Reality TV vs. Reality

Indian television has always been theme oriented; a decade ago it was the songs countdown shows that dominated it and then drama queen Ekta Kapoor revamped it by her saas-bahu sagas and K-titled serials. Then with Channel V’s quest of forming a girl band came the wave of Reality shows. Though the life of girl band, Viva was very short lived it marked the advent of reality television in the Indian market. Reality television had already been a hit in the western scenario and of course the Indian segment wasn’t going to keep behind. Taking a cue from them and adapting the western versions of several shows, the Indian market was also flooded by several reality shows.

Now what exactly are reality shows; the shows which are based on out-of-the-box ideas to amuse the audience. They not only break the monotony of the overly melodramatic dramas, they create interesting scripts and had either ordinary people or celebrities caught in interesting situations. Watching these people in such situations provide a lot of thrill to the viewers who are glued to their television sets at all times to watch them fight their way out. These shows can take forms of talent shows, makeover shows, quiz shows, game shows, dance shows and the like; the main idea is to provide thrill and excitement to the viewers by showing them un-edited action and letting them be a part of the show by the voting system.

So while Channel V started the craze of reality shows in India, MTV Bakra and Kaun Banega Crorepati heightened the interest of the audience in such shows. While people grinned watching Cyrus Broacha’s funny antics to fool the people, we bit our nails watching contestants grilled by Amitabh Bachchan in order to win money. Saa-re-ga-ma gave way to music competitions and there was a hunt for singers on every channel. Then came the dance competitions and laughter shows and many other copies of western versions made their way into the Indian telly market. Though reality shows in India have a long way to go as most of them are just Hindi versions of the popular shows in the west, novel ideas in this field are yet to make a mark.

The audience certainly enjoy all these shows but the question that arises here is that how real are these shows? The viewers are given a chance to participate in these shows by letting them vote to choose the winner. The authenticity of the voting system has always been the hot topic of debate. While the chosen winners rejoice, the losers cry foul play. Regionalism also plays spoil sport in such cases. But who cares; the channel and the telephone companies make astronomical amount of money through the sms and calls. We have witnessed several times the clash of the judges on such shows. While these conflicts are a source of entertainment many believe them to be publicity stunts to increase the viewership. War of words provide immense entertainment masala to all.

The new form of reality shows has been the swaymvar. First it was the plastic doll Rakhi Sawant who duped millions and after all pomp and show dumped her NRI fiancé (but did not bother to return her engagement ring, a solitaire). Then came the divorced, wife beater and drug addict Rahul Mahajan who wanted to search another bride for himself through this platform. To my surprise, thousands of girls applied. He also enjoyed his moments of glory and happily married a much younger girl and flew off for his honeymoon. Then came the allegations; his is a contract marriage, the marriage was fixed much prior to the finale and so on. Now why do allegations always surface after the show ends? Are these shows really rigged? If they are rigged then why are they called Reality shows? Are all these allegations, public fights, clash of the titans’ mere ways of raising the TRPs for the show? This way or that way, it is only the viewer who is fooled; first he is lured into sending SMS for his choice of contestant and the viewer is not even provided with real entertainment.

While the viewer is taken for a ride, the show makers, judges, contestants and the other partners in crime walk away with green bundles. Many of us know the reality of these reality shows but still we all are hooked to such shows. Glitz and glamour attached to these shows also play their role well of keeping us glued. These shows are the vicious circle and there is no way out. The truth is that there is no reality of these shows. They just make money at our expense. But at the same time we love these shows or hate them, they are definitely here to stay!

Shikha Tandon

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