There is a thick line between kids and kids being showcased as pint-sized adults. One of the major attractions — well, frankly, the only ‘attraction’ — of reality shows having children competing against each other is the way they are made to sing, dance, pout and thrust like the wannabe or actual Bollywood stars who happen to be much older than them. In fact, the more ‘realistic’ this depiction of ‘adult’ behaviour, the more the applause. Now it’s one thing to lay the blame on the TV channels that have realised that there’s a bumper crop to be reaped in children’s reality shows, and it’s quite another that parents are fighting over each other for their daughter or son to get her or his 15 minutes of fame.
So when Minister of Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury stated that parents should be prevented from sending their children to such shows, I overruled my usual reaction of complaining about governmental meddling in citizens’ private affairs and started applauding.
I don’t have enough facts to comment on the reasons why Kolkata teenager Shinjini Sengupta became ‘partially paralysed’ reportedly after she was ‘humiliated’ at a reality show. Frankly, different children have different thresholds to and definitions of ‘humiliation’. But even if the reports of Shinjini’s parents sending her into the reality show despite knowing that she had a spinal problem turns out to be untrue, the fact that there are parents out there who are willing to push their kids into something that borders on pornography, makes one shake one’s head, if not shudder. The rites of passage from childhood to adulthood are sometimes troublesome enough. To add an anomalous break in between — and that too in public gaze with success and failure being racheted up — is clearly not something that bothers too many parents.
This is not a Little Miss Sunshine story. It is something more insidious because everyone loves these shows as they think the little ones are ‘sho shweet’.