There will probably be relief on many faces in government this week as Satyamev Jayate goes off air now after a tumultuous 12-week run. In this span, the series enjoyed unprecedented impact (brushing aside the silly target rating point (TRP) controversy), created a buzz far beyond the confines of the ‘idiot box’ and may even have set a benchmark for future satellite fare. Such has been the show’s impact that babus and netas are both still trying to understand what made Satyamev Jayate tick. Or more concisely, what goes on inside the mind of Uday Shankar, Star’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the man who conceived the concept of successfully marrying entertainment with a sharp dose of social reality. The sarkar and multiple departments squirmed when facing the unflattering image of reality held up by the mirror-like programme.
It is clear that host Aamir Khan (and it was Uday’s brainwave to persuade the socially conscious Bollywood star to risk ‘descending’ to the small screen) learnt from the mistakes of Anna Hazare. But India Against Corruption’s (IAC’s) focused battle against corruption which first electrified India’s middle class to step out of its comfort zone and demand accountability from the long complacent ruling classes was the basis for the show. Each episode in the series dwelt on a specific social issue and started a welter of debate, probably setting off minor temblors in each of the corresponding Ministries and Departments.
Babus on Mondays for the last 12 weeks were often scrambling to defend their policies or statistics (or seek Aamir’s advice!). Health secretary P.K. Pradhan may have felt akin to being pinned to the mat (the Medical Council certainly did!) when the episodes on female foeticide, medical malpractices and child sexual abuse created a storm. After all it’s not often that a TV host (even if it’s Aamir) gets invited to consult with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the high-powered babus in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on human scavenging, or address a parliamentary committee on taboo laws solely on the strength of his TV show! Little wonder then that babus weren’t quite sure how to respond to this new form of public pressure!
Uday Shankar’s brain-child has clearly bulldozed its way into the social consciousness of the nation. For my favourite tribesmen, what confuses them about Star’s Uday Shankar is that he does not fall into any stereotype of an ‘activist’ or troublemaker. For a man who does not even smoke, and always follows traffic rules is not normally expected to rock the establishment’s boat. But television, as we know, is a very different beast, and Uday Shankar seems to know how to wield it as a weapon of change! We understand that babus in the Information & Broadcasting Ministry are also wringing their hands about the impact of the so-called entertainment programmes. Clearly even they can spark change too.
So while the public may welcome another season of Satyamev Jayate, some netas and babus may not be among them. After all there’s just so much reality one can bear.