Indian actor is felicitated at America Abroad Media Gala in Washington, DC
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, October 28, 2013 – Acclaimed Indian actor Aamir Khan was honored at a prestigious awards function for his exemplary contributions to highlighting pressing social challenges in the world’s largest democracy. The supremely gifted artiste’s television show, ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (Truth Alone Prevails), has set records when it comes to a huge audience and impact!
Here, in the nation’s capital, Aamir was felicitated by America Abroad Media (AAM) founded a decade ago by Aaron Lobel to produce a diverse range of media programming that informs, educates, engages and empowers audiences across the globe! Aamir was being honored together with Kathryn Bigelow, the only woman to date to win the Academy Award for Best Director, and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), founded by Peter Ackerman, which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year.
The event, a first-of-its-kind for AAM, was impeccably organized and held in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, a couple of blocks east of the White House. Among the distinguished guests were: Indian Ambassador Mrs. Nirupama Rao; Congressman Ami Bera (Democrat – California), currently the only Indian-American in Congress; Congresswoman Grace Meng (Democrat – New York); General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA; Douglas Wilson, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; and Timothy Roemer, former US Ambassador to India and currently Strategic Counselor at APCO Worldwide. The audience comprised of some 400 eminent professionals in diverse fields – government, film, arts and entertainment, press and media, academia, business and industry.
Aamir was accompanied by his wife Kiran Rao, a talented director in her own right. The couple created quite an impression with their down-to-earth demeanor and affable manner. So pleasing given Aamir’s immense starpower and towering status.
In a press interaction, prior to the formal program, the 47-year-old superstar said, “It’s really nice for our work to be recognized. Me and the entire team of ‘Satyamev Jayate’ work with a lot of love and passion. It’s wonderful to know that organizations even outside of India have seen the program and have recognized the work that we are trying to do”.
The event was appropriately titled, ‘The Power of Film’. In his welcome address, AAM President Aaron Lobel, stressed that the purpose of the Inaugural Awards Dinner is to “honor three exceptional leaders who are willing to tackle serious issues of global importance and who through their integrity and capabilities inform, inspire and empower audiences around the world”.
When Aamir was queried by journalists about how his work has contributed to the global dialogue on key social issues, he replied, “I don’t want to sound presumptuous about how much my work has done. But, what I want to say is that all my capabilities lie in the field of media and storytelling. So, what we have been trying to do is combine our expertise or our capabilities in storytelling with television which is a very powerful medium”.
And what capabilities he has! ‘Satyamev Jayate’ is a landmark show! It has a searing honesty; it pierces the soul! Among the sensitive social issues which are tackled in the very first season are female foetal infanticide, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, dowry, alcoholism, medical malpractice, honor killings, untouchability, pesticide poisoning and the plight of senior citizens.
A day before the AAM gala, Aamir screened the episode on foetal infanticide, at the Jefferson Hotel, downtown, for a small, select group. Reportedly, the impact was profound!
At the Inaugural Awards Dinner, Aamir told the eminent audience, “Each one of us is responsible for the issues. This is a show that we try to do with love. We feel that we are part of the problem and we are also part of the solution. And we need to find that. We need to question ourselves. We need to look inside instead of pointing outside”.
He emphasized, “the two basis that we work on are love and hope. When we research topics, we feel so hopeless at times”, he admitted, reiterating that “we look at each one of these shows as ourselves, with hope and love”.
Aamir is known to be reticent when it comes to accepting awards, so it came as a surprise that he was among the recipients of the AAM award. Even more surprising, he readily agreed to actively participate in the event which included a Press and Media meet, cocktail reception, a formal and lavish dinner, followed by a panel discussion with the honorees which was moderated by Washington Post film critic, Ann Hornaday.
While acknowledging that his show, ‘Satyamev Jayate’ has garnered “a very good response from Indian-Americans”, Aamir told journalists, “I am more concerned about the Indian audience. It’s nice to be felicitated here. It’s nice that the work we’ve been doing back home in India is being recognized over here as well, but my main aim is to really work in India and to sensitize people about issues and to see if we can find solutions to our own issues and problems back home in India”, he said.
“I have been thinking about this for a long time and how I could contribute in my own way towards hopefully empowering people. That’s why I did the show”, he added.
In his acceptance speech, he thanked AAM “for this honor, for recognizing the work that we have started in our country”. He told the audience, “I must say that this journey which began roughly four years ago has been one of the most enriching journeys of my life, something that I have learnt a whole lot from. I can’t put my finger on when it started because it grew in my head for many years. I kept feeling uncomfortable about what I read in newspapers every day and I didn’t know how to help or contribute. It would trouble me for years. And then, one day, a friend of mine who has a big television network came to me and said I want you to do a game show for my television channel. I said, I’m not really interested in a game show”. After extensive research, he presented the concept of ‘Satyamev Jayate’.
Without divulging any details, Aamir told journalists that he is working on the next season of the show. “We do not reveal the issues beforehand”, he averred, responding to a question on upcoming episodes. “We want that when you turn the TV on, you discover for yourself what the issues are. That’s one of our policies”, he said.
When asked about the upcoming elections in India and the issues that he believes should be incorporated in the agenda of political parties, he answered, “The issue of justice for the common man, the issue of law and order for the common man, ensuring the basic needs of the common man. These are some of the things that I would like to see them talk about”.
Aamir is a Bollywood superstar; he is using that status to put the spotlight on social issues. He believes in the relevance of both commercial cinema and off-the-beaten-path films. He told the Press corps here, “Throughout the years of Indian cinema, different films have been made. I don’t believe a time will come when we have only entertainment films or issue-based films. In every period, there are different films and it should be like this”, he said.