‘Satyamev Jayate’ Independence Day episode: Was Aamir Khan’s show really successful?

Did Aamir Khan’s TV chat show work? The August 15 special episode traced the Satyamev Jayate team’s journey and the show’s impact

As the familiar tune of Satyamev Jayate from Aamir Khan‘s chat show reverberated from the TV screens today, it took us back to the many Sundays we had spent watching the show and admiring the actor-turned-crusader. This time though, the show was being aired on a Wednesday, for a very special reason: today is August 15 – the Indian Independence Day. It was a clever strategy by Star India to schedule the telecast of the final episode, titled Satyamev Jayate Ka Safar, for a time when most TV channels were airing I-Day specials and the National channel, the Prime Minister’s speech. So what was the response to Satyamev Jayate? Was it really a lasting success, or has the euphoria died down? Let’s take a look.

August 15’s episode traced Aamir Khan and Star Plus’ journey from the germination of the idea of the show in 2009 to its research in various parts of the country, to the telecast and thereafter the audience response. And what a journey it’s been! Uday Shankar, CEO, Star Plus, shared why they chose Aamir for the show, saying, “Aamir’s films were reflecting whatever was not going right in the society. So, we thought we should approach him.” He went on to explain how airing the show on DD1 was Aamir’s idea (and what an idea, Sirji!). Leeladhar Mandloi, Director General, All India Radio said he was more than willing to partner with the show and spoke on how Aamir’s radio stint for SJ have been highly successful.

Aamir wrote a column every week about Satyamev Jayate in a leading newspaper, and also made sure a special website (www.satyamevjayate.in) was created. He completely understood the importance of audience reach, and a media and digital strategist from the US suggested more ideas to Aamir and convinced him to go digital to increase his reach. Persistent Systems of Nagpur was hired for the analytics to measure the response of the show across media.

Today’s episode reiterated what had been said in the 13 weeks of the show’s telecast. And also reminded us of how SJ was top trending on Twitter, with 12 crore impressions on the day of the premiere on (May 6, 2012), and how the website server had crashed.

Aamir briefly ran through the social issue discussed in each episode, subtly letting us know of the change he has managed to make, and the overwhelming response to his work. He introduced Satyajit Bhatkal, lawyer, director of Satyamev Jayate who said it was dream come true for him to work on the show and bring his 25 years of experience to use. Swati Chakravorty , co-director observed that people on the show, the victims, “talked generously and frankly”. Lancy Fernandes, Research Head could not believe the status Satyamev Jayate reached. He thinks that since people in power also raised the issues addressed by Aamir, it means that SJ has the potential to change India.

The episode moved to showing us the response over the weeks – the rallies, debates and individual instances of people changing their minds or reforming after watching Satyamev Jayate. Doctors indulging in illegal female foeticide were arrested and clinics closed down. Aamir said the wave against female foeticide should not stop. In fact, he thinks that we should aim for a 1:1 ratio of boys to girls in the 2021 census. He said Snehalaya, an adoption centre managed to collect Rs 29 lakh, and has acquired an ambulance, an intensive care unit and a mobile incubator. A multi-storeyed structure called the Satyamev Jayate Bhavan has also been built with donations gathered through the show.

Aamir moved on to child sexual abuse. He said they aimed for people should come out, and they did – through TV, radio and various fora. A Pakistani woman wrote from the ICU about the abuse she had suffered as a child. Aamir declared that the Child Sexual Abuse Bill had been passed in the Parliament and that the Chattisgarh government had organised a special programme to make school children aware of possible abuse. Childline, the helpline collected Rs 77 lakh.

Medical malpractice was another significant issue examined on SJ. Statistics showed most doctors praised Aamir for raising the matter. His crusade helped the cause of generic medicines now available in various states. Kolkata’s Humanity Hospital, which gives free treatment to poor patients, raised Rs 51 lakh. Meanwhile, the Amar Jyoti School that has been the harbinger of inclusive education, received Rs 32 lakh, and the Family of Disabled got Rs 38 lakh through donations.

Reminding us of an SJ poll for domestic violence, Aamir revealed that 84 percent respondents said that hitting your wife is not macho. He prayed for the mental health of the remaining 16 percent!

Touching upon every issue again, Aamir talked the episode on pesticides and organic farming, moving to alcoholism, manual scavenging, senior citizens, rainwater harvesting and sharing the action taken.

Meanwhile, a Twitter status read: ‏@Google__Mania: “politicians say aamir’s taking 3.5 crores for 1 episode but he’s getting it for something which they should have been doing #satyamevjayate”.

After watching this episode, and the rest of the show, Aamir Khan and Satyamev Jayate will surely remain in your hearts for a long time – if it did not earlier, that is.

Do you think Satyamev Jayate has been successful in its mission?