The are were reality shows that had nothing to do with reality. And laughter shows that made you cry.
No reality show was possible without the following: (a) Panels of judges with expressions of either thoughtful concentration while watching the performances, or moist eyes/quivering lips when their favourite participant was eliminated. (b) Participants adept at looking suitably humble while waiting for the judges to give their scores (“Yeh dil maange score!” they should have sung) and equally adept at leaping down to touch their feet whenever the opportunity presented itself (which was every time the judges half rose from their chairs).
All the contestants also had to be proficient at weeping uncontrollably, whether they won or lost. Occasionally, some of them got carried away and even fainted. But I suspect that was more on account of the judges’ wardrobe. How often can you see Alisha Chinai in a fairy frock before passing out? Or Himesh Reshammiya in his many caps (baseball to monkey; but there’s a vast range still waiting to be tapped — berets, Stetsons, ones with feathers sticking out of them). And if you go to Fab India, they’ll probably tell you, “Sorry, we’re totally out of kurtas. Javed Akhtar has bought all of them.”
And then of course, everyone asked viewers for votes non-stop. “The code is 05,” they would say. “You can call at 006645452119835 from a landline and at 007665544998801 from your mobile if it’s Airtel and at 00886655449301 if it’s a…” Given that viewers had to remember numbers that sounded like mathematical calculations for planetary movements, it's a wonder participants got any votes at all, forget the lakhs and crores the reality shows claimed they actually got (who’s to know anyway? I’m all for Rakhi Sawant’s strident calls for “transparency” in reality shows. RTI, anyone?)
And of course, in between all this was the fighting. You could be forgiven for thinking that Parliament was in session, given the amount of bickering, arguing and walking-out that happened. In the end, did we get our talented singers/dancers? Once again, who’s to know? Because once they win, all the participants seemingly vanish into thin air. TV channels assure us that their winners are busy doing shows. So maybe they’re all continuously touring the world like modern-day missionaries, flitting from Burkina Faso to Timbuctoo, converting heathens to Hindi music.
Meanwhile, the laughter (note: not comedy, but laughter) shows became like a rash, spreading from the entertainment channels to the news channels. They’re probably called so because in the first such show on Star One, Navjot Sidhu laughed hysterically without pause for over a year. All the shows featured stand-up comedians (it is true, they never sat down) from India and Pakistan, but by now we have seen them so often that I urge the producers to make this a worthy Saarc initiative and also invite funny men from the Maldives and Nepal and Bhutan.
As for the soaps and serials, what can I say? Long live the Indian bahu and saas and may be they continue to fight forever. The mangalsutra rules.
(Poonam wants you to know that she watches reality shows at gunpoint. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org )