Back in 2002, when it went on air, no one could have predicted that the TV show Roadies would run for a decade. It was dramatic, a bit crass, and young audiences found it thoroughly entertaining. This year, with the new season, the show turns 10. At the MTV office, the series' home turf as it were, host Rannvijay Singh puts on the part of the uppity younger brother, while producer-host-judge Raghu Ram plays the more intense, balanced older guy at ease.
These two celebrities, who thousands love to hate and vice versa, are naturals. They know how to put on a good show. Ahead of the next season - Roadies X - they talk to us about what they loved about each season and what they didn't.
Is this going to be the final season then?
Rannvijay Singh: Every season is the last season. Since Roadies 6, every year, we thought that. Raghu has said it too. He didn't do Roadies 7. He came back in season eight, and said, 'That's it. I'll do what I do best and then that's it. I don't know if it's going to happen next year.'
Raghu Ram: I don't know why, but even when we were doing auditions for this season, there was this overwhelming sense that this was somehow going to be the last chance for everyone who wanted to be a Roadie. The last five seasons have been shot abroad. This season, you are going to the north-east.
Is money an issue?
Rannvijay: We actually have more money this season than we have had for all the other seasons put together.
Raghu: We actually wanted to do the north-east.
Unlike the previous ones, this season has two teams - a group of fresh contestants led by Rannvijay, and a group of former contestants led by Raghu.
Raghu: It's been 10 years - a generation has changed. There will be some ideological conflicts, which is why we are going old school and new - in terms of the people, tasks and journey. In case this turns out to be the last one, we plan to enjoy it the most. I anyway don't want to do this anymore.
Are any of the former contestants in this season winners from previous seasons?
Raghu: Not even one. The fire dies in a winner. There are a lot of contestants who thought they deserved to win. This is a second chance for them.
Is security a concern in the north-east?
Raghu: It is a big concern. We have changed the route we previously chalked out. We've been warned to not go to certain places. We don't want to be stupid about it, but we aren't daunted easily either. We're a bit thick-skinned now.
Raghu, you were writing a book on Roadies. When is that due?
Raghu: In another nine or 10 months.
Rannvijay, you're now leading a team. You were a contestant once. Your transition to the other side is now complete.
Rannvijay: I was 21 when I decided I was joining the army. I'd given my exams and I had two months free. I didn't know what reality TV was. All I knew was that if you win this show, you win a bike. And I wanted that bike. I was a contestant for 40 days. I came back home after that. My box of stuff was labelled GC (Gentleman Cadet) Rannvijay Singh. Then I got a call from MTV. Within a week, I had to decide whether I was to go to the academy or not. Nine months later, I signed the contract. No looking back since.
Rannvijay and Raghu look back at moments from the nine seasons
Roadies 1: Chennai to Chail, Himachal Pradesh
"I was a contestant. I still say it was the toughest one. Of the 40 days we were on the road, it rained for 25. It was fun, but the show was far from being big," says Rannvijay.
Roadies 2: GT Road: Kolkata to Wagah Border
"I was 21, and most of the Roadies were older than me. I needed to make sure I spoke with conviction. But I knew I wanted to do it my way," says Rannvijay.
Roadies 3: Jaisalmer to Leh
"This was the first season MTV produced. Roadies was just picking up, and everyone liked where it was heading," says Rannvijay.
Roadies 4: Kerala to Gangtok
"Every season after season three, we have invested blood and sweat in the show. At this point, it had become big. Sponsors were lining up and scripts were randomly coming my way. Before this I used to get paid for hosting shows, suddenly I started getting invited to just show my face. It was after Roadies 4 that we started airing behind-the-scenes," says Rannvijay.
Roadies 5: Thailand and Malaysia
"Because the show had gained popularity, we decided to take it international. Then suddenly it was a double challenge for the Roadies. Contestants didn't want to get voted out before they were abroad," says Rannvijay.
Roadies 6: Australia
"This was the first time I felt lonely on the show because Raghu wasn't with us. Raghu and I try all the stunts the Roadies are put through. No one really cared about me like Raghu did, but he always wanted to be a creative head at MTV, and they had given him that job," says Rannvijay.
Roadies 7: Kenya and Egypt
"Irrfan Khan came on board for this season as a host. He is awesome as an actor, but I think he didn't have the street cred
that we had as hosts. People didn't connect to him… it didn't work. I think the biggest reason was because Raghu was absent," says Rannvijay.
Roadies 8: Brazil
"This season was like a homecoming for us. We worked really hard, then at about 1.30 am every night, we used to go out to party. We used to return at 5 am and head for the journey and sleep in the car. After season one, this was most fun," says Rannvijay.
Roadies 9: USA
"I was a judge on the show for the first time. I enjoy acting and hosting, but being a judge is the world's worst job. This season was big hit. No Indian TV show has ever been shot in the USA at this scale. But we thought the contestants could not cope with the tasks. Emotionally, they did, but it wasn't translating," says Rannvijay. "The logistics and costs were limiting," says Raghu.