truth Alone Triumphs" or in hind "sach hi jitta hai". I could be wrong as I am not a scholar in Sanskrit but it is worth checking.

  8. Ishani: I think I have said everything I have to about the points that you have raised so I don't have anything more to add. With regard to the Sanskrit translation, I took it from Wikipedia. You might be right. :)

  9. "My respect for him was revived when he went to support Anna Hazare but instead of shouting anti-government slogans, he urged people to stand for elections and vote for the right people"

    He was indeed promoting democracy and rule of law. He was inspiring people to improve the system from within instead of fighting it. That is what you want him to do. So I still dint understand your problem with him in the anna hazare movement. Or did u want him to be fighting and be undemocratic instead !!

  10. New thing to consider...after his show covering manual scavengers, the railways has announced a policy which will reduce its reliance on manual scavengers to a great degree - that is policy influence...

  11. Harsh: I liked that act but that's it. This is not about Aamir Khan. Lets just focus on the show.

    Anon: That policy has been announced many years ago. It's not because of the show. There have been lots of NGOs who have been working to stop manual scavenging. Do not take credit away from them.

  12. hats off aamir ji you are real hero i like this satyamev jayate show


IndiBlogger - The Indian Blogger Community