ETimes TV deep dives into the compelling questions around reality shows and puts them across to an array of people from the entertainment industry.
Senior TV producer and veteran Bollywood actor Manoj Kumar’s cousin, Manish Goswami who has produced more than 35 shows over the last 27 years- ‘Daraar’, ‘Adhikar’, ‘Aashirwad’, ‘Kartavya, ‘Milan’ and ‘Kittie Party’ to name a few, says, “In India, reality shows are scripted. They are scripted to an extent that they become viewer-friendly. The target audience has been identified and they are given what they’re waiting for. The makers want to get all the expressions in a 45-60 minute capsule and the viewer-excitement quotient is kept in mind. But I don’t think that this happens abroad as they are very strict there.”
Foreign reality TV shows — be it American Idol, Big Brother or any other reality show – the authenticity, transparency and accountability is far higher than in the Indian formats. No twist and turn is made for melodrama. The format is followed to the T. No creative person’s contribution is over-ruled or modified once it is locked. This in turn implies that each contributor’s work is respected and think of it, shouldn’t it be?
Goswami also points out that the beneficiaries of such shows are few and far between. “Public memory is short, here. After their victories or promising performances, the participants are forgotten. Koi ek-aadh ubhar ke aata hai.”
But this was not the case earlier. Sunidhi Chauhan, Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, Bigg Boss 14’s Rahul Vaidya and a few others are all products of reality shows.
Saroj Khan was asked to favour some contestants, claims daughter Sukaina
Legendary Saroj Khan’s daughter Sukaina tells ETimes TV that her mother, after judging some reality shows had stopped accepting them. Sukaina says, “They wanted my mother to favour some contestants because those contestants were paying them. ‘
Isko first rakho, usko second rakho.’ Mom, who was always a blunt person and took a stand against the wrongs around her, said she would rather stand by her ethics than do such biased projects.”
The channel airing ‘Bigg Boss’ not too long ago had offered the show to non-controversial J D Majethia, Chairman of the TV and web wing, Indian Film and TV Producer- on more than one occasion.
“I don’t know about you but I am definitely amused. Emphasising that ‘Bigg Boss’ or ‘Splitsvilla‘ or ‘Roadies‘ cannot give any acting offers because acting is not judged by how you fight or throw plates or mouth abuses, Majethia says, “Arre Juhi Parmar (Season 5) and Urvashi Dholakia (Season 6) getting shows after ‘Bigg Boss’ because they won it? Certainly not. They are getting work because they have a good track record as far as their body of work goes.”
According to Majethia, “The 2-year contracts with the channel can make lives. Look at Rahul Vaidya (who is now also in ‘Bigg Boss 14’). Uski toh life ban gayi after he appeared in ‘Indian Idol, Season 1’. Till today, he earns well from his shows and some of the shows he does are on big platforms with Sonu Nigam!”
Aashka Goradia, however, feels that reality shows work worldwide and this is simply because “people enjoy seeing other people’s misfortune, which is a psychological problem.”
You get paid to tarnish your image: Dolly Bindra former Bigg Boss contestant
Bollywood choreographer Ganesh Acharya, who was being chased to become a judge, has turned down many reality shows. Hinting that the music contests look all similar, Acharya also laments that the dancing on Indian television is not something that he offers in the Bollywood films where his services are required. ”
Woh shows meri dance se alag hain,” he clarifies.
Dolly Bindra says that a lot of filmmakers chased her even to Delhi where she was shooting soon after she came out of ‘Bigg Boss 4’. “But those were short term gains and I got really typecast after that. Everybody wanted me to play a negative role. Dolly does not regret doing ‘Bigg Boss’ but comes up with a very hard-hitting line, “We are paid on such shows to tarnish our image.”
Producer of shows like ‘Ace of Space‘ and ‘Code Red’ Vikas Gupta, who was also seen in ‘Bigg Boss 13′, disagrees, “If the contestants are careful, I don’t see how a show can tarnish their image? The belief that reality shows tarnish your image is false,’ he tells ETimes TV.
Meanwhile, Koena Mitra, who was quite annoyed when she was eliminated from ‘Bigg Boss 13’ in two weeks, is still calling a spade a spade. “Reality shows on Indian television will always work. People like chaos and debates and the bursting of the bubble. A lot of people who’re inside the show end up doing things that they shouldn’t be doing. The viewers in turn become curious if they can see anything lower than that. They may not even like it and in fact, dislike it. So it’s a win-win situation for TV producers.”
Aashka Goradia has also mellowed down from the day when she lashed out at the ‘Bigg Boss Season 6’ show when she felt that it had painted her as a lesbian as she applied balm on co-contestant Sana Khan’s back and now says that the people who hate the show would do well to stay away from it rather than complain.
“I think ‘Bigg Boss woh shaadi wala ladoo hai jo khao toh bhi pachtao aur nahi khao toh bhi pachtao’. But can I tell you something? Today, our reality shows are more real than the people who are entering it.”
These shows, however, somehow make the youngsters’ adrenaline flow. 28-year-old Chetna Pande, who participated in ‘Ace of Space’ says, “No, our reality shows are not scripted. In such shows, our real personality comes out sooner or later. The people connect with you better than before, your followers on social media increase. You can get work in the form of appearances- like look at Divya Agarwal and Varun Sood for one. Shruti Sinha and Baseer Ali also are doing well. Post ‘Ace of Space’, I got ‘Class of 2020’ and then I also did a web show.”
Pratik Sehajpal, ex-boyfriend of Bigg Boss 14 contestant Pavitra Punia, who was the runner-up to Divya Agarwal in ‘Ace of Space’, endorses Chetna’s views with an explanation, “An increase in your social media popularity is invariable but I am clear that reality shows are not scripted. It’s only for some contestants who come with a pre-conceived idea that they need to exhibit a certain image that one tends to get an impression that the show is manipulated; they get dramatic and percolate a feeling that the shows have a rigid script.”
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‘Mujhse Shaadi Karogi’s’ 29-year-old Ankita Srivastava is also not against reality shows but quite positive about them as ‘MSK’ helped her to gain a lot of followers on social media. Ankita says, “Despite having a verified account, I had only 24K followers on Instagram. When I exited the show, I had 100K. And now, I have 174K followers. Also, our reality shows help us to look at ourselves clearly, we have many fixed ideas in our heads but participating in reality shows makes you realise that some or maybe even many of those ideas are misplaced.”
22-year-old Shivani Jha, who was a part of ‘MSK’ before it ended abruptly owing to COVID-19, says, “I had heard that reality shows are all scripted but after ‘MSK’, I certainly don’t endorse that opinion. I had it clear in my mind that I was going into the show to not get married but to just be seen on TV.”
Lack of originality
Dalljiet Kaur, former contestant of Bigg Boss 13, who has participated in Nach Baliye earlier says earlier it was not the case – sobs and tears were real but not any longer. “Nach Baliye;
‘aaj audiences know ki ek couple ka break-up hoga hi hoga‘. When I did ‘Nach Baliye’ in 2008 (Season 4), I remember how petrified we were when Farah Khan, Arjun Rampal and Karisma Kapoor actually walked out, when I couldn’t be ready for two dances in one go as I hadn’t got time due to my constant shoots of two shows wherein I was playing the leads. Back then, we had actually cried and apologised to Farah, Arjun and Karisma. But does that happen in real nowadays, isn’t all such done to shoot up the TRPs? In today’s times, the public almost knows what is going to happen next.”
She further says: “Coming to ‘Bigg Boss 14’, Nikki Tamboli saying inside the house that she can’t wash the utensils because of her acrylic nails was such a pre-planned statement and so was her statement that she’s missing her BF and hence wants to wear his T-shirt. So, what’s original? Nothing. Trust me, Paras Chhabra had advised me to break a ‘matki’ as that would help me to draw attention – but I did not. If I had stayed longer, who knows I too might have learnt a few tricks of the trade.”
Anup Jalota has something similar to say. He comes in to give an example of how hungry the participants are to get the camera on themselves. “When I was in ‘Bigg Boss’ (Season 12 ), Sreesanth would climb up so many times and threaten to jump out.”
Referring to Dalljiet’s point of view that contestants smartly prepare their portrayals to get more on-screen footage, we ask Jalota how he felt when Jasleen Matharu used his name in ‘Bigg Boss 12’ and said that they were in a relationship when they were about to step into the house, but Jalota brushed it off, saying, “Mere andar gusse ka element bilkul absent hai.”
Not to forget the maara-maari in ‘Roadies’ and ‘Splitsvilla’, Neha Dhupia had said when a person is judging a reality TV show, statements are made, misrepresented and taken out of context. In April this year, Neha made quite some noise about a ‘bola kuch aur, dikhaya kuch aur’ incident. “Unfortunately, a small chunk of what I said in ‘Roadies’ was kind of highlighted, whereas what I was trying to imply was the fact that under no circumstances is domestic violence okay and therefore I think only half of it was picked up,” she had lamented. Dhupia had a harrowing time as she was mercilessly trolled. But did she speak to the channel in question, MTV? We only saw her carrying on with the next episode. Hope the channel apologised to her, preferably in writing!
All said and done, it is clear that extreme reactions and high-drama on Indian reality shows grab eyeballs, irrespective of the damage they may cause!
Stakes are high and moral values and reputations not cared about. It’s not the survival of the fittest but the survival of someone who has the ability to impress his superiors at work even if that tantamounts to crushing someone’s reputation. And of course,
sabse bada rupaiya! Wonder if there will ever come a day when reality shows become truly REAL !