Reality Bites

(originally posted on November 16, 2009 to Facebook)
 
Reality TV in India has grown ever so big in the past few years. Us Indians, have the habit of making the most out of everything, then, how could we let this emerging concept called ‘Reality TV’ let be. Let me quote a few examples here to illustrate my point; we make sure that we don’t throw away a tube of tooth paste until we squeeze the last drop out of it; we refrigerate the leftover curry, heat it & have it a few days later even if it tastes like masala added to ice; we over-eat at a wedding reception to make up for the Rs.100 that we invested in buying a wedding gift; we would rather buy 3 pairs of unbranded socks at discounted rates than spend money on 1 pair of branded socks.First it was the ‘Saans-Bahu’ sagas that intrigued the audiences & production houses scrambled to get a piece of the action. I’ve heard that some shows didn’t even require script/story writers, because the viewers seemed to digest any rubbish that was thrown their way. All that the producers had to do was make sure that the camera zoomed in & out off the character’s face, do a few circles around the actors, shoot some slow motion sequences & the background score added to it did the rest of the job. Then the inevitable happened when the slow learning viewers got a taste of reality TV & that is when they said enough is enough, we’ve had it with this never-ending torture. Out went Balaji Telefilms & the others, infact, matters worsened when the producers couldn’t pay the actors & the rest of the crew. Well, that was a nail in the coffin for these serial producers.We could say that shows like ‘Boogie-Woogie’, ‘Anthakshari’ & ‘Sa re ga ma pa’ are the fore-fathers of reality TV in this country. But, the modern day resurgence of this concept happened owing to shows like ‘Roadies’, ‘Indian Idol’ & ‘KBC’. These shows were successful in capturing the imaginations of the common man, it made them feel like they too had the opportunity to appear in the limelight. These shows ensured that the producers were grinning all the way to the bank; investors couldn’t have been more pleased with the TRP’s for these shows soaring into the sky like a rocket, whose bottom was on fire. It didn’t take too long for global media giants like ‘Endemol’ to seize this opportunity & set up camp in India. They gave the common man a chance to peek into the lives of celebrities with their show ‘Big Boss’, a tried & tested formula across the globe. They left no stone unturned to grab eyeballs & that is the most logical explanation on how Shilpa Shetty won ‘Big Brother’. Many of us actually thought that the English loved her so much that they made an Indian win! Let’s cut the crap, they couldn’t care any less. ‘Endemol’ made the most brilliant choice scripting the show, Shilpa’s victory guaranteed front page news & media attention across the globe plus, it gave even more reasons for Indians to watch the show. The idea of observing these celebrities trapped inside a house like a couple of lab rats in a glass container, excites us, such is human nature.This is when television actors ditched sitcom producers & ran into the open arms of reality show makers. Thus began the battle for primetime spot on leading TV channels. Reality show makers kept churning out concepts, some new & few in the form of khichdi. Their growth was so steep that they literally did a ‘Taare Zameen Par’ by getting leading silver screen actors to host these shows. Both, AB Sr. & SRK tasted success with KBC. SRK later went on to host another show called ‘Kya aap paanchvi pass se tez hain?’, an adaptation of the American version ‘Are you smarter than a 5th grader?’. Producers were forced to take it off air coz’ of lack of buyers. One of the main reasons for that was the huge success of rival Salman Khan’s ‘Dus Ka Dum’ & colleague, Akshay Kumar’s ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ airing on other GECs (General Entertainment Channel).

While Karan Johar tried to replace Simi Garewal & endorse his coffee mugs, good friend Farah Khan went around judging shows & later got her own show where she got to play the Indian avatar of Oprah & Ellen Degeneres. Anu Malik took on the mantle of playing Simon, while Shekhar Suman & Archana Puran Singh tried to revive their fading careers by becoming gurus of slapstick comedy. I still can’t believe that Shekhar actually thought he could sing! Gosh. Rani Mukherjee, thrown off her throne in B-town by young broads like Deepika & Asin, agreed to host a dance reality show ‘DPL’ which has just become a messy raitha. Rajeev Khandelwal seemed out of place hosting ‘Sach Ka Samna’ , adaptation of the popular show ‘The Moment of Truth’. Farhan Akhtar got carried away when critics termed him ‘Jacks of all trades, his ‘Oye, its Friday’ didn’t really create the buzz it was meant to. Rakhi Sawant has managed to entertain us with all that she does; first it was her antics on Big Boss followed by her performances in ‘Dancing Queen’. She gave reality TV a whole new meaning when she shocked the entire nation with the story of her swayamwar on national TV. Well, we couldn’t help but smile when the same network that aired ‘Rakhi Ka Swayamwar’ announced it’s sequel with politics ka bigada hua beta, Rahul Mahajan, surely, these actors follow the motto “Entertainment ke liye kuch bhi karega.” The reality TV bug bit almost everyone, the old & the young alike. They were drawn to it like a pack of wolves to carcass. Most of the TV actors got baptized to ‘Reality TV Actors’ which provided them with ridiculous amounts of money & widespread fame, the luxury which the sitcoms didn’t offer them. The production houses who were still making sitcoms had to make do with a fresh breed of actors which probably led to the success of few of those shows, to name a few; Balika Vadhu, Dil Mil Gaye, Na aana iss desh laado etc.

I have given it a lot of thought but I still can’t seem to figure out what the term ‘Reality Show’ actually means. If it refers to shows that do not follow a script or story line, don’t live news coverage, award ceremonies, beauty pageants, live matches & cookery shows, all fall in the same bracket? Well, here’s something to ponder upon. That brings me to my next query, how many of these shows actually show reality? Or is it all just gimmicks to take the audiences for a ride? The downside of these reality shows for the actors is that their life span & demand is amazingly low compared to sitcoms. Take the examples of actors like Monica Bedi, Pooja Bedi, Mandira Bedi, Shonali Nagrani, Carol Gracias, Jiten, Sanjeeda, Gauri, Delnaz, Ali, Amit Tandon, Chethan, Kashmira & many more who have faded away from the spot light. Many of the reality show contestants have moved onto sitcoms as well. Half of the reality shows aired on TV in the past few years have not gone past their 1st season. Few of the major reasons for this could be the lack of new & innovative concepts, no star power to promote the show, clash of air timings with a more successful show on a rival network etc;

Some of the shows that have managed to hold onto their TRPs over time are Big Boss, MTV Roadies & Indian Idol. This season saw the launch of few new series & new seasons of earlier shows. While some failed to impress, the rest had a promising start. ‘Mujhe Iss Jungle Se Bachao’ adaptation of ‘I’m a celebrity, Get me out of here’ saw celebrities let loose in a forest surviving each day by completing tasks & facing challenges. Even the bikini clad sathi savithris & loud mouthed Akash Deep Sehgal couldn’t save that show! Sach Ka Samna, MTV’s Teen Diva, India’s Got Talent (adaptation of America’s Got Talent), Entertainment Ke liye Aur Bhi Kuch Karega, The Great Indian Love Challenge, Jhalak Dikhlaja, Nach Baliye amongst a long list have failed to score brownie points amongst the viewers as well. Whereas, Shows like ‘Perfect Bride’ & ‘Pathi, Patni Aur Woh’ have managed to do well for themselves. All said & done, Big Boss & Roadies take the top honors as the ‘Baap Of Reality Television’.

So what more can we expect from these media houses who promise us better entertainment? We have abused the concept of reality TV so much that we have grown sick & tired of it. What does the future hold in store for the idiot box’s sustainability? More sports? A 24×7 channel dedicated to filming a common man, something like that movie ‘Ed TV’? Live broadcast from outer space maybe? A show that airs videos of corrupt politicians & people in power? Who is to say that home entertainment can’t go to the next level with 3D shows on television? Well, all this is just speculation but I’m sure they’ll think of something, they always do! Reality has become the ‘IT’ word these days, with morality & integrity thrown out of the window; these show makers are willing to do anything for the sake of entertainment. This transformation from reel to reality has induced a lot of bad blood, so much that it bites.

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4 thoughts on “Reality Bites

  1. Youre so awesome, man! I cant believe I missed this blog for so long. Its just great stuff all round. Your design, man…too amazing! I cant wait to read what youve got next. I love everything that youre saying and want more, more, MORE! Keep this up, man! Its just too good.

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