MUMBAI: Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan has been lauded for addressing some of India's darkest social problems after his new television show tackled the taboo subject of female foeticide.
Khan's show, which had been massively promoted before its debut on Sunday, received near-universal praise from the press and the public for his interviews with women about their harrowing experiences.
The 90-minute programme gripped viewers as Khan, a top actor, producer and director, explored how a preference for male heirs leads to the killing of female foetuses and new-borns.
Khan, using data graphs and maps to make his case, urged the public to help bring about change before an emotional Bollywood-style song at the end of the show ensured maximum appeal to the audience.
The mixture of campaigning social activism and an intimate, personal style on “Satyamev Jayate” (Truth Alone Triumphs) drew comparisons to US chat show host Oprah Winfrey.
“Aamir Khan's a Desi (Indian) Oprah!” said a headline in Monday's Hindustan Times, with a piece quoting praise from celebrities and fans after reaction to the show was so strong that its website crashed.
“Aamir Khan's show can bring a revolution,” tweeted actor and social activist Shabana Azmi, adding the programme “forces us to reexamine ourselves”.
Actress Preity Zinta told her 1.5-million followers: “I love this effort from him and thank him as a Woman!”
Khan is reportedly earning 30 million rupees ($564,000) for each of the 13 episodes in the weekly series, which is airing on the Star network and Doordarshan channels.
“I can only keep the issues in front of everyone. One person cannot improve or bring solutions to an issue,” Aamir told reporters after the show.
The programme has been given a late Sunday morning slot, at a time when Indian families used to watch serials or Hindu epics.
The preference for male children has led to a huge gender imbalance, with India's 2011 census data showing just 914 girls per 1,000 boys across India — much behind the global benchmark of 952.
Girls are often viewed as a burden in traditional families as they require hefty dowries to be married off.