Thousands with stardust in their eyes stand in snaking queues for auditions - to sing, dance or do comic acts. While they see it as a passport to fame, TV reality shows aren't a cakewalk, success is not guaranteed and things can go horribly wrong.
Apart from hectic schedules and the pressure to perform, the participants also have to bear with harsh comments from judges. In fact, Shinjini Sengupta, a contestant in Kolkata, suffered a paralytic attack after judges' rebukes in 2008.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) recommended that children below age 16 be barred from participating in reality TV shows. But it is yet to be implemented.
Renuka Chowdhury, former women and child development minister, had then taken serious note of children participating in reality shows.
"I don't know why they (parents) send their children to such shows," Chowdhury had said.
"I have seen small girls gyrating to songs (on these reality shows) whose meanings they hardly understand," she added.
But despite the negatives, kids, teenagers and adults flock in droves to reality shows to get their 'minute of fame'. And this could also lead to a stampede like in the case of Indian Idol 5 auditions held in Noida Tuesday when over a dozen people were injured.
"We were expecting at least 20,000 people at the Delhi auditions but around 40,000 turned up. That's why all the chaos happened," said a source from Sony TV, which airs Indian Idol.
"Reality shows are a shortcut to fame...This is the desire that makes people go to any length," Abhijeet Sawant, winner of the first "Indian Idol", told IANS.
"I've been a part of a reality show; so I know what it's all about. Many people standing in lines don't even know how to sing, but they still come for auditions for two minutes of fame. Cameras are rolling and they just want to be on TV...All this and the urge to be instantly successful is the driving force," he said.
In 2008, auditions of adventure reality show MTV Roadies had to be cancelled when a group of young men barged into the auditorium and shattered windowpanes, leading to a stampede. The police used batons to disperse the crowd.
And even if you do cross all the hurdles and emerge victorious, it isn't necessary that the going will be good thereafter.
For instance, Piyush Chopra, who won Zee Cine Stars Ki Khoj 2006, "Indian Idol" winners Sandip Acharya, Prashant Tamang and Sourabhee Debbarma faded out soon after the shows ended.
Though there are a lucky few like Abhijeet and Toshi Sabri, participant of Amul STAR Voice of India, and Indian Idol participant Meiyang Chang, who have managed to get a foothold in the showbiz industry.
Vindu Dara Singh said he got a new lease of life after winning Bigg Boss 3.
"Reality shows are a perfect platform for anyone to get instant fame...Personally, I went to Bigg Boss to achieve what I hadn't been able to in so many years...I get much more work now than I used to get earlier," said Vindu.
But Ajay Bhalwankar, programming head for Sony, told IANS: "It's not just instant fame that drives these youngsters to reality shows. Today's youth is looking at different professions and shows like 'Indian Idol' are perfect platforms to get a push in their career."
However, the only visibility that most participants get is in the form of more reality shows or guest appearances on TV programmes. MTV Roadies winner Ashutosh Kaushik participated and won in Bigg Boss 2 too. He was also spotted on the finale of
Rahul Dulhania Le Jayega.
Debojit Saha, winner of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005, told IANS: "Reality shows only give a boost to your talent and help you hone your skills. It's a very tough entry as you have to compete with millions to get in there."
Reality shows are not just limited to the Hindi entertainment industry but almost all regional languages also have scores of such shows, which attract loyal viewers and translate into high TRP ratings.