Bollywood actors are not famous for campaigning for social awareness, and that too on a medium like TV. But now celebrated actor Aamir Khan is out there on TV discussing issues like infanticide and child abuse in India.
Aamir Khan has finally made his debut on television. But unlike other Bollywood stars he did not choose to appear on an entertainment show or a quiz program like "Kaun Banega Crorepati," the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." His show, “Satyamev Jayate,” attempts to create awareness about social problems that have plagued Indian society for long.
Such is the star power of Khan, even a social awareness program like “Satyamev Jayate” has become talk of the town, both appreciated and criticized by Indians.
Star presence matters
In a country where Bollywood stars are worshipped like demigods, it is impossible to ignore their influence on the masses. Despite criticism from some sections of society, Aamir Khan's show is not only commercially profitable for its makers; it has gained widespread appreciation, too.
Rajesh Kalra of the Times of India praises Khan for his effort in one of his recent blogs: “Aamir has stolen the show. He has not only done a better job than all other actors who have been doing senseless TV shows but perhaps even the journalists.”
Vivian Fernandes of the CNBC TV18 believes Khan is doing a marvellous job as the show host. “He does not scream because the facts speak out loud. He is not in your face, yet you are in awe of him,” writes Fernandes in his blog.
“He is making us understand that the country's reality is our reality and we cannot ignore it,” writes another social blogger Shakti Salgaokar.
Commercialization of social issues
Many in India think that film actors can effectively raise awareness about social topics, but in such cases glamour usually overshadows the issue.
Chetan Chauhan of the Hindustan Times newspaper writes in his blog, “He (Khan) is charging a whopping amount from Star Network, which weakens his claim of being an agent of change. Rather, it strengthens the argument that the Bollywood's ‘intellectual star' just wants to make money.”
Many Indian journalists say the mainstream media should not rely on movie stars to highlight social problems.
“Why do we need Aamir Khan to address issues which we routinely ignore?” said Anshul Tewari, founder and editor of the website “Youth Ki Awaaz,” (Youth's voice) in his blog.
Journalist Sriram Bal Subramanian says Indian society “places too much emphasis on personalities rather than issues.” He is of the opinion that people should give importance to issues and not stars.
In his blog for the Indian TV channel CNN-IBN Live, Sanjay Jha criticizes Khan's show: “These days celebrities exploit every available medium for their image enhancement.” Jha goes on to say that television cannot change the attitudes of the people, on the contrary, he says, shows like “Satyamev Jayate” trivialise the hard work of unsung social workers and journalists.
“Khan has hijacked the issue.”
Author: Tanushree Sandhu
Editor: Shamil Shams