Two hours from Goa’s party capital, Candolim, lies one of Maharashtra’s best kept secrets. If you are a fan of the American television series, LOST, your mouth would come up to your heart when you chance upon Kolwel Beach, which is hidden somewhere near the border of Maharashtra and Goa.
The pristine beach is astonishingly similar to LOST’s bizarre island, with expansive, pure blue water on one side, flowing into the horizon, to lush green forest area on the other, and immaculate light brown sand right in between. A hillock overlooks the sea on one side, at the beginning of the forest region.
War zone simulation
Now, imagine a situation, wherein this inconspicuous coastal area holds the entry point into the heart of the country. Suddenly, the scenic locale turns into a potentially dangerous liability, where a terrorist attack from the sea, could jeapordise the security of the nation.
That’s the grim scenario Season 3 of UTV’s TRP-pulling reality show, D3 Commando Force: Dadagiri Against Terrorism, presents to us. And through a new-and-improved format, real army officers at its helm, “beepless” content, and 14 wannabe cadets, attempts to provide a way to counter this threat that’s imminent to the free world today, and looms large over our heads.
The spotless beach is now a war zone, an inhospitable terrain, where the sweltering heat of the sun would faint many a brave heart, and the forest is the only means of survival. Fourteen contestants undergo rigorous military training in sniping, camouflage, hostage rescue, waterborne raiding, so they could become competent enough to ‘combat terrorism’.
Explains Captain Albert Louis, ex Special Forces, Indian Army, who is a ‘training officer’ on the show, “The idea is to train people to be able to survive in a terrorist attack. That’s why we are giving the cadets commando-level training, to see if they have the drive, and the physical and mental ability to survive if they were under attack.”
The second training officer, Captain Dharamveer Singh, Ex Para Military Commandos, Indian Army, insists that D3 is not pulling off a “popularity stunt”. “I’m disgusted by the indifference of the common man to terrorist attacks. My question is, ‘What if it’s you?’ The show will inspire people to push their limits, and teach them how to act responsibly during an attack.”
The idea sounds novel, and the show has put efforts to maintain authenticity in the ‘boot camp’. There are strategic military drawings, detailed maps of the Indian terrain, photos of soldiers in action and description and representation of weapons and artillery in the various tents across the set. There are designated camps for ‘weapons training’, ‘strategy formation’ and separate, minimal comfort camps for the contestants.
But once you read the bios of the contestants, you can’t be fooled into thinking this show goes “beyond” reality shows. 25-year-old Ali Mughal was infamous for cosying up to female contestants in Sarkar Ki Duniya, an earlier reality show, while Vicky Arora’s been on two seasons of Roadies.
The bio of Nazneen Batliwala reads, ‘She is bitchy and will stir up controversy, as she tramples over lesser mortals’, while Swati Singh is “flirtatious and the center of attention of all boys’. We are also told the emotional story of Suman Sharma, whose “brother drinks and beats up her mother, and warns her that he will burn her down.”
So while we are fed tales of how the ‘cadets’ are taking part in the show because they want to defend the country, or that they don’t care about the prize money, it’s pretty obvious that the contestants aren’t doing this to land a job in the Indian Army. With the profession of half of the 14 reading as ‘Model/Actor’ in their bios, you don’t have to rack your brains to figure out why they prefer taking part in a reality show, than actually trying out for the Indian army.
Reality show or cause?
The only thing that the show may be able to achieve, and should hopefully achieve, is give us an insight into the thankless lives of the soldiers who defend our borders. D3 may or may not inspire us to fight terrorism, but even if it makes viewers spare a thought for our brave Army men, it could call itself successful.
Captain Kshitij Sharma, ex Infantry, Indian Army, puts things in perspective, “The Army is remembered only in time of crisis. We spend half our lives in freezing temperatures at 7000 feet or in 58 degrees heat, defending the borders. But the only thing we’ve learnt in the Army is to be happy, whatever be the situation. It’s the mental capacity of people that sets them apart from others.”