At the best of times, I’m a contrarian and a cynic. If I know any number of people like something, I’ll be most inclined to hate it. In fact, the most fervent their ardour, the more repellent it becomes to me.
So when I heard, or rather, was forced to listen (until it was drilled into my skull and I could recite the commercial in sleep) to how Bollywood’s thinking star was coming up with a new show that was going to deal with societal evils, I was partly dismissive and largely indifferent. Until, it became a runaway hit. Words like “genius,” “India’s Oprah”, and “tear-jerker” began to float like jetsam across cyber space. I don’t like my Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, newspapers, radio, TV and owl post being hijacked by one person. Any person. Least of all, by Bollywood’s self-anointed high priest.
Even before I watched the show, I was prepared to dismiss it. Female foeticide, yes. Since we never knew that was problem. Until Aamir Khan held you down in a hypnotic stare, cried a little, and gave you the dope, that is. Never mind all the ground-level activists, the journalists, the government officials who’ve been screaming hoarse about it. They’re just professionals, pffft, what do they know? And besides, they are all corrupt and have no credibility.
And there’s Aamir Khan, who’s “doing something”. Making an honest living of Rs.3 crore per episode. And… and… fighting for change. By asking all of us conscientious people to do what we do best — text message our opinions. Which of course, will solve everything. That he talks about the perception, ill treatment, need for empowerment of women on a channel that just happens to have rung in the culture of showcasing, promoting and cementing every type of female stereotype there exists in this country, is of course, incidental.
Don’t get me wrong. Aamir Khan is not the one with whom I have a bone to pick. As PR goes, it doesn’t better than this. He comes out being the hero, gets paid handsomely to do it, and any collateral impact he might have on societal change, is more points to him. You can’t blame the guy for being an excellent strategist.
No. What I find shameful is that we have come down to this. That we can’t see it for the obvious marketing ploy that it is and are lapping it up so excitedly forgetting it is really only entertainment. A best-ditch attempt to capture a Sunday-morning slot. So desperate and eager for role models that we are, we’ll clutch at anyone that looks like a hero.
More importantly, we’ve come to a stage where we need a celebrity to dumb things down and talk to us as though we were mentally-challenged snails. Knowing is not doing. But it is the first step in getting there. Nothing on the show, not fact or figure, case or incident, was a revelation out of public domain. Yet, every time a stat was revealed, the shock and outrage on the faces of people on the programme made you pause and wonder just how many more there were out there for who any, or all of this, was news.
So, for me, that is the real threat. This baffling ignorance. This sense of morbid novelty about the very people we live amongst. As if we really did not know. Or care. Until now. But we do now because Aamir is saying we should. Because we are all about “doing something”.
If this show helps enlighten chronic Star Plus watching minds, we couldn’t ask for more. But if educated, intelligent, urban-dwelling, English-speaking, young people are awed by this show, it’s a reason to worry. It means that we actually need it.
The writer works for Postnoon.