Aamir Khan’s 13-episode Satyameva Jayatewhich fuses together the mass appeal of celebrity with the mass reach of the TV medium to raise awareness on social issues, is already the toast of drawing rooms. But it has also sparked questions: do hi-glitz shows such as this have a lasting impact? Or could this, like other shows, end up being just another platform to peddle products? Aamir spoke to Outlook’s Namrata Joshi in Jaipur. Excerpts:
I am using entertainment to reach out. Which is not to say I am using fun and games. It’s more about underlining things with emotions. Like I did with the issue of childcare and education in a film like Taare Zameen Par. The information people get from a newspaper and magazine article doesn’t change their heart. Very few people cry on reading newspapers. I try to affect them emotionally.
Asked about charging Rs 3 crore per episode for a show on serious social issues Aamir say:
I never discuss my fee. But since you asked I am getting Rs 3.5 crore per episode. Firstly what I get is none of anyone’s business. Main apni mehnat ki kama aur khaa raha hoon. [I am earning and enjoying the benefits of my hard-work]. I am not doing anything wrong. Main izzat se, achchaa kaam karke roti kama raha hoon aur mujhe fakr hai is baat ka [I am honourably, by doing good work, earning my bread, and I am proud of it]. Secondly to clear the misconception this amount includes the cost of the episode also. The bulk of the money goes into the cost and some of the episodes may have overshot the amount. Thirdly, I have endorsements deals of about Rs 100-125 crore per year. I have stopped them for a year while the show is on. There’s no logic in the decision, it’s purely emotional. But tell me who has ever said no to Rs 100 crore for a cause?
Asked whether such shows bring about change? Or do people engage and move on, Aamir says:
The biggest change we can bring about is in ourselves. .. Female foeticide is a crime planned in our bedrooms and we can’t have cops in the bedrooms to monitor us. ……The choice has to be yours, …Even if one girl child is saved then the show is a success. I will be on TV. I will also be on Vividh Bharati, AIR, Radio Mirchi, Star News. I will write a column in HT. With every issue I want to go wide on many platforms. It’s a deep and concentrated approach to reach out in as many different ways as possible. I hope it will make people understand an issue for a life. I hope it will have them converted for life.
…Both rural and urban populations of Karnataka must watch such inspiring (Satyameva Jayate‘s) television episodes. Did you know that Bangalore Rural has a glaring sex ratio of 872 females to 1,000 males? Who knows, it could be attributed to the prevalent female feticide practices in rural Bangalore!
…Kannada is the only south-Indian, regional, language that has been left out (telecasting Satyamev Jayate) . Do not blame Satyameva Jayate producers for this mishap – they dubbed the show in Kannada and Suvarna television channel was supposed to air this program starting May 6th! Shockingly, the Karnataka government, especially Karnataka Film Chambers of Commerce (KFCC) and Karnataka Television Association (KTA) prevented the Kannada-dubbed show from being aired!
Taking refuge under an old restriction imposed by the KFCC and KTA, way back in 1960, Karnataka state has banned the dubbing of movies and television serials into Kannada for decades now. The reason being that dubbing would suppress local talent and would also reduce the popularity of Kannada language.
Consequently, a majority of the not conversant population of Karnataka state (accounting for about 2 crore people) might have skipped the last episode of Satyameva Jayate because they did not understand Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, or Bengali languages! It is sad, is it not?
The Kannadamedia industry now wants no movies/shows to be dubbed in Kannada. There are statements and articles by Kannada media personalities protesting against dubbed movies and even TV shows like Aamir Khan‘s Satyameva Jayate. They claim that dubbed movies/shows will eat into their market and strangle the Kannada industry.
It is very easy to raise popular support by claiming it is for the good of Kannada. I’d like to analyse whether such a move would actually benefit the Kannada people or just the pockets of the Kannada film lobby.
The Kannada Film industry through its lobbying over the years enjoys several protectionist measures including subsidies, 100% tax concession, restrictions on the way other language movies release in Karnataka, etc. It is almost an universal law that protected industries always tend to lag in quality, technology and innovation.
Even a Kannada fanatic would be hard pressed to say that better quality movies/entertainment have been produced because of these protectionist regulations. Kannada movies have long stopped entertaining the discerning audience and remain the staple for those cannot access other forms of entertainment. Even an occasional well made movie finds it tough to attract the former due to the morass of bad quality movies it is hidden amongst [every one of them taking a chunk of out of the tax money, mind you].
It shows the declining quality of Kannada movies/shows if people will prefer watching badly lip synced dub versions of other language films and shows. And why should the people of Karnataka not have the option to do so. It is in their interests and rights to gain access to more and better entertainment which their own media industry has failed to satisfy and is always trying to smother.
These protectionist measures supported by a few media gimmicks, goonda tactics against those do not agree and political connections serve only to protect the pockets and interests of the rich dudes who run the industry. They neither benefit the Kannada culture nor the Kannada people. Talibanisation does not benefit anybody except those who preach it.
Deregulating the industry will force the industry players to change and face open competition. Some will go bust but at the same time it will open doors for new players who have the what the audience enjoys.
The release restrictions are being stayed in courts and a recent Supreme Court judgement regarding AP might end the regime of tax concessions. In this age of increasing awareness and increased channels of media consumption, the out-dated barons of the industry face a downward path and are trying to prolong their exit. It is they who are strangling the Kannada media industry. What remains to be seen is, if the Kannada people continue to allow this by actively/passively supporting such short sighted measures and allow the Kannada media industry to roll into the valley of irrelevance. (courtesy: Ajey)