Main samay hoon.... Announcer Harish Bhimani's bass voice set against the silhouette of the gently spinning wheel of time was a fixture at almost every Indian home during the serialization of one of the most dramatic Indian epics during the fall-summer seasons of 1988-1990.
Bhimani, as the narrator of Mahabharata and the voice of time, signalled the start of every eagerly awaited episode on Sunday mornings when families gathered around their television sets to lose themselves in the world of princely feuds and political power games.
Aamir Khan's pilot episode of TV show Satyamev Jayate has replaced the Sunday morning slot once dominated by the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana on DD National. The BR Chopra produced Mahabharata, better packaged than its predecessor Ramayana in the mid 80s, once united India better than any political or social campaign could.
Aamir\'s Satyamev Jayate has replaced the Sunday morning slot once dominated by Mahabharata and Ramayana.
In the first episode Aamir decided to focus on the contentious subject of female foeticide, a scourge, he proved through widely researched data, that plagues not only the unenlightened rural India but even the homes of affluent upper middle class Indians.
Aamir touched a raw nerve with people with his widely viewed show and promised to deal with 13 such issues throughout the season, each exposing society's duplicity and bring to light various evils that are usually swept under the carpet. Ironically, Chopra's televised Mahabharata is also a dramatized version of Vyas' complex labyrinth of subplots of power struggle, polygamy, gambling, social ostracism, sexual assault and retribution.
Taking the Mahabharata and Ramayana slot may have been a huge gamble for Aamir given that it's the traditional family viewing hour. He reportedly stood his ground when advised to take the 9 PM prime time slot. Aamir must have known that breaking the habit of two generations of followers hooked to the epic saga of the Pandavas and Kauravas would have been difficult.
If you had grown up in 80s you would remember the languorous Sunday mornings with unhurried breakfasts. But the people milling around the streets and local tea stalls would disappear the moment the first strains of the opening song 'Atha Shri Mahabharata Katha...' on TV wafted out through open windows and shops that could afford a TV set. The serial was not just entertainment it was an addictive habit that women gossiped about in the markets.
Girls swooned over actor Nitish Bhardwaj who played the role of Lord Krishna and aged ladies touched his feet when they came across him in city events. The streets bore the look of a curfew during a military occupation and phrases from the serial's script became cult dialogue. "Shant Gadadhari Bheem, shant..." was used both to calm and to tease during college canteen feuds.
This is the legacy Aamir inherited. Whether his show goes on to became as famous as the Mahabharata is something we have to wait and see but the curious thing is the initial response to the pilot episode. It was almost a flashback to the late 80s when everyone you knew had one thing to say: "I am watching Mahabharata on TV." Replace that with Satyamev Jayate in circa 2012.
Those unfortunate enough to have to work on Sunday, May 6, watched the show on YouTube later. The streets were as empty as when Mahabharata aired, the households were as engrossed and engaged with the horrific tales of abused housewives as they had been 20 years ago when Draupadi, played by Rupa Ganguly, was dragged into the court by her hair, leading to gasps inside drawing rooms and stunned disapproval by homemakers.
Yes, Aamir has a tough act to follow.