x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 September 2017

Aamir Khan: A reel and real hero for teenagers

Normally teenagers wouldn't be caught dead watching a show like Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails). But having enjoyed his films, it seemed worth tuning in to his talk show that promises to bring India's many social problems to light.

It doesn't take much to sway us teenagers. We can be quite cynical, but the world of celebrities is exempt from our misgivings. Girls with a fondness for glossy magazines are quite prone to this. All we need to see is Kristen Stewart or Kim Kardashian sporting something that could be outrageously unwearable in daily life, and we go tearing off to scour the high street for imitations. Whatever all the celebs are doing got them fame and sackfuls of money, therefore they must be doing something right, and therefore their advice is advice we should be heeding.

In my home country, India, a television series has been causing quite a stir. The Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, besides starring in box office smashers such as Lagaan and 3 Idiots, has begun exploring the less glitzy small screen. His show Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails) seems to have been watched and loved by every Indian I know, including the teenagers in Dubai. Essentially an Oprah-esque talk show, it explores a different problem facing the country in each episode - female foeticide, a lack of public facilities for the disabled and food poisoning because of excessive use of pesticides and fungicides on crops.

Usually, teenagers wouldn't be seen dead with our TV set playing a programme with a title that translates to "truth alone prevails". The only thing that name could pass as moderately cool for would be a New Age alternative music group.

However, we tuned in because we have all watched Khan play likeable, funny roles in his movies. We have seen him propound an education system where you don't have to study things you dislike. We have smiled indulgently as, in classic Bollywood style, he danced around in the movie-studio rain, singing lustily to his girlfriend. And so if he is hosting a talk show that promises to bring India's many social problems to light, it must be worth a watch.

And it was certainly worth a watch. The show makes you realise the giant scale of the dilemmas the world is having to battle. Not all the problems he explores are specific to the region. Alcoholism is universal. "Honour killings" not only occur in South Asia, but in the United Kingdom, too, albeit usually by families of Asian origin. It's reasonable to envisage a scene where a mother and father don't approve of their daughter's choice of boyfriend or husband. Parents rarely do. What is unbelievable is that parents are murdering their own child for "bringing dishonour upon the family", and these murders are more widespread than you might think.

It is pleasing to see a prominent personality with a loyal fan base making an effort to bring about much-needed change. Encouraging the discussion of sensitive issues such as child sexual abuse, in a sometimes-conservative society, will hopefully help propel us to a world where the next generation of teenagers will be able to lead more secure lives. It's far off, but perhaps they'll inherit a world where truth alone prevails - however sanctimonious that may sound.