Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Satyameva Jayate and why I refuse to glorify it as the next instrument for change

What makes a mother kill her child before it is born, because ‘it’ happens to be a girl?  What makes a father do the same, especially by causing harm to his wife? Why does the mother remain silent and let him get away with it? Who do a set of loving grandparents completely change their feelings when they come to know they have a granddaughter coming on the way?
What is the reason behind so many female foeticides?

Here comes Satyameva Jayate on Star TV. And also on DD.

The producers of the show did catch everybody’s attention through their marketing campaign. You couldn’t ignore Amir Khan staring at you like a big brother at every metro station, at traffic junctions and malls, in the newspaper you read each morning and in the saas bahu serial that you watch every day, unfailingly.
The format of the show was a little different than what I expected. I thought it would be something like what Shahrukh Khan did in Swades. I thought he would tour through urban and rural parts of the country. I thought he would go to those places with no electricity and no TV (obviously, there’s no electricity) and take up some projects, to actually bring change. If not do that, then at least show or bring people who are contributing to society in such a way. But no, wait, that would have been boring, no? Who would get up early on that precious Sunday morning and watch some random person bring change to the lives of people in some distant ugly village, a place which I don’t identify with or give a damn about? You have to make people cry, you know.

And that’s what Satyameva Jayate did at 11 in the morning and for the next one hour. Women recounted their experiences. I am glad they had the courage to walk out of such a horrid life and make a life of their own with their daughters. I am glad that this brought a change in their lives, to make them strong and independent women who care more for their daughter than society.

But the camera shrewdly continued to rest on women of all ages crying silently in the audience. I am not really bothered about that but at the end, when the song starts (which is like an ode to all the girls who were aborted), two-three little girls run into the studio to their mother and Aamir Khan calls them at his side and lovingly pats them. I am sorry but that was overkill!

It is preachy and seems so fake, at times. Do you remember long lectures given by parents when you were a kid? Did they ever get taken seriously? The rich will continue to do the same as they can get away with it. The poor will continue because, well, who gives a damn about what poor people do anyway?

But I did cry while watching the show. I cried because the issue does concern me in some way or the other. I also realized that somehow, it failed to make me hope for change. The show failed to address the main problem behind female foeticide. The belief that a girl will only be a burden to the family. I only saw the same stereotypes. Primarily, as to how women are birth givers. Where was the message that women are capable of a lot more? I wish Aamir Khan would have said something about how women can do well for themselves, if given equal opportunities. They will no longer remain a burden if taught to be independent. But then that also does not appeal to the audience for whom an independent woman is only a threat and a woman having a career is a joke. An independent women will be a bad example. You can’t risk the womenfolk in your home, stepping out of line, no? You are a girl, you have to know first how to cook. Your work is not supposed to be taken seriously. It’s like a hobby. You don’t need to work once you get married. Your husband will provide for you.

If I want to have a daughter, I want her to be in this world so that she can make a difference by setting an example. I want her to be educated, not because she can get an educated husband, but because she can be independent. If someone ill treats her, I hope that she will be strong enough to stand up against that. I want her to be beautiful, not in the way she looks, but her actions. I want her to not take society so seriously, instead do what she believes is right. I want her to be born in a society which does not vilify people, especially women, when they try to be free of some of its restrictive and regressive norms. I don’t want her to be born in a world where women do not have any qualms propagating negative stereotypes against their own sex. And especially, I don’t want her to be born just so that she can marry a man who does not respect her. Or to marry her to some useless man from someplace where there aren’t any girls to marry anymore.
In that case I would rather have a boy. And teach him to respect women. Treat them as equals. Not put him on a pedestal and make him expect all women to do the same.
My facebook status of asking whether anybody else found the show really fake gathered a lot of comments. A lot of people felt that it will help in some small way. Something is better than nothing. A very respected person told me to count my blessings and say thank you to my parents for giving birth to me and not killing me at the start. Well, with all due respect, they were just being normal parents. Should you put people up on a pedestal for giving birth to a girl child? That sounds similar to some sacrifice made by parents. Is it a sacrifice to have a girl?
Yes, something is better than nothing. But not when that something is the same rhetoric that we have been hearing since so many years. Especially when it hasn’t brought any change. I do hope that the show does some good. What I can hope is that a show like Satyameva Jayate will do is the following:

1. Probably give courage to some women to take the decision to walk out of a life where she is expected to give birth to a male child. Well, I hope it does. 
2. Clear some myths (for eg, that urban woman abort more than rural women) but then if you read a newspaper, you would have known that anyway. There were no new facts that were shown on TV. They have all been coming in the newspapers. Don’t tell me that people living in rural India don’t read newspapers or have any knowledge. That’s just like saying that female foeticide takes place more in rural areas. They may not know the statistics but I am sure they know the depth of a problem.
3.  Gather money for NGOs.
4. Make Aamir Khan richer by Rs. 3 Crore per episode. Not to forget Star TV and the producers of the show. Also, Aircel who gains Re 1 per sms. (Instead of Rs. 3, wow, how noble!)

Sorry for those who loved Satyamev Jayate and think that it is made with the intention of bringing change. It’s only riding on the current wave, where people are dissatisfied with a lot of things. After so many classes of Media Economics (Prof Panda, are you listening?), I no longer take any show on TV seriously. It’s all good programming/ marketing. People learn how to do such stuff in B schools. (Somehow I think Satyameva Jayate is going to come up as a case study in the next term, just like Kolaveri D, as if that wasn't irritating enough.)

Yes, they are trying to spread the message to everybody through online videos, regional telecasts. But that only means more big bucks. More the audience, more the money paid by advertisers.

Yes, they have said that they don’t intend to pass judgements or blame anybody. But that’s only being diplomatic. It would be a big loss to everybody involved in this show if it got banned for making controversial statements. Remember Fanaa?

Aamir Khan is not the new messiah. That’s what irks me about the show, when people put him up on a pedestal. The show is so ordinary and still it is being hailed as the next instrument of change. The truth is, it still fails to confront the core problem (at least with respect to female foeticide, i do not know what will happen in next episode). 
Satyameva Jayate seemed to me more like a show designed to make you feel guilty and do your ‘bit’ for 
society by watching it. And that’s all you’ll do. Watch.

That hits you hard, no? Kill me now. I know you want to.

PS These would be an interesting read:

1 comment:

icyHighs said...

I watched the episode about paedos, and child molestation victims.
It's great if it makes even one parent more careful and thereby helps prevent an assault on their kid, but as a program it's just sensationalist lowest common denominator crap. It's just not what I want to watch on a Sunday morning.