Falsity of Reality

Muck raking, abuses, catfights and dirty politics are some terms which have been dominating the Idiot Box for some while now. All these terms are the inhabitants of the deplorable house of Reality shows. There has been a recent explosion in the number and types of reality shows on screen which consist of all the elements but reality. Audience are shown a feigned version of reality with tinted glasses. Sensationalism and staged fiction rule the roost in the name of reality shows with the worst thing being that these shows spare no one in their emotional rampage. Right from the participants to the audiences everyone is made a mockery of by these shows.


An extremely disquieting ramification of reality shows is that they have threatened the civilized and cultured way of life. Violent abuses and bitchy fights with the constant beeping censoring the conversations seem to fill the entire duration of the show. Shows like Roadies and Splits villa which encourage their contestants to win by hook or by crook are promoting an unscrupulous way of life amongst the youth. Brazen depiction of deceit and devious tactics employed by the participants on reality shows lends acceptability to such mal practices in the society. The belief that It’s good to be bad is promoted by reality shows with a shocking temerity and shamelessness.


Viewers identify with reality more easily than fiction as the former is supposedly real, untampered and a true portrayal of people and their emotions. But unfortunately the reality presented by such shows is adulterated by staged dramas, flavoured with crafty editing and garnished with fake emotional outbreaks on part of either judges or contestants.


In fact most reality shows are ending up as the K-soaps with flirtation, betrayals, slyness and treachery being the essential ingredients. For instance, the nasty politics of Kashmeera Shah and Rakhi Sawant in Big Boss was given maximum footage by the producers to raise the TRP’S and keep the moolah coming. Even after Kashmeera was voted out by the audience, the channel ensured that she was introduced again in the show as a Wild card entry to add to the spice quotient of the show. The foreign version of Big Boss even went to the extent of the hidden cameras following the participants in their intimate moments and even bathrooms to create a sensational stir!


Talent hunts and game shows have their own instruments of contrivance and contention. Judges are often shown breaking into uncouth brawls over petty idiotic issues. Dignified personalities in the likes of Javed Akhtar and Alka Yagnik have nasty arguments and walk outs in protest over contestant grading with sensational background score adding to the heat of the moment. It is really sad to see such icons in such disgraceful avatars on reality shows.


All limits are crossed as producers haven’t even spared young, innocent kids from their butchering. The talent hunts for kids like Li’l Champs etc expose the naive minds to ruthless voting processes and judges wrath making one wonder where are all the conscience going.


Participants who are game to such manufactured reality soil their own reputation and worth in the process. Often, contestants flood the studios with tears on a vote out and their histrionics, thus making a laughing stock of themselves. Anchors are trained to throw taunts at the participants about their make-believe love affairs which apparently blossom in the course of the show’s duration and end in a break up by the time the show ends.


If this wasn’t enough some controversies were also raised in shows like Nach Baliye and Jhalak Dikhla Ja alleging certain contestants for distributing SIM cards for voting them. In fact things turned unpleasant on the sets of Nach Baliye when Rakhi Sawant walked out from the stage in buckets of tears when she did not win the prize. She went on air levying allegations that the show’s voting system was rigged, thus putting the show producers in the line of fire.


While watching such shows, one needs to remember that there’s more than what meets the eye. And the job of what meets the eye and what not starts from the very selection process of contestants for such shows. The show organizers select participants with controversial personalities and a sensational life history or the ones with opposing viewpoints and boiling tempers or who are seasoned abusers.

Much of the power lies with the editing desk who can sift a lot of undesirable content. However, in the urge to get higher rankings, editors carefully select, join and screen only those parts which will be scandalous or voyeuristic and grab eyeballs. Often, incidents are blown out of proportion and quoted out of context. Testimony to the one sided reality presented by such shows are alibis by many contestants complaining of distorting the reality and showcasing them in a bad light.


With SMS’s deciding the winner at the end, debates have sparked off regarding the transparency of the voting systems. Off late, some instances resulting in the unexpected win of undeserving candidates in some reality shows raised eyebrows. Millions of votes are registered by the viewers hoping that their favourites would win. But, the channels never disclose the number of votes cast and the margin between two contestants thus leading to suspicion. The broadcasters and mobile service providers can always manipulate the results in their discretion to suit their conveniences. This is a breach of the public’s faith and dedication to the show as they are treated like powerless puppets with the actual strings being controlled by the show makers.


Reality shows make the participants, judges as well as the audience feel disgusted and small. Even though there are motivations for fame and money, participants and judges don’t realize that they are being stripped off far more of their dignity than probably what they had been paid for. The fame and money lasts just for 15 minutes or so but the blotch of indignity remains forever.


Such shows not only insult the intelligence of the audience but also their emotions. Every manufactured or staged shot which evokes emotional involvement from the viewer derides the purity of his/her precious response for his favourite show. Any medium of communication whether television or cinema is a two way transmission mechanism. It can’t survive without the feedback or response from the viewer. Shows need to bond their viewers with commitment and trust and not on short term attractions like senseless sensations. And if the makers of reality shows dig a little deeper, they’ll find that reality has far more interesting facets than just the superficiality portrayed by them. After all they don’t just say for nothing that –Truth is stranger and far more interesting than fiction.


Akshuna Bakshi

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