Finale of Satyamev Jayate: Behave yourself, Aamir Khan tells Indian men
If anyone knows how to market a show or a film, it’s Aamir Khan. Which is why he realised that a programme on how to treat women with respect in India, would find little viewership in India. So he decided to market the finale show of this season’s Satyamev Jayate with a promo which featured him speaking to Bollywood actresses - Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and Parineeti Chopra - about what they find appealing in a man. In case you’re wondering, Deepika simply wants “someone to love her”. I was perturbed. Was the finale actually going to deal with the hitherto underreported national crisis of marrying off leading ladies in Bollywood?
Thankfully, it turns out there was actually more to the episode than meets the eye. Yesterday’s episode was on mardaangi or masculinity and how men are more violent and aggressive than women – and how no good can come of it. I think this is a topic worth taking up. You walk down most Indian streets and the men seem to be bursting with testosterone. You’ll get catcalls, they’ll sidle up to you, look at you suggestively, follow you, rub up against you if possible in a crowded train or bus. I’ve heard of men across classes beating up their wives and girlfriends and even their mothers and sisters. And that shouting, screaming, smacking women around is a sign of mardaangi.
But it’s not just directed at women. To illustrate his point, Aamir interviewed Mahendra and Aradhana Singh whose son was killed in an act of road rage and Triveni Sahai Gangwar whose son died after being ragged in college. Aamir explained these deaths happened because men think they need to exercise power and control over others. And that aggression can be directed not just at women, but other men as well. The question is why do Indian men think they are strutting around in Neanderthal times?
According to my grandmother it’s all about upbringing. And a friend’s mother used to say an apple never falls far from the tree. Who would have thought Aamir Khan believes the same thing? Men are the way they are, he told us, because of their parvarish or upbringing.
He then interviewed men from different parts of India to see how their upbringing differs. There were men from Benares, Delhi, Rajasthan – clearly someone’s idea of the problem belt. The man from Rajasthan told us how his “dada” used to routinely beat up his “dadi”. Another man said how men don’t pick up and hold their babies because it would ruin their mardaangi. But we got no parvarish insights from south of the Vindhyas or the North East many of whose women come to Indian metros and get a crash course in “eve teasing”. Or Bengal. Now of course I shall be accused of parochialism. But really, why? Because Bengali men need a shot of mardaangi on a good day? Or is it because Bengal’s seen enough men stand up for women over the ages, so it destroys the storyline. Raja Ram Mohan and Vidyasagar did more than their bit for women and widow remarriage and so on. Gang rapes in Kolkata still makes news as something way out of the ordinary. Why not highlight the good?
Then came the three ladies of Bollywood, of whom Deepika hardly spoke. Which may be because Kangana had just stated that she’s refused at least ten item number offers because she doesn’t think women should be objectified. I think “Main Lovely ho gayiaan” was playing at the back of Deepika’s head at that point. Parineeti and Kangana spoke sense and looked on sagely while Aamir discussed how films incorrectly portray how to woo a woman. And men watch these films and think the best way to court a woman is by forcing her to kiss him. Let’s give give Aamir credit that he showed clips from his earlier films like Dil where he hasn’t really been a stellar role model. It was unnerving though to see the much-married Aamir flirting with the ladies and saying he’s also sensitive, when they said they like sensitive men. A little icky, going by the fact that all of them are more than 20 years his junior.
And once the ladies were sent off after doing their bit for Aamir and country, Amitabh Bachchan showed up in a velvet jacket which he seemed to have borrowed from Hugh Hefner. Amitabh didn’t discuss how he heckled Kimi Katkar in Hum with 500 men and so on. He spoke about parvarish again. And how he’s never raised a hand on his offspring or ever heard his own parents speak in raised voices. Of course, Harivanshrai Bachchan and Teji Bachchan are hardly the typical Indian parents. And since the programme focused on people from economically backward or challenged backgrounds (no one there from South Bombay or Golf Links), it’s unlikely their households will be very much like the Bachchan home. But hey, it’s the power of Bollywood. If Amitabh Bachchan tells you to be nice to your wife and kids in that KBC baritone, you will be. So whatever works.
My grouse with the episode was that no PLUs were shown. People Like Us who work in MNCs, are journalists or film-makers - and take home healthy salaries and have cushy lives and don’t have to stress too much about how to put food on the table or how they’ll pay the bills. That a large number of cases of aggression and assault and domestic abuse emerges from this demographic was simply ignored. That many women from this background don’t step up and report abuse because they feel they’ll be ostracised socially needs to be addressed. But no, only the lower and middle classes are at fault. As you go up the class ladder, we become sensitive evolved men it seems in some kind of mardaangi-free zone.
But then I suppose you have to save a topic for another season. Just think of the number of business leaders and stars he’d be able to get to comment on that episode. Till such time, I shall miss Aamir Khan and his tears and his many emotions.
Updated Date: Nov 11, 2014 11:27:35 IST
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