So Aamir Khan’s show has dealt a blow where it hurts the most. Are the makers of Kaun Banega Crorepati running scared? Maybe they’d be obliged to invite a few more tortured ravaged women to the hot seat to discuss their predicament with the empathetic host?
Like the ‘see’ of humanity last Sunday I also set aside my work (compared with Aamir’s crusader’s role, quite negligible, I have to admit) to watch our most influential contemporary entertainer don the mantle of the social reformer.
Or was it a mask? I ask, because after watching one miserably manhandled woman after another troop unobtrusively into the posh studio(air-conditioned, and insulated from extraneous noises) to speak in horrifically dispassionate tones of the tortures they’ve suffered, and survived to tell their tales, I wondered, was Aamir really getting the point? Could he feel the full or even partial impact of what these women had gone through for not delivering a male heir?
Much as we all love Aamir’s jihadi spirit, I don’t think he even began to grasp the enormity of women’s pain and suffering. Aamir’s expressions were a dead giveaway. Towards the beginning of the nightmarish recollections of lives lived on the edge, a lady with an expression that gave nothing away, said she went through 9 (or was it 10?) enforced abortions because Pati-dev wanted a beta.
So what does Aamir do when he hears the woman say she been thus so brutally commoditized for patriarchal purposes? He rattles of biological data on how the male partner determines the sex of the child.
Yeah, knowing that really helps women who get mauled and killed for delivering baby girls. Then Aamir did something straight out of his movies. He covered his mouth with both hands….a very common gesture of dismay in our films and one that Aamir probably used in Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti when, say, Soha Ali Khan’s boyfriend died in an aircrash. It’s an expression that method actors practice in front of the mirror .
Playing the role of reformer is not easy. Aamir has mastered the art. Sadly the mastery showed up on camera on that historical Sunday morning. His influence in the field of cinema is undoubtedly exemplary. And honestly, if I had to choose one entertainer to take us through the horrors that pervade lives in non-urban cultures I’d choose Aamir.
He has the clout. And the gravitas. Lamentably he just couldn’t bring enough genuine feeling to the table when he spoke to the victims of female foeticide in the first episode of his long awaited serial Satyamev Jayate.
And it’s not entirely his fault. The role of the crusader seemed to have been embossed on his sleeve rather than his soul. The lines were rehearsed, as they had to be. You can’t film misery without pre-written lines. And that’s where the difference of perception crept in. The women who had suffered hadn’t rehearsed their lines. Their appalling experiences seeped out of their lacerated souls. The tears had dried up. Unfortunately the camera doesn’t respect invisible tears. Our host had to keep that in mind. TRPs are important too, you know.
It’s too early to say which way Satyamev Jayate would finally go. The first episode, though brave and thought provoking, was disappointing in its lack of genuine connectivity between the host and the victims of social atrocity. No doubt Aamir has his heart in the right place. Not even the hardest cynic would doubt his sincerity of purpose.
But Aamir just doesn’t get it. To get a feel of murk one needs to step personally into the slush. At the moment Aamir is happy to be just watching the show from the sidelines. Maybe in the coming weeks he would plunge into the Great Indian Muddle Class to actually feel what those wretchedly tortured lives felt when they were forced to kill their babies. Or boys who are forced to sleep with producers to get roles in Bollywood. I ‘m hoping one of the forthcoming episodes would deal with that.
At the moment Satyamev Jayate looks like a product of elitist conscientiousness . It may grow into the movement that Aamir hopes it would. Hope, after all, is the Indian middleclass dope for survival.
Giving away the whistle-inducing fee he has received for anchoring this praiseworthy show to the victims who play stellar roles in the show, would certainly shut up the cynics.
When Oprah addresses unhappy lives she brings to the studio years of charitable work and a kind of keen apprehension of the mechanics of gender and fiscal prejudice.
Aamir doesn’t quite fit in. The spirit is willing. But the connectivity is weak.