For those, not familiar with TRPs - it is Total Rating Points, a completely market-driven/devised system that does not have a clearly defined algorithm or process - say, 1000 households surveyed could be used as the sample size to arrive at the television viewing pattern of millions. I deliberately keep it vague at millions because even the producers and broadcasters of most programming in India are clueless over who their real audience is..the marketing strategy and content-design are based primarily on the perceived audience or the target audience. Let's not get too technical here, I shall get to more populist issues. This brings me back to Satyamev Jayate - I think the strength of this show lies primarily in teasing those consider them to be thinking citizens to react - positive or negative - a reaction is worth its weight in gold, in today's scattered and highly fragmented watching patterns of the Indian junta. This post is my second one on Aamir Khan's television debut, within the first two weeks that his show has been on air!
My first post had examined what others think, what they said after watching the first episode that dealt with Sex -Determination and Female Foeticide. This post is on what I think, not just about the episode I watched, but of how we as a society at large, deal with uncomfortable truths. Watching the second episode on Child Sexual Abuse is discomfitting to say the least. I have no children at home, so I didn't have to be conscious of the impact the show would have on them. Several friends of mine tweeted or posted on Facebook that they were watching the show with their young children and they felt this was a show was one that needed to be watched with their kids, to make them aware, sensitised to the menace around. I am all for sensitising young children to the uncomfortable truths of life, sheltering them from the ills and perversions of the world only ends in adding to their naivete and not protecting their innocence. For this very reason, I do not believe in censoring internet or television viewing.
It is impractical to think we can bring up our children in the same manner we were brought up or the way our parents were - I have often heard that dialogue being pandered - we grew up alright, why not them? My answer is growing up depends not just on the nurturing at home, but there are several social factors that are not in the control of the individual. We need to strike a balance - while we continue to be socially mobile, are we going to lock our children away in a 'secure' environment that has little to do with our reality? Are iPads and laptops and mobile phones a bane and not a boon to life now?
I wonder how many of us can honestly claim to have had the most protective childhood without any shocks or uncomfortable truths buried deep in our mental closets?? Emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse are topics considered anathema in 'respectable' households, that means, if you are subjected to any of this, you might be pressured to think the fault lies inherently within you. The reason I say this is, these topics are never freely raised at homes in India. We don't grow up knowing adequately about our sexuality or what would justify as a sexual assault.
In spite of a rather unrestricted, liberal upbringing and a hyper-curious nature, for years I believed the version that my live-in maid ( a young girl in her late teens or early twenties) told me that if a man hugged me during the days of my period, I could fall pregnant! It took a lot of learning at school and unlearning pre-conceived notions to realise what gullible fools young girls can be! Young boys grow with their own set of insecurities, from when their voice breaks, if they are 'big' enough to pass peer scrutiny or if they sprout adequate facial hair to name just a few!
If I consider my upbringing as an above-average one, I can just extrapolate what would have been that of others. Gynaecology and Sexual Psychology are still words that are mumbled, if you try to make an example by talking of it openly, it is considered crass and 'unladylike' behaviour! Minor abuses that most children go through while growing up is quietly swept under the carpet, even by the child themselves. I don't think it is intrinsically an Indian tendency, although our conservative social standards mean that the whistleblower is deemed guilty till proven innocent.
Amidst all the regressive serials that we are now subjected to that have little more than time-pass value ( I won't even go as far as call it entertainment) and reality shows that are designed to titillate and introduce new words of abuse and denigration into our lexicon ( I agree these are words used regularly by the young, but the truth is the fairly large majority of youngsters pick up these words from television and not from their peers), I am relieved to see a show that forces you to put on your thinking caps. Throw stones, poke holes or even discredit the presentation, but in doing that you are actually constructively thinking about the issue. That to me is the success of Satyamev Jayate. I also think it is smart marketing to syndicate the show across vernacular channels too, increasing the target audience that can be reached.
I see the points raised by several who aren't impressed by the show, in fact, Aamir's theatrics at times lets down the serious intent of the show and it is difficult to forgive it as genuine and spontaneous and therefore left unedited. Ultimately it is an edited show and there is a super-starry film personality as an anchor. This is where the Oprah kind of comparison leaps into my head.
We have finally an Oprah Khan for Indian television. Had Aamir's team not resorted to retaining the anchor's emotional involvement with the subject, I feel the treatment would have elevated itself out of the comparitive box with Oprah's chat shows. I must admit I am a fan of Oprah's shows because she knows how to handle sensitive issues like child abuse. There are other topics she has made a hash of, but I willingly forgive the drama inherent because these are shows aimed at a larger good- Mobilise public opinion on topics that are otherwise those that are rarely raised. That Aamir has lent his personality to raising awareness and talking about these issues vindicates the fact that this is also a commercial venture for his production house. My question is so what? So what if he is making money? He is raising awareness, he is putting new topics on your discussion table,topics that are not about Saas, Bahu, Saazish or Who's sleeping with Who in the Bigg Boss house. If the facets raised of the ugly truths that our society is sluggish to acknowledge are not satisfactory or accurate in perspective, it opens up a plethora of opportunity to use the opening provided to discuss it threadbare or raise the level of activism over the issue. In all these reasons lie the reason why I vote for the show to be watched!