Is Aamir Khan India’s Saviour?
As writer Sonia Faleiro rightly observed on Twitter, Aamir Khan looks like he’s channeling Spock, on the cover of the September 10 issue of Time magazine. His angry expression would have been understandable had the cover been pegged to Ghajini, in which Khan plays a cartoonishly muscular avenger. But the story is about Satyamev Jayate, Khan’s television debut in which he discusses India’s social evils.
While Khan’s mug on the cover is amusing, as is an inside picture in which he gazes fiercely into the distance, Bobby Ghosh’s fawning profile of the actor is not. Over four-and-a-half gushing pages, Ghosh only stops short of calling Khan a messiah. Incredibly, the piece claims that Khan “dispensed with commercial considerations to indulge his conscience” when reports suggest that he was paid a record-breaking Rs3 crore per episode for the show. The article also says that Khan has managed to do what journalists have failed to—influence the government. The story makes it seem as though a recently passed bill on child sexual abuse was spurred by an episode on the same theme when the bill had actually been on the Parliament’s agenda before the show began.
That said, Khan is one of the few among his peers to tackle social issues on television. Bollywood actors are not known to take up serious causes. But there’s an element of phoniness in his reactions to his guests’ sob stories. Some viewers have commented that his sympathy and tears are all an act. A more serious accusation, and one that Ghosh does not address, is that Khan tends to simplify issues. For instance, S. Anand, a publisher of Dalit literature, wrote a scathing commentary on the episode on manual scavenging in which he accused Khan of deliberately avoiding bringing up B. R. Ambedkar and the issue of reservation.
Khan’s Time magazine appearance has created quite a flutter in the press. After all, making it to the cover is considered a major achievement. But, as Lakshmi Chaudhry noted in First Post, it’s not that big a deal. Khan was only on the cover of the South Asia edition, which routinely features portraits of prominent figures from the region in order to sell more copies. In the case of the current issue, however, Khan’s visage might just scare buyers away.
Star Power [Time]Tags: Aamir Khan, Film, Media, Satyamev Jayate, Television, Time magazine