The Importance of Being Aamir Khan
By Biswadeep Ghosh
Do you know anyone who hasn’t heard of Satyamev Jayate, a Sunday show with which Aamir Khan will make his debut on the small screen? Impossible, unless your reclusive acquaintance inhabits a cocoon and has no access to the television, newspapers and the internet. The most intelligent strategist in the Hindi film industry, Aamir has emerged from behind an impenetrable veil to discuss the show with the media. He has discarded his aura of exclusivity that makes him unreachable so often, the result being that journalists are relishing each and every moment in the company of the superstar. They are reporting on his first ever serial faithfully, making Satyamev Jayate, a forthcoming Aamir Khan event many Indians are waiting for.
Those who have followed Aamir’s career with detached objectivity know a few things about the man. He has manufactured an image of being ‘serious about what he does’, as if his counterparts in the entertainment industry are a bunch of flippant characters for whom life is one big joke that never ends. As part of his image-building exercise, he has highlighted his social activism, a quality he seemed to have developed after being in the industry for a long time. He is his own USP, using the power of which he is giving veiled hints about what Satyamev Jayate will offer to the viewer.
A ‘thinking man’s actor’ and a ‘perfectionist’, Aamir has given countless interviews while humming a tune of mystery-heightening ambiguity. ‘It’s about connecting people, touching human hearts. It’s about human stories, coming to understand what life is like. For me, the show has been a kind of a personal journey,” he told the Indian Express. Please read the excerpt again. What exactly is he saying? Actually, very little, but that is the idea anyway. He has been categorically clear that he doesn’t want to discuss the specifics. It is as if Satyamev Jayate is an Alfred Hitchcock thriller whose plot will give the criminal away before the film begins.
The show that has been dubbed in many languages will be telecast on the Star network and Doordarshan. The Star-Doordarshan tie-up will ensure viewers everywhere, whether they live in a Vasant Vihar mansion in New Delhi or in a village named Hatgamariya in Jharkhand. That it is being shown on an early morning Sunday slot implies that everyone, right from hardcore Aamir Khan fans to reluctant TV watchers, will be tempted to check it out. Cricket being the only area in which satellite television channels have shared network space with Doordarshan in the past, Satyamev Jayate will inevitably get the maximum number of viewers of a non-cricket show in the initial stages at least.
Not that promotion of films or television serials is a new phenomenon. In today’s times when nobody can ensure a film’s success, even Salman Khan who hardly ever promoted his films till recently has changed gears to talk about his releases before they hit the marquee. The strategy has worked. Always the most active channel-hopper, Shah Rukh Khan’s marketing of Ra.One redefined the way in which a film is being sold by the Hindi film industry. Of course, Ra.One did not succeed the way it was expected to. But SRK tried.
The master strategist, however, isn’t SRK: and certainly not Salman. It is Aamir. While both SRK and Salman have had their share of flops, facts prove that Aamir has had the least number of failures at the box-office. Even a mediocre film like Ghajini rocked, its success story partly written by viewers who went to watch Aamir’s eight packs: a fact that was marketed very smartly through his interviews and other promotional campaigns. When he produced Delhi Belly, he went all out to discuss the film’s ‘language’: one big reason why many viewers hit the halls to watch it.
The big satya is that Aamir is better at the game that everyone plays. Not that his approach makes the success of Satyamev Jayate, a hundred percent certainty. Major film stars have hosted hyped shows, many of which have flopped. Amitabh Bachchan created history with the success of the first edition of Kaun Banega Crorepati, but Shah Rukh Khan failed to make the sort of impact his diehard fans believed he would. SRK did experience some success as the host of KBC’s third edition, but his decisions to host Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tezz Hain? and Zor Ka Jhatka: Total Wipeout had disastrous consequences. Govinda as the host of Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke made zero impact. The Salman Khan-steered show Dus Ka Dum started off really well. By the time the second season came to an end, however, its popularity had withered away. Akshay Kumar experienced success with Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi. Yet, few bothered to see him in MasterChef India: Season 1.
Aamir’s well-disguised expressions have spun a lot of curiosity about Satyamev Jayate. The show’s reach is far wider than that of others hosted by film stars so far. If it succeeds, it will write an extraordinarily significant chapter in the history of Indian television. If not, the story of its failure will be discussed for a long time: more so, because it has been made by a man who owns a magic wand which nobody else does.
The star is at the centre of a shrewdly developed promotional campaign. But once Satyamev Jayate hits the small screen, it won’t be long before hype gets jettisoned by the people’s acceptance or rejection of the real thing. The suspense around the show will guarantee a full house on the opening day inside each household. Having been there, done that, Aamir surely knows that is not enough.