Indians are high on the emotional quotient and anything that strikes the emotional chord is an instant hit in India. The success of reality shows in India can be attributed to a great extent to this weakness. The relief that these shows provide from the saas-bahu soaps is another reason for their immense popularity. The rising popularity of the reality shows on Indian television channels has added a new dimension to the production of TV programs. These shows give opportunities to the prodigies residing in the interiors of the country to showcase their talent.
The craze for reality television hit India when channel V came up with Viva, a band of five young singers. When auditions were announced, young dreamers gathered in huge numbers to give their luck a try. They cried when they failed and celebrated when they triumphed. The audience lapped up this overdose of emotions thrown with open hands. The show was a big success and an inspiration for both the shrews’ business minds and also for the young dreamers waiting for their share of fame.
Since then there has been no looking back as reality television proliferated with each passing day. With the registration for each show surpassing the last one and the audience votes pouring in billions, all doubts over the acceptability of these shows by the Indian audience subsided. The real life Bunty and Bablis came forward for the auditions of Indian Idol, Fame Gurukul, India’s Best, Roadies, etc. Almost every channel today has an Abhijeet Sawant or a Qazi to boast about.
The potential of reality shows was exploited by various television channels. Kaun Banega Crorepati, India’s take on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, catapulted Star TV to the number one position. Similarly, Sony’s popularity saw a huge rise after it launched Indian Idol, an adaptation of a hit British reality show. It was reality television that wrote the destiny of television channel Star One. Its two realities shows The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and Nach Baliye brought popularity to the channel.
Reality shows not only changed the destinies of many television channels but also of many ordinary people. People like Kunal Ganjawala, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghosal and Debojit are some of the successful finds of reality television. It was only because of these shows that a teashop owner, Sunil Pal, became a laughter champion and Prashant, a sepoy from Darjeeling, became the third Indian Idol.
Celebrity reality shows are another aspect of reality television that has become extremely popular with the audience. Apart from the overwhelming Television Rating Points (TRPs) that these shows command, they also have to their credit revamping images of some celebrities and bringing back to limelight some of the lost stars. Item queen Rakhi Sawant witnessed a change in image after appearing on the reality show Big Boss. Lost names like Rahul Roy and Baba Sehgal rose to limelight again because of shows like these.
Reality television is a win-win situation for everyone, be it contestants, channels or the viewers. For the viewers, they are refreshing change from the somnolent saas-bahu dramas. The biggest gainers, however, are the contestants who get the right platform to showcase their talent. There is a lot of untapped talent in our country and these shows by extending their reach to small cities provide an opportunity to bring out this hidden talent. A chef from Chamba managed to reach the final round in Zee TV SA Re Ga Ma Pa. In Star One’s Lakme Fashion
House, 16 aspiring fashion designers strived to create a design to win an assignment with Donatella at the house of Versace—a lifetime opportunity for any beginner. These shows give an instant recognition to the contestants. A chance to showcase their talent on such a big platform and in front of such esteemed judges is something for which any struggler can die. The high TRPs that these shows command explains the advantage they have for television channels.
The fact that the contestants in these shows are ordinary people with whom audiences immediately relate to is the biggest trump card of these shows. The vicarious joy which people get in seeing somebody from amongst them living an almost impossible dream glues people to these shows. However, people do not lap anything and everything that is served to them in the name of reality shows. For example, Sony TV’s Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai, for which they roped in cinestar Madhuri Dixit, failed to strike a chord with the viewers. Similarly Kamjor Kadi Kaun, aired on Star and Jeeto Chappar Phad Ke on Zee failed to create magic.
Reality shows have also had their share of criticism. Questions have been raised over the authenticity of the voting system on the basis of which the contestants are voted out. Fingers have been raised over the very method of selecting contestants for these shows. Questions have also been raised on the process of throwing contestants out on the basis of the votes cast by people sitting at home with hardly any knowledge about the technicalities involved in a contest like singing or dancing.
Despite all this, the fact is that such shows enjoy great popularity among the audience. Reality shows are a ray of hope for the ordinary people. These shows not only give them the courage to dream but also the assistance to turn their dreams into reality. Such shows provide them with lifetime opportunity.
Reality shows are important as they create awareness for the channel through media coverage. For instance, Rahul Dulhania Le Jaayega, a reality show on NDTV Imagine, managed to garner a Television Rating Points (TRP) of 5.6 in its concluding episode. Though these shows are high on investments, they have become an important genre in the Hindi entertainment space. A single episode of a reality show, hosted by a celebrity, could cost up to 1.5 Crore while an episode of a fiction show can be produced for about 18-20 lakh. Actor Abhishek Bachchan received approximately one crore per episode of National Bingo Night, while Akshay Kumar charged 1.25 crore per episode for Khatron Ke Khiladi Season 1.
The definition of reality show has changed with the passage of time. Before the hugely popular Kaun Banega Crore pati (KBC), reality shows were limited to quiz programmes, chat shows, music-based countdown shows or game shows. Many of the reality programmes are adapted from tried and tested international formats. While Sach Ka Saamna was accepted from Moment Of Truth, another show is Jungle Se Mujhe Bcachao, which showed several celebrities camping in a jungle, was the Indian version of I’m A Celebrity.
Get Me Out Of Here. India’s Got Talent was an adaptation of Britain’s Got Talent, while the idea for Rakhi Kui Swayamvar was taken from The Bachelorette. Similarly, Dus Ka Dum, which saw Bollywood star Salman Khan play host, was a copy off Power of 10 and Sarkaar Ki Duniya was modeled on Survivor.
Some original shows like Saanp Seedi, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Antakshari, Tol Mol Ke Bol and Boogie Woogie did surface on the small screen before 2000, but post-KBC producers started lapping up foreign entertainment programmes. Some of the other shows that made their way to Indian television post-KBC are Indian Idol (American Idol), Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa (Dancing With The Stars), Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain (Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader) and Bigg Boss (Big Brother).
On the other hand, made-in-India formats have their own charm. Formats as simple as Antakshari have proved that India has the potential to develop and sustain such formats. Another success has been Sa Re Ga Ma, which also brought talented singers like Shreya Ghosal to the forefront at a very early age. Other formats have been Cinestar Ki Khoj which introduced young talent to the glamorous world of Bollywood, and Business Baazigar, a game that tested the intellectual and entrepreneurial capability of people of different age groups.
The best thing about a reality show is that it is real, interactive and places the viewers on a pedestal which enables them to decide the winners. There have also been shows like Khulja Sim, a remake of the American show, Let’s Make A Deal, where the viewer could play and participate in the show. Same was the case with Kismey Kitnaa Hain Dum, a remake of famous British hit, Night Fever.
It featured a karaoke contest where viewers could sing along. The best part about these shows is; that the viewers go through the trials and tribulations of the participants. The ingredients of an ideal reality show are simple. It must appeal to all and the idea should be original and entertaining. Reality shows also offer valuable lessons to be learnt about viewer’s tastes and preferences.