May 13, 2012

I can't remember the last time I said something good about a public figure, but...

When the first episode of Satyamev Jayate aired, there were enough people on Twitter who fought -against all odds- to make a joke about how stupid it was. And there always will be, no matter what the odds are, and no matter what the event is. This is inevitable and at some level, at times like these it's important to remind ourselves that we are a free society, instead of giving in to the first instinct (mine was to find them and punch them).

The point is, everything about the show and its concept is a first. The marrying of an A-list star with content, minus drama, the promise of action, the joint broadcast with Doordarshan, everything is new. The show is here for a purpose. The purpose is not so much to change something, but to create awareness. And this is the kind of scale that NGOs, social activists, and even the Government, can only dream of having.

Aamir Khan may charge 3 crores per episode. Heck, let him charge more. People decrying the fact that he makes money from this, are being ridiculous. The ad revenues are going to the channel, not to NGOs. And the ad revenues are mammoth compared to 3 crores per episode. He may be doing this out of choice, but let's not forget that the man has cancelled/delayed more lucrative opportunities to be able to do this show and has spent a long time conceptualising it and being a part of it. Everyone on the team will be paid well, and saying that someone should not be paid just because they have money, is the worst form of socialism. If you don't question why an industrialist pays Shah Rukh Khan 5 crores to show up at a wedding for an hour, don't question why a channel that's comfortably in the profit is paying Aamir Khan 3 crores an episode while he reaches out to India. The only reason you watched the first episode - the only reason - is Aamir Khan. It speaks volumes about the brand that he brings to the show, and he and the channel are absolutely aware that a show like this would go nowhere without a man like him.

There's no shortage of cynicism in the world. Heck, there's no shortage of cynicism on this blog, and millions of others. But there are times when we need to realise that there are some things that can't be made fun of. This isn't Rakhi-Sawant-judgement, with excessive tears, dwelling on the worst and other shenanigans. And the only criticism there seems to be now is that there's no "scope for debate". Question, do you want to ruin your message by creating a debate? Do you want to bring in the 0.01% of this country's junta, educated in Psychology at DU, with a radically different view that it discusses in the cool drawing rooms of Delhi, to create a debate over an issue such as female infanticide?

Yes, the show is straightforward, to the point and not very nuanced. But look at the audience they are trying to reach. Nuanced talk shows and debates about social issues, so far, have been either melodramatic nonsense, or something with a top journalist yelling at people, or anything on Lok Sabha TV that just puts you to sleep. How often have you looked at your clock and said, "Oh, it's We The People time. Must drop everything and go watch."?

It takes a heart and a brain to do something like this. And that, boys and girls, is probably the rarest combination of all, in Bollywood.


Parijat said...

Hey Mudra. I've still not found a reliable source for the 3cr per episode figure. Not that I think its bad or good or whatever. I just think its infeasible. What kind of ad revenues are we talking here? An episode is 90 minutes (which means maybe 30 minutes of advertisements). Times 2 (or 4?) channels? That's at most 120 minutes of air time. What's the going price for air time? At 2.5 lacs per minute, the advertisements can pay for Aamir's cut. What about the rest of the production? Or is 2.5 lacs per minute an underestimate?

Mudra said...

@Parijat - My guess is 2.5 lakhs per episode is an underestimate. Considering how much Salman Khan, SRK and Amitabh Bachchan have been paid in the past for 1-hour episodes of programs that ran for a specific number of episodes, I'm guessing the revenues are much much more. Think about it, if an ad reaches crores of people, will you settle for 2.5 lakhs a minute?

arayans said...

well put.