Thursday, 24 May 2012

Bollywood Loses the Plot and Trivialises the Issue

Film stars discovering themselves on television shows, be it reality shows, chat shows or even soaps, is not a recent phenomenon. There is also nothing novel about the media frenzy — doctored without doubt — surrounding it. These days with TV rivalling cinema as we know it there isn’t much surprise that many film stars — even the so-called superstars — are testing new waters. Even though only a handful of these film stars who have ventured into the small screen have tasted success, it nevertheless is still a very enchanting milieu.
The entry of Aamir Khan — last of the troika Khans in Bollywood to do so — with an ‘Oprah Winfrey type show’ into every Indian living room was pitched sky-high. Three episodes old Satyamev Jayate is the talk of the town — or at least that is what the media keeps reminding us by saying that the show has broken all known records on TV viewing records and has forced law-makers take decisions.
It is telecast at the ‘Mahabarat’ slot —11 am on Sunday. Telecasting at a coveted timing, however, will alone not do the trick. Unlike the epic, Satyamev Jayate does not have drama, grandeur and flamboyance. What it has, instead, is an artificial, thrust-down-your-throat packaging of reality. If the producers of Satyamev Jayate thought they could replicate the Mahabarat success, it only goes to show their overconfidence in their marketing genius. Mahabarat is an Indian epic, with almost all the essential ingredients to keep one glued to the TV. That it was based on a religious text helped in its success.
Satyamev Jayate, on the other hand, speaks about taboo issues that are unfortunately prevalent in our society but none would want to address. This in no way is to undermine the importance of the topics that are discussed, but how many people would want to spend a lazy Sunday morning listening to issues that many cringe at?
The promoters of the show have heavily relied on the image of Aamir Khan as a crusader for social causes and have taken great pains to show that the issues discussed are close to his heart. The fact that female foeticide is close to the actor’s heart will make good Page 3 news or will make headlines in news channels that have unashamedly blurred the lines between news and entertainment. The question is: how does it matter to someone who is taking such a decision, wrong as it is, either due to ignorance or pressing circumstances whether Aamir Khan is against the practice? Film stars or celebrities have not been able to create such a profound impact in society. If that was the case, law and order would have been much better in the country given the number of police-officer roles the popular film stars have portrayed.
In the effort of covering Aamir Khan in an activist armour the promoters of Satyamev Jayate have actually done harm to his image as an entertainer. That, one presumes, explains the clarification given by the actor shortly after first episode of Satyamev Jayate stating that he was just an ‘entertainer’. It perhaps seems that it was seen as necessary to disassociate the ‘star’ from the ‘cause’, not because the ‘cause’ was not worthy to be associated with the ‘star’ but because contrary to expectations the ‘cause’ was hampering the image of the ‘star’.

An overkill of activism is eating into the ‘entertainment’ quotient Aamir Khan is commanding, and there is little argument that projects he is associated with are the most anticipated ones in Bollywood. In addition to the quality of the film and publicity surrounding it, what gives an Amir Khan movie an edge is the fact that unlike many other stars there is a certain invisibility about the actor from the public eye and rampant speculation about the project/film. Satyamev Jayate brings him in the news almost every day, into the living room space and thereby killing an anticipation that earlier existed. One wonders how this will affect his Talaash, which is now slated for a November 2012 release and by then Satyamev Jayate would have run its whole season and Aamir Khan would have addressed almost all social evils in the country. Would this constant reminder of what ails our society hamper Aamir Khan’s glow? After all, who likes someone who always points out the mistakes in us?
Finally, recent news reports linking Satyamev Jayate to Parliament passing a Bill on child molestation and Rajasthan seriously considering addressing female foeticide is wrong on two counts. First, it trivialises these important social evils. One only wishes addressing these issues was such an easy task. Secondly, to say that our politicians wake up and take note only if celebrities speak is a sad state of affairs.