Satyamev Jayate, in my opinion, is the best thing that has happened to Indian television in a long long time. Despite having seen enough to support the contrary, I remain a firm believer in giving people a chance in any attempt to make a difference for the better.
And chance did Mr. Khan have, till he went overboard and spoiled it all in the latest episode, raging against pesticides and ordaining, without much statistical backing, that all inorganically grown food items are substitutes for poison. Which they might be, but my gripe is in how Khan and his team handled the episode and in his dangerous flirting with being the modern television equivalent of the khap panchayats that he so ridiculed in one episode. Plus, it is taking me all my willpower to not go on a detour on Coca Cola and his endorsement of it.
The show was poorly researched and badly presented, unlike anything they’ve produced till now. Khan, in his agony-aunt-cum-messiah-rolled-into-one avatar has spoken about female infanticide, caste and class struggles, domestic violence, child molestation, the problems of the handicapped in India and the rotting of the health sector (oh America, you have company). And he has been armed by his research team well enough to hold largely sensible and fair discussions. But then on Sunday, they moved away from concepts that are directly linked to human emotions.
The killing of lovers for caste incompatibility or hubris, killing a girl child, mistreating handicaps and beating up women in the household can all be broadly, and correctly, categorized as WRONG by all men (ok, and women) with any compunction. The use of pesticides, on the other hand, is a little more complicated than that. It is a scientific invention, has helped India achieve its only “revolution” of a broad scale (please Google for reference), and like most good things in the world, has been misused to the point where they are now largely believed to be doing more bad than good.
Fair point, but is that what the show showed? No. Slipping into disappointing mediocrity, the show had already made up its mind on what its outcome would be and played around with its participants to reach that end. The format requires Khan to play part journalist, interrogating and asking difficult questions..
Well, journalism 101: you never, ever decide on your story’s outcome before you’ve given all parties an equal chance to speak. And if your reporting changes your initial hypothesis, so be it. Any basic journalism course will teach you that.
Khan brought in the CEO of Asia’s largest pesticide company in an attempt to make it look fair. And then in a great show of being the professional he is reputed to be, he guffawed while he spoke. Then to make it worse, he took advantage of the fact that his interviewee was not as stage savvy as others, and kept cutting him in mid sentence till Bollywood’s most intellectual Khan, bolstered by canned laughter, thought he had proven his point such that there cannot be any further room for debate. Reality check: that never happens, unless you are proving a scientific theorem, and people are now challenging E=MC2 too.
The man’s efforts to make his point (whether he was right or wrong is not of importance here) —that pesticides sprayed in regulated amounts can do no harm, or that there have also been considerable health risks from organic produce were summarily dismissed. No attempts to counter them with logic, facts or figures at all.
Satyamev Jayate is a bold effort—one that has me hooked from half way across the world. It has a good agenda, is thought provoking, and is educational for a big part of the population, if not for all. Provided its compere can hold on to just being that. Khan showed us sensible television can co-exist with the Kardashians. It is a great show, and the price of greatness is responsibility. I didn’t say that, Churchill did. And he should know.