Imagine nurturing a dream of becoming the biggest singing sensation of your generation and one fine day, getting an opportunity of showcasing your talent in front of one billion people. Or how many of us have wondered how celebrities actually look like in a de-glam avatar? How many of us day-dreamers have always wanted to become millionaires overnight; without having to slog throughout our lives? How many of us always wanted a make-over and wanted to stun the world around us? Enter reality shows. Reality shows have equated fiction with reality, with effortless ease.
Reality television was an attempt to break the monotony of drama series. Exciting scripts and out-of the box ideas are two aspects which have made reality TV stand out.
Reality shows come in different forms –game shows, talent hunts, celebrity shows, make-over shows, adventure based shows. Such a huge variety ensures that the audience is spoilt for choice. But the common element in all these varieties is watching how ordinary people or celebrities react in real life situations.
With the SMS voting system, reality shows emerged as the next big thing on television because of the factor of audience involvement. Talent hunts and celebrity reality shows involve choosing the winner through a public voting system.
Speaking of Indian TV, at a time when K serials hogged the prime time slots, Kaun Banega Crorepati ( an adaptation of the popular US quiz show- Who wants to be a millionaire ?) became a huge hit with the masses because of an interesting mixture of reasons, the most important one being The Big B. A quiz show with a very different feel to it, KBC brought with it soaring TRPs. It is still remembered as Amitabh Bacchan’s biggest comeback. What followed was a flood of reality shows on Indian TV. Most Indian reality shows have essentially been adaptations of western shows. For instance Indian idol is our desi version of the American Idol, Jhalak Dikhla Ja of Dancing with the Stars. However reality shows have always managed to keep the audience glued to their seats. They were a welcome change for TV viewers who were fed up of the saas- bahu sagas. Most of these reality shows became instant hits with the audience, and the TV producers kept rolling one season after another.
Indian Idol’s first season was extremely popular with Abhijeet Sawant becoming the next singing phenomenon. However the other seasons did not manage to create the same hype. This is in contrast to American Idol wherein all the seasons have been equally popular and is now into its 8th season. Sa Re Ga Ma started as a humble talent show hosted by Sonu Nigam soon metamorphosed into an ultra-glam, uber-dramatic reality show with the various celebrity judges like Himesh Reshamiya, Alka Yagnik, Abhijeet and Ismail Darbar constantly at loggerheads with each other.
MTV Roadies is still a huge rage amongst youngsters on the sheer strength of being an original and innovative concept. Jhalak Dikhla Ja, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge have been other popular Indian reality shows.
Reality shows have had their fair share of controversies as well. It has been alleged that reality shows are ‘planned or scripted’ and the voting system was often criticized for the lack of transparency. Reality shows were probably born from the idea that if one knows how to play around with the element of human emotions wisely, it could be extremely rewarding in every which way. Hence TV producers have never failed to add a bit of drama to the so-called reality shows every now and then.
Indian Idol judge, Anu Malik is shown to be extremely rude to his co- judges and overtly critical of most of the participants, considered to be a publicity stunt by most people. Celebrity judges threatening to leave the show because of constant tussles with fellow judges has also been considered as a publicity gimmick. Dance shows which have shown episodes of the celebrities performing inspite of injuries have garnered huge TRPs. We love our rona- dhona at times don’t we? It is also said that affairs among participants have also been intentionally highlighted to give that much needed boost to sagging TRPs.
With reality shows becoming the talk of the town, the stakes are extremely high. The ultimate litmus test is to survive the SMS poll. The formats may vary but the SMS poll has been a huge money spinner for both the news channels as well as the mobile operators. The equation can now become simpler to us. More the controversies, more people get engrossed, what with the channels reaping double benefit not only with higher TRPs but higher number of SMSs and more cash!
I have been a huge fan of the popular drama show Balika Vadhu for the simple reason that it has managed to show the stark reality of the customs and traditions happening in our villages and the mindset of a large part of India which hasn’t undergone a change in an extremely convincing manner. The costumes, the sets, the dialogues, and the situations- everything about this serial has led me to call it a “Reality Show”.
So are reality shows far from being real? We may agree on the fact that ultimately TV channels are running into a profit making venture, so it is not unfair to capitalize on all those factors which yield and have always yielded profits, both in the short and long terms. But as individuals who shell out money from our pockets, the expectations for that element of transparency cannot be ruled out. As for now, just sit, back and relax…. The remote (or the choice) is yours.