More than a decade ago the television industry's first reality show Antakshari spun the web of its magic on viewers, and channels soon realised that they have got their hands on a pot of gold. Today they are proving the biggest promotional platform for films.
With every passing day, the dose of "reality" is getting bigger and better on the small screen. This year itself, over a dozen reality shows marked their presence on the idiot box.
Keen to cash in on the popularity of reality shows, the cast of Bollywood biggies like Om Shanti Om, Saawariya, Aaja Nachle and Aamir Khan's forthcoming film Taare Zameen Par to name some, waltzed and sang on the sets of reality shows to promote their films.
"Reality shows are great promotional platforms, as TV is a very strong medium and reaches a wider audience," Madhuri Dixit told IANS during her recent visit to New Delhi.
Kunal Kapoor, Madhuri's co-star in the not-so-well-doing Aaja Nachle, agreed, saying, "When a programme has wide and diverse audience, there is nothing wrong in promoting your film through these shows. You can connect with people better."
Today, stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan, Pandit Jasraj, Jagjit Singh, Lata Mangeshkar, A.R. Rahman, to list a few, do not feel shy in appearing on these shows.
"Star presence contributes to the popularity of the serial and celebrities who appear on the shows get repeatedly registered in the minds of audiences that increases their fame," reasoned Kunal Ganjawala, a jury member of music talent hunt "Chhote Ustad" in STAR Plus.
"It works both ways. Actors and producers make their case in front of a large audience before and soon after their movie hits theatres because they are aware of the reach of television," Hussain Kuwajerwala, the host of dance reality show "Nach Baliye", told IANS.
"While the presence of stars like SRK or Madhuri provide full-on entertainment to viewers that helps it (reality shows) become a hit," he maintained.
It seems the trend is here to stay and would get bigger in the coming years.
"Till the time audiences get their dose of entertainment they are not bothered whether film promotion through shows is a marketing strategy or not. If it is boring, channels won't do it. I will say it is healthy and refreshing at one go," added Hussain.
"These days, reality shows is the buzzword in the small screen industry and I am upbeat about their future," said Kunal.
Sriti Mishra, a call centre employee and regular follower of reality TV shows, said: "These shows give us double benefit - we get a breather from the boring, cliché family dramas and get to know about upcoming films from the actors' themselves."
"Stars like Shah Rukh, Madhuri, Aamir Khan talk about their films, ask audience to watch their films. It's no doubt a marketing strategy to pull crowds to theatres but not to forget the entertainment these stars provide through reality TV shows," she said.
"From their favourite songs to even director Farah Khan's status on her pregnancy was revealed to viewers through these shows only. I think they are proving a great platform for movie promotion along with an extra dose of entertainment," said Sabitri Mohapatra, a housewife.
Santosh Shende, project manager of talent hunt show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, gave another side of the picture. "With a lot of reality shows hitting TV channels, there is tough competition and the challenge is to retain audience loyalty by doing something new."
"Film promotion by its cast is a new trend which helps the channel as well as the film in a big way," Shende reiterated.