Aamir Khan —The Power of a Star

Satyameva Jayate

Popular discourse about the nature of stardom and the power it generates has largely veered around the gross misuse of power. Any public figure with popular appeal is generally gauged by his/her popularity at the turnstile. The conversion of power is counted by votes or box office or sales figures. By that definition, Aamir Khan is certainly a hugely powerful star who can capture popular imagination. So can many others of his ilk. But they did not do so till now. They chose to remain satisfied by expressing their views on several public debates. Aamir has used his ‘Star Power’ to draw attention to India’s myriad malaises by conceptualizing, creating and presenting a show on a public platform, namely television. His show, ‘Satyameva Jayate ‘began its journey today.

Aamir Khan has been extremely careful in projecting his publicly portrayed image in the last decade. In his role as an actor and producer, he has been selective in his choices. In wider public space, he has articulated on issues he felt close to. His critics have found his intentions suspect. Rumors abound that both as an actor and producer, he ‘interferes’ with his directors and writers. Two directors have chosen to speak openly about such interferences. News show hosts have accused him of abusing his power to manipulate the media before the release of his films by raising his voice against what he thinks is wrong in the system and then abandoning the issues when it is no longer relevant to further his personal glory. Even if for a moment we buy the logic that these conspiracy theorists propound, we need to compare it against the backdrop of what his colleagues in the film fraternity have been doing so far, in the public arena.

Today when Aamir came on air as a presenter in his show, he did not choose a game show or a chat show to showcase his prowess as a host. He chose a TV show as a platform to create greater awareness about the complex issues faced by India. He could have been jingoistic and jugular like his American counterparts who are known by the shows they host. He did not do that. Not for a moment in the show did he display his vanity. His critics will pounce and pronounce that this goes to show what a consummate actor he is. He loves to play the messiah, they will say. In films he has already assumed that role. Even if we agree with the view can we discount what he has achieved simply by launching this show? Doesn’t the end result justify the means he adopted?

The conspiracy theorists will go even further to smell the capitalist hand in this ‘product’. The in-programme endorsements, the mobile service provider’s pecuniary benefits will come under their scalpel. We must remember that in this country, even the Public Broadcast Platform, Doordarshan does not pay for a show of this magnitude and scale. The mother channel, Star Plus must have paid Aamir Khan Productions a bomb to produce this show. So what? Why did we choose switch on a TV set on a Sunday morning to see this spectacle? It was because the show was widely advertised. We started viewing the show because Aamir Khan was presenting it. That is the truth. We got ensnared by Aamir’s star power. But at the end of the show, our attention was drawn to the issue of female foeticide. The TV cameras did focus on Aamir’s teary eyes and the shocked expression of the audience in the show. That is how such shows gain dramatic impact the world over. This is the only way mainstream narrative works. Human interest stories are made more poignant even in documentaries by this way.

I loved the twist at the end. Before the last break, Aamir spoke of the magical way we can solve this problem. But thankfully, Aamir did not wave a wand in the final segment. He merely stated the easiest solution. I will not deprive those who did not see the show, the pleasure of the end. Go check it out on youtube and evaluate it yourself. Kudos Aamir for remaining the star you are and yet doing the ‘entirely possible’ thing.

Sudipto Chattopadhyay

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