“I am not an activist, I am an entertainer”, says Aamir Khan, when lavished with praises of social uprightness for his show Satya Mev Jayate. And this honesty is indeed commendable.
ENTERTAINER – one who, as per Oxford Dictionary, provides amusement and enjoyment, to others. What essentially Aamir Khan and his team is doing through Satya Mev Jayate is that they are aiming to fulfill some particular emotional/ psychological needs/ wants/ desires of the audience.
Emotional needs – the need to empathize with our fellow human beings and their sufferings, which is inherent in us all. There are sufferings about which the middle class keeps getting hazy bits of information from various sources, but seldom gets anything specific or concrete. Harassed women, sexually abused boys pouring forth their own tales to an empathetic Aamir fills up this vacuum.
The need to understand exactly how much corrupt our system is, gets satisfied through live footages of doctors aborting babies as a matter of routine.
A hidden need to feel a connect with our fellow people when the community lives of yester years are gone, and people suffer more and more from loneliness, gets satisfied when all of ‘us’ watch this show ‘together’, either live in the studio or on our TV sets – and share the anger, the grief, the disgust, the helplessness, together.
And most significantly, by taking the program to every nook and cranny of India, by telecasting it in various regional languages, on prime time, and then asking the people to SMS/ email/ write to them, with the promise that those will be petitioned to the Government; by asking people to donate, with the promise that an equal amount will be added by the philanthropy partner, makes people get rid, in a small, but significant measure of the one feeling that keeps gnawing at us.
The feeling of Guilt.
Guilt. Of seeing it all, and doing nothing. Of getting sloshed in masala entertainment after coming home from a tiring day at work. Of forcing ourselves to forget the ‘social initiatives’ and NGOs we once started in our college days. The kind of guilt that working mothers have and it forces them to succumb to their kid’s demands every time.
By giving us a channel to express ourselves in front of the Government, and by giving us a reliable NGO to donate to, Aamir helps us absolve of some of that guilt.
In return, he makes Rs. 3 crore per episode. Entertainment, after all, is a very serious business.
If someone crowns Aamir as a great social crusader, which is what is happening right now, one should take it with a pinch of salt. It is NOT social activism. If anything, this business of Aamir has, what we call in economic terminology, a positive externality.
It has a positive side effect. It is like a factory which instead of spewing poisonous gases in the atmosphere, polluting water sources and breeding infertility to precious agricultural land; emits pure oxygen, and spreads good vibes and empathy around.
And for that positive externality, and just that, Aamir deserves praise from the nation.
The insatiable appetite of the Indian audience for knowledge of others’ lives, and the irresistible appeal that movie stars have among the Indian masses – combine these two with a hint of all-inclusive, secular patriotism, and a feeling that what you’re watching is ‘meaningful’, ‘nice’, ‘coming from a thinking actor’ et cetera, and lo and behold! You have a recipe of sure shot success.