Press Release

It’s all about family

18 July 2012

Why does Satyamev Jayate continue to engage us each Sunday, although it’s one of the most depressing programmes on a tube tearful with miserable shows? There are the standard reasons, of course: Aamir Khan’s celebrity presence, the formidable research and compelling guests (how do they find them?) who communicate better than any TV host.

But that’s not the only reason why. Perhaps, we watch it because it’s personal. It is about you, them, the person across the aisle. News channels’ discussions (which get very personal when anchors or panelists assault each other and our senses) are like Tuesday’s, “Is it too late for Manmohan to change his image?” (NDTV 24x7); “Can an elected chief minister dismiss a Taliban-like diktat as something for the media to discuss?” (Times Now); “Can playing (cricket) improve relations (between India and Pakistan)?” (IBN7).

None of these topics grab us. They’re about other people: politicians, bureaucrats, corporations and terrorists, but not us. Whereas female foeticide, medical malpractice, thwarted love and old age concern us all — our families, the neighbours’ families, somebody’s family. The show tackles issues that implicate most of us, not every weekend, perhaps, but may be the week after next?

Take this Sunday’s episode: elderly abandoned people. That affects millions of parents, children, even grandchildren. It makes us feel guilty. Uncomfortable. You can switch off the news without much more than an earache (did you hear Arnab Goswami screech like tyres braking at 100 mph, Monday night?) but with Satyamev, something is crawling under your skin.

There’s more than a grain of irony in the fact that Oprah’s Next Chapter (Discovery), celebrates exactly what Satyamev criticises: the Indian family. Be it the family of five in a Mumbai slum (“hutment” as her guide, Shantaram author Gregory David Roberts, kindly but less-than-truthfully calls it), who lives in a 10-by-nothing room; be it the four generations of the Somani family living in a mall-sized flat — or be it the Bachchans, whom Oprah visits on her way to a Parmeshwar and Adi Godrej party where A.R. Rahman tells her of his arranged marriages and how he lives with his mother — it’s all about loving your family. Young Aanchal says she loves her matchbox home because of the family closeness. Ditto, the Somani son: “this is what keeps India going”.

The first episode of Oprah’s show presents the “paradox”, as she calls it, of India — the filth of poverty and the filthy rich. She’s come to “experience” it. Indians need not watch it. We know the India she visits fleetingly — where there’s only running water for two hours, no running water and open air toilets. Watch it, if you must, for Oprah, for the wonder of India she finds in everyone or situation — even the open air, squatting toilet. How she manages the mission impossible of making a hutment feel like the Somani home. How she intones “Na-mas-te” and refuses to take herself seriously: draped in “a wrap fashion” garment she exclaims with more hope than honesty, “I have a saree body”. Ahem.

Family motivated every molecule of Joe Kennedy’s DNA — he would have appreciated Oprah’s India. He lived and did everything to ensure his family became the the first family of America. The Kennedys ( History Channel ) is a controversial, dramatised version of the life that most famous family. Its first episode traces Joe Kennedy Sr as he sweeps all before him to make his sons — first Joe and then Jack after the former died during World War II — president of the United States.

The Kennedys is not the myth of Camelot. Quite the opposite. We see what went on behind — and before — the opening scene in 1960, with Jack Kennedy on the brink of a famous presidential victory: Joe’s ruthless, overweening ambition, his weakness for women other than his wife; Jack’s wandering eye, like his Dad’s, mother Rose’s “faith” above all else, the sibling rivalries and Jackie eyeing a female campaign-worker knowing she’s Jack’s next one... It’s all there. It stars Greg Kinnear as Jack and Tom Wilkinson, outstanding as his father Joe. Katie Holmes (yes, Tom Cruise former wife) as Jackie sounds like she swallowed too much treacle but maybe that will change. Is it historically accurate? Not sure, but it sure makes for good TV.

Source: Indian Express?

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