For as long as I can remember, I have hated South Asian culture’s inherent predisposition towards hiding the truth and avoiding reality. So imagine how unorthodox, yet thrilling it is to see a much-loved Bollywood celebrity take to national television in India for the sake of ensuring Satyamev Jayate (“Truth Alone Prevails”). Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate aims to tackle social issues in India by exposing topics and sparking discussions that would otherwise remain forever closeted.
This powerful show just started its second season. Its development was kept tightly under wraps, and in most interviews, Aamir Khan didn’t give much information about Satyamev Jayate at all. The basic premise was always tied to Aamir Khan’s goal to connect with “the lives of people of India.” Touted as the star’s small screen debut, all that the media seemed to know about this top secret talk show was that it would consist of stories about the common men and women of India.
Aamir Khan traveled all over India with his research team for the first season, and the 13 episodes from season one had topics ranging from female feticide to the dowry system to honor killings to substance abuse to rainwater harvesting. If the 100,000 callers who tried to call in to speak with Aamir Khan after the show’s series premiere were any indication, season one was hugely popular. The season two premiere was very anxiously anticipated by Satyamev Jayate’sfans.
As I buckled down to watch the first episode of the second season, a good friend warned me to “brace myself.” These words of The second season started off with an emotionally taxing bang.advice proved to be vital because the second season started off with an emotionally taxing bang — courtesy of 90 minutes focused on rape in India. Heart-wrenching interviews with the families of rape victims and interviews with courageous survivors were enough to bring anyone to tears. From the inefficient and often corrupt actions of the legal system to the horrendously incompetent methods of medical professionals, at every single level rape victims and their families face unrelenting discrimination.
Now over one year since the atrocious December 2012 Delhi gang rape, it seems as though very little has changed in India for victims of sexual violence. Watch this episode to see what kinds of solutions are suggested to tackle this multifaceted problem. However, that being said, suggestions are one thing. Nationwide implementation and behavior change are another.
Here’s a big Bollywood movie star who could have taken a stab at a number of different initiatives to tackle the societal problems faced by India — so why a television show? Recent data from the Government of India’s 15th national census in 2011 showed a 16 percent increase in the number of televisions in the surveyed homes compared to the census conducted in 2001. With over 100 million household televisions accounted for in this recent census, it goes without saying that Satyamev Jayate has the ability to reach far and wide across India.
To make the show even more accessible, the show’s May 2012 series premiere had special screenings on community televisions in The impact factor of ‘Satyamev Jayate’ has endless potential.selected villages, and the show is simultaneously broadcast in eight different languages across India. Given that the effect of cable television on women in rural India has been extensively studied and knowing that television in India has successfully changed both attitudes and behaviors in key populations — the impact factor of Satyamev Jayate has endless potential.
As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben so wisely stated: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” The show has become hugely popular and has supporters around the world but Satyamev Jayate is not without its detractors who think that Aamir Khan is neither responsibly nor effectively using his show to achieve any sustainable changes in Indian society.
I hope that Satyamev Jayate can move past its critics and foster meaningful discussions that will not only lift the veil from issues we so often like to avoid, but will also generate transformative actions in a country that has been stuck in societal stagnation for far too many years. Only time will tell if Satyamev Jayate will live up to such mammoth expectations.
Find out more about Satyamev Jayate on the official site. Let us know what you think about the show and its mission.
Farah Naz Khan is an internal medicine resident at Emory University. After graduating from college in Boston, she returned to her Alabama hometown to attend medical school, and was reunited with the mix of Southern hospitality and South Asian flair that had shaped her childhood. Follow her on Twitter @farah287 or read some of her thoughts at farah287.blogspot.com.