One music talent hunt gets over and before you can catch your breath, the next one starts — on the same channel. Star Plus’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar had the expected long drawn out finale, with anchor Mandira Bedi taking so much time to announce the names of the second runner-up, first runner-up and winner, you could have gone out, had dinner, come home and she would have still been going on and on: “So who is the lucky person tonight… before I open the envelope, let’s go for a short break/let’s have a song/let’s ask the judges what they think…” This is pretty much the pattern in all talent hunt contests. Just like that most inane of queries: once the loser’s name has been announced, the anchor will turn to him/her and enquire in sepulchral tones as if their dog has just died: “Kaisa lag raha hai? (How are you feeling?)” What on earth are they supposed to say? According to the script, they should launch forth into an emotional speech (ideally with a few tears thrown in) about how they’re very disappointed, but then someone has to lose; in any case they would like to thank their families, friends, fans, judges, the TV channel, the voting public and so on for all their support and pyaar. One day someone should deviate from the script retort that they’re deliriously happy and so glad to be rid of the ignorant voting public which threw them out of the show.
(By the way, the new thing with the talent hunts is that all the judges now have individual promos, where they’re presented as if they’re starring in some blockbuster film. The Star Voice of India promo around music composer Ismail Durbar shows him getting drenched in the rain, surrounded by dripping black umbrellas. It was like something out of The Godfather).
But most contestants, fortunately for the TV channels, play by the script. MTV has been showing its iSuperstars contest. In case you have no idea what it’s all about — various young hopefuls are chosen to ‘be’ their favourite movie stars and directors. In other words, there’s someone from Kanpur who will do an Amitabh (dance just like him in Chhora Ganga kinare wala). Someone else will do an Aamir (Aati kya Khandala), or a Bipasha (Namak isk ka). And so on and so forth. The man training them is dance choreographer Ahmed Khan in his specially designated Ahmed Khan Ki Paathshala. In between learning the steps (“Walk like Abhishek! Get his attitude!” Ahmed barks to the Abhishek wannabe who looks ready to weep), and getting their clothes-hair-makeup done, the hopefuls are taken off to meet some of the stars. At all such meetings, the contestants let out shrieks of joy, jump up and down and generally behave as if they’ve just met God. When one of the girls playing Rani Mukherjee spoke to the real Rani Mukherjee on the phone, she was incoherent with excitement. “It's okay, darling,” said Rani kindly. “Just work hard, follow your dreams and become an even bigger star than I am.” The Rani hopeful almost passed out. I don’t know if they’re spurred by the channel executives to show such high emotion or if it’s genuinely spontaneous; but in either case, that’s the right script. Imagine if they met their favourite stars and responded with a cool handshake and a distant “Hello.” Not quite the same.
The truth is that for all the much touted unscripted quality of reality shows, most of them follow the script faithfully. There are few — if any — genuine surprises. (As to the point of this MTV show — well, the best of the hopefuls is crowned the iSuperstar).
And finally. I’m looking forward to the launch of the new general entertainment channel, Colors, on 21 July. Khatron Ke Khiladi with Akshay Kumar, of course, is being hyped as the biggest draw, but I’m also curious to see Sajid Khan’s celebrity interview show. If he’s half as outspoken and funny as he usually is, it’ll be definitely worth a watch.