Direct approach wins praise for Khan
Jury member and actor Aamir Khan attends a news conference at the 61st Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 10, 2011. The Berlinale International Film Festival runs from February 10 to 20, 2011. (REUTERS)
It's not unusual to hear about stars adopting the alter ego of social crusader. In India, actor/director/ producer Aamir Khan is being applauded for calling attention to some of the country's longstanding challenges in his new show Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Triumphs).
Khan's show, which debuted Sunday after a massive promotional campaign, began by tackling one of India's darkest secrets-the traditionally taboo subject of female foeticide.
He explored how the nation's longstanding preference for male heirs led to the tragic practice, which still occurs today in remote villages that are poor and hard to govern. During the show, Khan interviewed several young mothers who candidly shared their painfully raw and emotional experiences.
So far, critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive. The Hindustan Times newspaper went as far as to compare him to American talk show queen Oprah Winfrey due to his mixture of social activism and intimate, personal style.
Khan used data graphs and statistics to make his case, before urging the public to support progress and change. Satyamev Jayate ended with a powerful Bollywood-style song meant to maximize emotional impact.
The show immediately became a trending topic on Twitter. Actor and social activist Shabana Azmi tweeted "Aamir Khan's show can bring a revolution." She added it "forces us to re-examine ourselves."
Actress Preity Zinta told her 1.5-million followers: "I love this effort from him and thank him as a woman!"
Khan will reportedly earn 30 million rupees, about $564,000, for each of the 13 episodes, which will air on Sunday morning-a prime slot typically reserved for soap operas in India.
Such efforts have garnered considerable attention, which can only benefit the cause, but the actor remains humble: "I can only keep the issues in front of everyone," Khan told reporters after the show. "One person cannot improve or bring solutions to an issue."
Female foeticide in India has led to a huge gender imbalance. According to the 2011 census data, there are just 914 girls for every 1,000 boys across India - behind the global benchmark of 952.
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