A coincidence or a copied idea?

BY Abhishek Upadhyay| IN Media Practice | 17/05/2012
Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate has striking similarities with IBN7's Zindagi Live in content, production, and presentation.
The only difference between the two is the reach of the actor’s show, writes ABHISHEK UPADHAYAY
Aamir’s second episode of Satyamev Jayate, based on child abuse, was telecast on May13, Sunday, on Star plus channel. A guest on the show was Harish Aiyer, gay activist, who narrated a traumatic tale of child abuse and its serious implication. The same Harish Aiyer had been the guest in IBN7’s show Zindagi Live, based on the same subject. This show is based on real-life experiences of victims of social stigmas and tragedies and encourages them to fight it out. ZL has been successfully running since 2007. But this was not the first incident of striking similarities between Satyamev Jayate and Zindagi Live.
The two shows have a similar concept, similar guests, same stage set-up, and similar anchor presentation. The first show of Aamir’s Satyamev Jayate, based on foeticide, had the emotional story of Dr. Meetu Khurana (Delhi), a victim of forced abortion who was constrained to kill her unborn baby girl to satisfy the cruel whims of her husband. Coincidence doesn’t happen each time. But Aamir’s Satyamev Jayate has a full load of such coincidences. Same Dr. Meetu Khurana (Delhi) was the guest of IBN7’s Zindagi Live Season 2, based on the same subject. Zindagi Live’s producer and presenter Richa Aniruddha confirms these observations.
The irony is that there is so much media coverage and reporting around singer Palash Sen’s claim over the title track of Satyamev Jayate. Palash Sen has accused the music composer of the title track of Aamir’s Satyamev Jayate of stealing tunes from one of his songs. Coincidentally, Palash Sen's song is also called “Satyamev Jayate”. Sen has filed a case against Ram Sampath, music director for the Satyamev Jayate title track. The concerned song belongs to his album, “Phir Dhoom”. However, questions on Aamir’s alleged copying of an entire concept with same presentation style and even same guests lists only find place on few pages of Facebook (of course, one such Facebook page belongs to Richa Aniruddha, anchor of IBN7’s Zindagi Live).
Richa’s writes on her Facebook wall: “There is so much ado about child abuse these days. We made this show around three years ago. This episode was nominated at the Asian TV awards and won the best talk show NT Award.” One of the messages on her Facebook wall says: “Watching Satyamev Jayate right now on ‘Child Sexual Abuse’. This topic has been already covered by Richa in Zindagi Live. Zindagi Live episode on Child Sexual Abuse has already won National Television Award for The Best News Talk Show. One of the guests in Satyamev Jayate, Harrish Iyer, was also a guest in Zindagi Live episode on ‘Child Sexual Abuse’. What a coincidence..!”
Despite such baffling similarities, one can even give Aamir Khan the “benefit of doubt” but for his claim that the show is originally conceived by him. Zindagi Live was launched in September 2007. It has now entered into Season 5 and has touched various sensitive issues of social life such as female foeticide, dowry, child abuse, LBGT issues, domestic violence, old-age issues, etc.
Striking similarities:
1—Anchor presentation—Aamir’s style of presentation looks like a carbon copy of Richa Aniruddha’s in Zindagi Live. Same emotional outbursts, tearful moments, past tragedies, present difficulties, individual sufferings, everything is on similar lines. The show progresses in the same vein with the anchor (here, Aamir) quietly relating himself to the woes and suffering of the victim and start feeling the same.
2—Similar concept/issues—Aamir had the liberty to choose subjects from the vast horizon of society and humanity but he comfortably chose to start from those very issues which have become the hallmark of Zindagi Live. The concept is exactly the same. Zingadi Live is a show where the anchor connects with the viewer while listening to the heart-wrenching tale of the victim and travels into her/his past via her/his friends, relatives or sympathisers with a strong message to stamp out the root cause of the social evil. Satyamev Jayate does the same without giving any credit to the former.
3—Common stage set-up—The stage set-up of Satyamev Jayate is an extension of ZL. The sketch is clear: the anchor is sitting face-to-face with the victim in an indoor set-up with a few guests from among the public. The camera captures the emotions of the anchor, the guest, and the public. Aamir ought to be a little more original in at least infrastructural orientation of the show.
4—Field inputs—ZL heavily relies on field inputs which are usually linked with the on-location shoot of those places, people, memories, etc. that carry forward the story of the victim. To what extent Aamir is enamored of the field experience in his show is evident in the promos of Satyamev Jayate where he is shown to have been travelling across the country for the same.
5—Orientation—The unique sales proposition (USP) of Aamir’s show is its orientation towards finding solutions to social stigmas and intricate. Aamir even met Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to prevail upon him for setting up special courts to achieve speedy trail of such cases.
Richa Aniruddha, the face of Zindagi Live, again confirms: “ZL is a show which not only depicts the personal traumas/tragedies of the individual concerned but also believes in creating maximum avenues for her/him to face the trauma and gradually get over it.” She has many examples to offer.
6—Musical/light elements—Aamir enlivened the first episode of his show with enthralling musical performance of 3 idiots-fame lyricist Swanand Kirkir. His recitation of the song “O Ri Chiraiya” mesmerised the viewers. This is again an interesting coincidence for ZL also used to reverberate with such light and musical elements.
The only difference between the two is the reach and scale of the show. Aamir’s scale and his reach are too high for anyone to compete. His show is telecast not only on Star Plus but simultaneously on Doordarshan also. This naturally raises the bar for acceptability, reach, as well as impact of the show. The TRP his show is getting is quite high. As per Tam report, Satyamev Jayate has earned a rating of 3.8 in the Metros of Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai on Star Plus. That is higher than the IPL 5 ratings (based on the released figures after first 16 matches) which stood at 3.65 at the end of April. Across six metros, including Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad, the average TVR of Satyamev Jayate stood at 2.9.  
The impact of Satyamev Jayate is obvious, but can the fact that due credit was not accorded to the source from which an idea was borrowed be ignored?
(The writer is Editor, Special Projects, Dainik Bhaskar.)
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