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A movie star makes India confront its taboos
The show has done “what us hacks should have been doing over and over again,” she wrote.
Khan, 47, began his career in Bollywood as a romantic hero in the late 1980s. But over the last decade he has broken new ground in Bollywood, fashioning a career path combining the social consciousness of George Clooney with the hero appeal of Tom Cruise.
Now one of the industry’s very biggest stars, he has the cachet to push through any project he chooses. He produced, directed and acted in a film about the journey of a misunderstood dyslexic child. His film “3 Idiots” examined the sorry state of India’s education system. He’s thrown his weight behind social causes _ joining anti-dam protesters and embracing an anti-corruption activist. The talk show has cemented his status as Bollywood’s first true activist-star.
Khan initially was asked to host a TV game show. He refused.
“I want to do something dynamically different,” he told Open magazine. “I continued to think about it, and slowly this idea was conceived.”
“Satyamev Jayate” has tackled many horrors unique to India: the torture and murder of young brides for bringing insufficient dowries to their in-laws; the shunning and degradation of those at the bottom of Hinduism’s caste hierarchy.
Others are more universal _ alcoholism and child sexual abuse _ but made worse by a conservative culture unwilling to deal with them.
The program is broadcast on several networks estimated to reach about 400 million people in India. Since its debut, more than 13 million people have posted suggestions and messages of support on the show’s website. The alcohol abuse episode sent 60,000 phone calls flooding the Alcoholics Anonymous helpline, said the show’s co-director Svati Chakravarty.
“It was unprecedented in the history of AA worldwide.”
Rights workers say Khan has used his celebrity with remarkable effect.
Stalin K, a rights activist and documentary filmmaker who appeared in the caste episode, said none of the issues raised were new, but that Khan’s show was giving them far more attention than the glancing treatment they usually get in India’s media.
“It’s a different level of engagement,” he said. “The conversations are much deeper.”
Khan’s reputation as a thinking person’s superstar adds to the show’s credibility, but for the most part he keeps to the background _ only speaking when someone looks lost for words or to explain something to his audience.
In a recent episode, Khan interviewed a university professor who had battled years of discrimination for being a dalit _ the lowest Hindu caste. Kaushal Panwar spoke about being taunted in her village school, about not being allowed to drink water from the same clay pot as upper caste children.
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
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Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Crystal Wright is a black conservative woman living in Washington, D.C.
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