Thursday, May 31, 2012

Satyamev Jayate, Mr. Aamir Khan !

I think there would be over a million blogs and articles written on Satyamev Jayate. Most of them have praised the show and Aamir Khan, and some of them were typical cynics. It was quite obvious that people find it difficult to accept honesty these days. "Nobody is honest" sounds truer than saying "Mr. X may be honest".

I was invited to one of the episodes of Satyamev Jayate that dealt with dowry. The research team of SMJ found that dowry as a practice doesnt exist in the culture and traditions of the people of the Northeast India. I gave the Assamese perspective to that debate.

After interacting with Aamir and his team for 2 days, I see myself completely enamoured by Aamir Khan, his team and the concept of Satyamev Jayate.

Aamir Khan is genuine, hardworking, creative and meticulous. Above all, he is humane and he is an active member of the society. By being active, I mean that he is not oblivious to the good and the bad things happening in the society. Like many of us, he and his thoughts are not cocooned within the limits of his family, friends and profession. He feels part of a greater society of people irrespective of religion, caste, creed and social/economic status.

In Satyamev Jayate, he is practically using his celebrity status, money, influence to a good cause. It is an example of 'popularity being put to better use'.

Let me mention some of my observations that amazed me and made me a fan of Mr. Aamir Khan. I am a communications MBA and let me tell you that he is the God of Communications too. I could see great communication strategy at every point of interaction. One needs to be genuine in his objectives and a maverick to pull such a well planned communication and marketing effort.

All of us felt that we are friends of Aamir Khan.

When we went for the shoot, he welcomed and appreciated each one of us with lot of respect and humility for taking the time out to participate in the show. After a gruelling shoot that went till 11 hours, he spent another 1 hour with us casually talking to all of us, discussing issues and taking opinions, making us feel part of a greater initiative. I could feel the whole air of genuine efforts being put in for the show.

He took photographs with each of us. Few weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised to see a handwritten appreciation letter with a few gifts, thanking me for my participation, hand delivered to my house.

From a communication strategy point of view, Aamir and his team knew that the participants will be the brand ambassadors and word of mouth generators for the show. I have surely become one. My tweets and Facebook updates are proof enough. Another point to note is that nobody spoke a word about SMJ before its launch. Wasn't that amazing?

Aamir Khan feels for his commitments thoroughly.

I was told that Aamir Khan has cancelled all his ad contracts to do this show. It didn't have much meaning to me until one day when I read one of his article that appeared in Tehelka. He was quoted saying, "I just felt that while I’m doing this show, I didn’t want to be selling something. I don’t know how to say it. It didn’t feel right to me." This sentence opened my eyes to this new perspective of looking at one's commitments.

Later in another show, he mentioned that he had endorsement deals of about Rs. 100-125 crores per year ! As per another report, Aamir Khan paid 23 crores to some of the brands as penalty of the breach of the ad contracts. I personally can't think of anybody who would ever say no to Rs. 100 crores for a social cause.

To put this debate into perspective, Aamir Khan is getting Rs. 3.5 crores per episode. But this amount includes the production cost of the episodes as well. The bulk of the money has gone into the production cost and in fact some of the episodes may have overshot the amount budgeted. The research for this show has been going on for the past 3 years which involved extensive travelling with camera and crew. It is said that Aamir Khan has spent Rs. 32 crores in the making, research and promotion of the show. If you add the 120 crores (approx) that he decided to fore-go, the total cost of Satyamev Jayate comes to around 150 crores.

In return, he is getting a meagre Rs. 46 crores (3.5 crores per episode) from Star Plus.

Aamir Khan cannot relate to frivolity and to entertainment for the sake of entertainment.

Star Plus had invited him to host KBC and would have offered similar amounts per episode. He could have agreed to do KBC and earned a few crores doing almost nothing. The questions are set by someone else. The set design and the whole episode is done by someone else. You need to just host the show. Effectively repeat the same dialogues for innumerable episodes. For Aamir Khan, KBC was frivolous and he politely refused. Later, when Star Plus approached him again with complete freedom to do whatever he liked, he came up with this difficult idea of 'Satyamev Jayate'. He contacted his close friends - Satyajit Bhatkal, Svati Bhatkal and Lancy Fernandes. They structured a 15 member fully paid professional team and went into research for three years collecting data. That takes some conviction and guts in today’s world of frivolity and sarcasm.

Aamir Khan is the God of Communications

This is completely from the eyes of a communication professional. That is me. Aamir Khan considers the episodes on Star Plus as just one media vehicle. He knew that all his research has to reach the maximum number of people in more than one ways for the research to have a long lasting impact.

Idea 1:
To compose a song for each of the episodes / issues. As music is an effective social media vehicle, he decided engage experts to write / compose one soul-full song for each episode. The strategy was to release an audio CD of the compilation after the television episodes are over.

Idea 2:
To broadcast the episodes in multiple channels including Doordarshan. Not only the idea had revenue potential for Star Plus, but also it created immense reach of the message that Aamir Khan wanted to communicate. What's more, he decided on the Sunday Morning prime time slot, which was once a prime time slot during the Ramayana / Mahabharata days. It was innovative thinking, which created curiosity and inquisitiveness for the show. Overall, these decisions had immense PR / news potential. Everybody was talking about these decisions, which created a media storm that we all have experienced.

TAM (Media Measurement Index) data shows Satyamev Jayate has delivered a historic reach of 33 crores people over the first 3 episodes. That is about 1 in 3 Indians. Phew!

Idea 3:
To utilise the digital medium to reach the youth of the country. The SMJ team designed an interactive website where users could even upload videos apart from writing comments. They created presence in all the popular social media platforms such as the Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Creating these avenues are perhaps easy, but actively managing these platforms are quite difficult and arduous. All of these initiatives have professionals managing them actively.

It is quoted that Satyamev Jayate has reached out to more than 80% of the Twitter audience and has generated a record 19 crore impressions

Idea 4
Involved NGOs for credibility and support. Aamir Khan ensured that qualified NGOs are found out for each of the issues so that a credible NGO takes the activism forward. He effectively involved multiple NGOs actively and structured a way to gather funds for them. This brings in immense credibility to the social messages that Satyamev Jayate is trying to communicate to the larger audience.

To my mind, he has devised a true 360 degree marketing strategy that can be a case study in Harvard Business Review. :)

Overall I see SMJ as a great social movement started by Aamir Khan. He would continue the crusade, is what I would tend to believe from my experience with him. Even if he does not continue the movement for whatever reasons, I would consider this itself as a great contribution to mankind. This show would help us take a pause and think if our civilization is going in the right direction.


  1. Anonymous1:50 PM

    My perspective was just that of a viewer's, until I came across yours. Appreciate your outlook! I loved SMJ ever since I started watching it. Loved the fact that NE was praised so much in the dowry episode. And a little sad that your conviction that dowry doesn't exist in NE is actually untrue. I came across this fact when I was doing a story on Rise of Divorces for my magazine, and experts told me -- Dowry and Domestic Abuse are the 2 greatest causes for divorce in Assam. But yeah it was non-existent some years ago. Now its kinda creeping into our fabric. Scary!

    1. Dowri doesn't exist in the culture of Assam is the truth. The truth also is that human beings are greedy. I have not seen Dowry in my living life in Assam. There is a tradition of the girl's family giving furniture etc but that is voluntary. As I said, greed exist. So these vices also exist. But that is not cultural and are not traditions.

      Domestic violence is a menace mainly because of alcoholism and the male ego. Male ego is the reason for absence of dowry. It is about the culture of being capable of providing for and then one would marry. For instance, eloping is acceptable to quite an extent. Eloping is an anti-thesis to dowry.

      Also, women in Assam are empowered. That one can see in the number of cases of reported crimes against women, which does not have any correlation with the count of incidences of crimes. In states like UP, police just doesn't register such cases.

      Anyways, my personal opinion is that dowry doesn't exist in the Northeast. Opinions are generic statements and so it is not necessarily 100% fact.

  2. Its been a long time since the north east has been represented in a proper perspective and positive light.. we are not just about Guns, bomb blasts, bandhs, and rock music... thank you Durlov for sharing your views...

    1. Ambar da, you are right. It is always a great pride to speak about our rupohi axom.

  3. Anonymous2:41 PM

    Its really nice of you to present the insights of SMJ. As a matter of fact I was also a bit skeptical regarding the way the show was conducted . But you cleared all my doubts . Keep Blogging :)

  4. I havealways been a fan of Mr. AK. The SMJ has taken my respect to a newer level. You were soo lucky to be a part of it :)

    I am also associated with a Spiritual org founded by Yugrishi Pt Shriram Sharma acharya
    1st 2 episodes are related to some of the activities by 'Yug Nirman Yojna' (An ambitious project of transforming the Era by changing oneself)

    The current patron of the org is Dr Pranav Pandya (M.D.).
    Here is his 5 minute message to support Mr. AK

    Adarniya Dr Saheb gave a lecture on Female Foeticide last year that
    can be watched on

    Also please watch and share the following "nuukad drama" performed by
    DSVV students to all people in your family and friend circle.
    !! कन्या भ्रूण हत्या !! इसे जीने दो !

    *Audio book:*
    *Audio books*:

    *Pragya song:* *इस दहेज ने ही फैलाया*

    *Pragya Song Audio *:
    *Lyrics*: *इस दहेज ने ही फैलाया*

    इस दहेज ने ही फैलाया, भारी अत्याचार है।
    इस दानव को मार भगाओ, यह समाज का भार है॥
    पुत्र जन्म लेते ही घर में, लहर खुशी की छा जाती॥
    लेकिन कन्या इस धरती पर, एक समस्या बन जाती॥
    कैसे हाथ करेंगे पीले, यदि अभाव घर में धन का।
    घर-वर दोनों ठीक चाहिए, प्रश्न समूचे जीवन का॥
    बात सैकड़ों की न कहीं भी, पहला अंक हजार है॥
    शिक्षित और सुशील सुपुत्री, रूप गुणों की उजियारी।
    किन्तु पिता के पास नहीं धन, इसीलिये बैठी क्वांरी॥
    चिन्ता ही दहेज की निशदिन, किये यहाँ हैरान बड़ा।
    एक तरफ शादी का सौदा, एक तरफ ईमान खड़ा॥
    परेशान होकर बहुतों ने, छोड़ दिया संसार है।।
    नारी का क्या मूल्य न कोई-क्या वह पशु से दीन कहो।
    नर की तुलना में क्यों इसको, माना इतना हीन कहो॥
    लडक़े वाला लेन-देन में, कितनी अकड़ दिखाता है।
    नीलामी जैसी बोली वह, नेगों की लगवाता है॥
    यह पुनीत सम्बन्ध नहीं है, निन्दनीय व्यवहार है॥
    इस कुरीति ने दुष्कृत्यों की, बाढ़ भयंकर फैलायी।
    घूस, मिलावट, चोर-बजारी बेईमानी सिखलायी॥
    ओ समाज के ठेकेदारों, कुम्भकरण बन सोते हो।
    अनाचार से आँख फेरकर, बीज पाप के बोते हो॥
    पैसे को भगवान बनाकर, रचा क्रूर व्यवहार है॥
    *some articles and stories like*:

  5. It's certainly commendable for the efforts taken by Mr. Aamir Khan in directing societal perspectives towards menaces that exist in the current civilization. I am truly in consensus with your point of conclusion that: "This show would help us take a pause and think if our civilization is going in the right direction". Moreover, assuming the total budget of Satyameva Jayate being at Rs. 150 Cr., still this is a meagre fraction of Govt budgets and plans. Still, such a program has been able to provide adequate concentration over the entirety of India without neglect towards the most commonly and easily ignored North East. This has proven one more point where the Govt has failed. Appreciate your inputs. Thanks for your blog.

    1. Thank you Mr. Mukunthan Iyer. You are right. Now it is our turn to return the favour to Mr. Aamir Khan by being aware and responsible. Satyamev Jayate !

    2. Would wait for your story factory to produce stories.. :)

  6. Anonymous11:22 PM

    brilliant show, brilliant concept and a brilliant perspective towards the show ! keep it up!

    1. Thank you for reading my blog and leaving this comment.

  7. This is a wonderful piece! I was cynical about the concept of the show before I saw it but when I watched the episodes, I was very moved. Aamir is not the star of this show, the stories of the guests are. He never highlights himself and he never makes his guests into victims. I think these are two important points. :)

    I wrote my review here:

    All the best!

    1. Thank you ! I have read your post and commented. I liked the point of entertainment playing the role of a cultural conversation-ist, which can usher in a breeze of change. Media has a huge role to play and it is only very rarely that people use it without an agenda of making money.

  8. Linkedin search told that you are a MICA passout. Duh you are a MICA passout.
    Such an enlightening post giving a perspective which many of us viewers don't get to know. Thank you!
    And also thanks for commenting on my article on SMJ in LTGTR.


    1. Thank you.

      Can you forward me the link where I commented.
      'I am so blank, I tell you' that I had to write "Blank Pages" ( :)

      I simply loved your blog template and the turtle :) They are beautiful and loaded :)

  9. got a different perspective to watch SMJ, thanks to you..
    BTW love your writing style.. so lucid... Shall definitely go through all your posts, but slowly :)

  10. Nice Durlov...I cant express what I feel for this legend.. Aamir..
    Yes you are right.. SMJ is a great contribution to mankind...

    1. Yes it is. I just hope God gives him more strength to do more such mass influencing programs.


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