It's a show about all of us: Aamir Khan
When you have completed almost 25 years in Bollywood, it's a challenge to reinvent yourself. But Aamir Khan has no such problems. Tonight, the star will invade your television sets with his small screen debut Satyamev Jayate.
As the title (roughly translated as Truth Alone Triumphs) suggests, the 90-minute show will take viewers across the length and breadth of India when it airs on Star Plus at 9pm UAE time.
Khan, who is the anchor and producer, has purposefully kept a tight lid on details of the non-fiction show, but claims it will give viewers a look inside the life of everyday Indians.
"It's a show about all of us," said Khan in a recent interview with an Indian news channel.
"By meeting different people from different parts of India, I am trying to understand my country better … it's a show about issues that affect us in our daily lives," he added.
According to insiders, the actor had insisted that his debut show be telecast simultaneously on Star, a private network, and on India's state-owned free-to-air Doordarshan network, to ensure maximum reach. The star has also declared that he wishes to duplicate the "Mahabarata effect" in India, when the late 1980s' airing of the epic TV serial brought a nation to a standstill every Sunday morning.
Khan poured in two years of his life into what is touted as his most ambitious project, with him even pulling the plug on brand endorsements to focus on his TV show.
It's a big gamble.
Unlike Karan Johar's celebrity chat show Koffee With Karan or Salman Khan's vicariously delightful reality show Bigg Boss, there's not much glamour to draw in viewers.
In the trailers, 47-year-old Khan is shown mingling with people from Kashmir to Kerala. Joining hands with boatmen from Alleppey in South India and speaking to rural women as they lug water is a part of his current job description.
But it's not the first time that the actor has taken risks. He produced Peepli Live, a satire about farmers' suicides in India in 2011. Though it was a burning issue that was covered extensively by news channels, it was the first time that a big Indian star had backed a serious subject and put the spotlight on debt-ridden farmers. Shorn of glossy characters and fancy foreign locales, the concept worked wonderfully and even made money at the box-office.
So, will history repeat itself with Satyamev Jayate? Yes, say industry insiders.
"I have not seen the show, but knowing Aamir Khan I am sure he has done a good job. I wish him the very best," said star of stage and screen Anupam Kher to tabloid! alluding to Khan's notorious reputation for being a perfectionist.
"When you are an artist you should never restrict yourself to one medium alone. You should be willing to experiment and that's what he's doing," said Kher, who had also hosted a quiz show on Discovery Channel during his illustrious career.
Meanwhile, Bollywood's current hit machine Emraan Hashmi says television is a platform which has now got the widest reach. Not so long ago, big screen stars that lit up the silver screen considered television as a step down. They only resorted to TV when the good roles started drying up.
"Now as actors, it's all about diversifying and reaching out to the maximum number of people. Television does that for you. I am also open to television shows but the concept and the idea should really interest me," said Hashmi who is riding high after the success of his films such as The Dirty Picture.
The boundaries between the small and the big screen are also blurring with actors now promoting their films on popular television serials. For instance, Akshay Kumar chose to plug his film Khatta Meetha by appearing on the hit prime time serial Sasural Genda Phool, while Vidya Balan was a guest in the Bigg Boss house to plug her film The Dirty Picture.
Even Khan chose this promotional route, visiting the sets of soap opera Dia Baati Aur Hum to plug Satyamev, meaning the hype surrounding his TV debut is unparalleled.
"The hype that has been created will help you lure viewers to watch the first day, first show. But they will return only if the content and concept is good. So only time will tell if Aamir has won this round too. So let's wait and see the show tonight," said Anu Ranjan, the President of ITA (Indian Television Academy), a body that honours top talents from the television industry every year.
The network is naturally optimistic about the show's outcome.
"No Bollywood star has been able to connect with the masses through his work as much as Aamir has done in the last decade," said Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India, in a statement.
Don't miss it
Watch Satyamev Jayate every Sunday at 9pm on Star Plus Middle East, repeated Friday mornings at 10.30am.
DID YOU KNOW?
Aamir Khan has co-written some songs for Satymev Jayate which will be revealed later during the show.
In India, it will be the first television show that will be aired across nine channels, in various languages such as Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam and Tamil.
Big stars on the small screen
"What excites me about television is its power and reach, its enormous potential to connect with people. And this is what I want to use. I want it to be an enriching experience for me and for my audience," said Khan in a statement.
Aamir Khan's brainchild Satyamev Jayate is tipped to take Indian television by storm. tabloid! takes a look at other movie stars who have made a splash on the small screen:
What it's about: The 13-episode series, which aired in early 2012, gave viewers a peek into the lives of veteran Bollywood actors and actresses. Interviews with stars, snippets with their childhood buddies and doting parents was part of Tandon's show. It was a classic example of an out-of-work movie actress moving into TV.
What it's about: Just when we thought that director-actor-producer Akhtar was perfection personified, Oye It's Friday came along in 2008. Akhtar could do almost everything — except be a chat show host. Lacking the bite that producer Karan Johar displayed while grilling his guests in Koffee With Karan, Akhtar's chatting skills were questionable and bland. Note to Akhtar: A light banter with your buddies at brunch works in your circle, but television viewers love a bit of dirty laundry.
Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan
What it's about: Season 5 of Bigg Boss last year proved to be a double delight with Khan joining hands with his buddy Dutt to get the show on the road. Reprimanding inmates, ironing out problems among them and inspiring the contestants to stay locked up inside the house was their job at hand. Together, they did it effortlessly.
What it's about: When it comes to presenting a happy girl image, there's no beating Zinta. Her roles on the big screen drew heavily on her chirpy persona. But her foray into the small screen last year was not greeted with a happy ending. The reviews garnered from her first episode, starring Salman Khan as the guest, were peppered generously with terms "lacklustre" and "contrived". The sight of her proposing to Khan didn't go down too well with the viewers either and was labelled a tad desperate.
What it's about: With his rich baritone and commanding personality, Bachchan injected grace into big stars hosting television shows. Barring Season 3 of KBC hosted by Shah Rukh Khan, the KBC throne was owned by Big B.
"Ten years ago in the year 2000, when the entire world was celebrating the new century, I was celebrating my disastrous fortune. There were no films, no money, no company, a million legal cases against and the tax authorities had put notice of recovery on my home. An offer for television changed all that when I agreed to anchor Kaun Banega Crorepati much against all the advice and resentment from friends, family and advisers," Big B posted on his blog. The game changed dozens of lives, including that of its legendary host Bachchan.
What it's about: The Don 2 star took up the mantle in 2010 from Khiladi star Akshay Kumar, who had hosted the first two seasons of Fear Factor Khatron Ki Khiladi. But the gamble to put a giggly Chopra in a testestorone-charged domain didn't pay off. The producers eventually returned to Kumar when they didn't get the desired viewership rating.
What it's about: In Simi Garewal's white-washed lair, everything is utopian with stars being prodded (gently) to display their soft side. While newbie Ranveer Singh cried like a baby when his mother appeared on the show, Ranbir Kapoor revealed that he was a misunderstood Casanova. Unlike the acerbic Koffee With Karan, Garewal's show was all about treating stars with kid gloves.
Shah Rukh Khan
What it's about: He started his career in television and went on to become one of the biggest actors in Indian cinema. However, his charming persona did not translate well when he turned gameshow anchor. Comparisons to Big B (KBC's previous host) and the poor, ill-conceived concepts and execution of Zor Ka Jhatka in 2011 and KAPPSTH in 2008 have stopped Khan from conquering the television world.