India, Media, Real People »
June 6, 2012 | 1 Comment | Betsy Woodman
Satyamev Jayate—“Truth Alone Prevails.” This is the official motto of India—and the title of a new Indian TV talk show created and hosted by Bollywood superstar and producer Aamir Khan. The show is being hailed as nothing less than revolutionary for its frank discussion of social problems sometimes swept under the rug. It debuted May 6.
The first four topics were selective abortions of females and the resulting gender imbalance in India, sexual abuse of children, the dowry system and how it tyrannizes young brides and their parents, and medical fraud and malpractice.
“Is Love a Crime?” was the latest and most emotionally charged episode. It chronicled the sufferings of young people who have married outside the traditional boundaries set by their sect or caste. Featured were relatives of the couple murdered in 2007 in the infamous Manoj-Babli “honour killing” case. Also appearing—and dramatically highlighting the conflict between tradition and modernity—were the members of a “khap panchayat,” or village council. These five stern old men maintained that young lovers who married of their own accord were out of their minds with lust and should indeed be punished (although they denied condoning murder.)
Lest this all seem pretty grim, each show has also featured social workers, civil servants, professors, and others dedicating their lives to eliminating these evils, and people who have triumphed and found happiness in the face of tremendous societal pressures.
The guests are from widely different walks of life, and typically have a resilient, life-affirming attitude. The most humble of them speak with poise and dignity—and with incredible courage.
Broadcast in India on Sunday mornings, the show is reaching not only cosmolitan urban audiences, but also folks in the hinterland, who might cluster around the one village television set. I watch it on the Internet, at http://www.satyamevjayate.in/regionalplayer/. At this site, it’s available in Hindi with English subtitles (and laced with lots of English anyway). It’s also dubbed in other Indian languages.
The charismatic Aamir, who is new to TV, is already being compared to Oprah Winfrey as a host. The show features video clips giving glimpses into many corners of Indian life, and distance interviews with people across India and abroad. I particularly like the shots of the audience, who listen raptly, weep silently, and burst out laughing at moments of comic relief. You can be thousands of miles away, but right there with them.
I can’t wait for next Sunday’s episode. Until then, Satyamev Jayate!