This time Colors has cracked it. With dance competition Jhalak Dikhla Jaa and India's Got Talent, they have finally figured out how to convert reality shows into full-on entertainment fests (about time someone did it). Acrimonious arguing/fighting, on-set tension and petty bitchiness, the staple of 99 per cent of reality shows, suddenly seem so last season - and so unwatchable. (The tears are still there though, but I'm not cribbing; I can take a few tears as long as the weeping doesn't take over the entire episode). Much of the credit for the high enjoyment quotient of the shows goes to Manish Paul, the anchor for both. His unflagging energy and comic talent make him the best television anchor we have today. (For my money, only Ayushman Khurana came close when he anchored shows like Star Plus's Just Dance some time ago; now of course Ayushman has become a bonafide movie star after the super success of Vicky Donor).
I have only one grouse against Manish - Jhalak Dikhla Ja contestant Bharati's weight became a running gag in the show and after a while it was not funny at all. (Actually, it was never funny. So Bharati is - not to put too fine point on it - fat. So what?) Bharati, a comedienne who unabashedly played to the gallery, introduced a running gag of her own - how she was infatuated with one of the judges, Remo D'Souza and how he was too shy to admit his feelings - which always brought the house down.
And oh by the way, the dancing was great too. I'm looking forward to the finale.
India's Got Talent has also upped the entertainment level and gone beyond being a usual talent hunt show. In previous seasons, the funny moments were provided by all those weird contestants who gravitate to TV talent shows like moths to a flame. There's no dearth of them this time too (seriously, why would anyone come to a talent show and perform an act where he pretends to wash clothes in a bucket of soapy water while singing?) And there were those contestants who did acts guaranteed to make you feel sick and queasy - and bingo! they're here in this season too. In the last episode, a man decided to swallow tiny frogs, while another one popped a blade into his mouth and proceeded to chew strenuously.
But going beyond all this, Manish Paul, with great backing from co-anchor Cyrus Sahukar, injects serious fun into the show. (As does judge Karan Johar; he's got himself a brand new career now as reality-show-judge; he's so good at it).
In contrast, the other reality show on Colors (and Sahara One), the India-Pakistan music contest Sur Kshetra, has a rather old-fashioned air about it, as if it were made a few years ago, in an older template. The show has managed to pull off quite a coup in terms of the stature of its judges: there's Abida Parveen from Pakistan, Runa Laila from Bangladesh and Asha Bhonsle from India. The singers are good too. But I wish I could say the same for the anchor (a smiley-smiley Ayesha Takia wearing long flowing robe-like garments and stilt-like high heels). The show's heavy India-Pakistan tension angle is also wearying - even though Pakistani captain Atif Aslam keeps intoning, "Hum pyaar mein vishwas karte hain" and India captain Himesh Reshammiya keeps asking his team to maintain "dhairya, sanyyam and shanti" (I know, they sound like they're at a political summit).
Give me the fun stuff any day.