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Politicians latest to join reality TV bandwagon

tv Updated: Mar 03, 2009 00:59 IST
Lalita Iyer
Lalita Iyer
Hindustan Times
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Forget the world. India is shrinking. A 23-year-old from Tripura, Sourabhee Debbarma, on Sunday became the first woman to win the latest edition of Indian Idol.

Sourabhee took home a contract worth Rs1 crore and a Tata Winger car. If you think that’s a lot, India’s biggest-ever reality show Sarkar Ki Duniya, which launches Tuesday night on the latest channel Real, a collaboration between the Alva Brothers and Turner International, offers a prize-money alone of Rs1 crore.

Welcome to the world of talent and reality-based TV programmes that are rewriting the rules of the entertainment industry, creating an unprecedented buzz, excitement and anticipation among the youth and the not-so-young. It’s as if a window has opened to the many Indias that never meet. Of cities, small towns and villages. Of entrepreneurs, professionals, daily wage labourers and the unemployed. Now their worlds appear to meet — on reality TV.

And everyone, from marketing men to politicians, wants a piece of the action. Small wonder, given the reach and scale of these shows — TRPs in excess of 2 per cent, double what most successful TV soaps boast of, and an audience that stretches right across the country.

The money’s good too. Independent analysts assess that reality-based programming corners up to Rs 500 crore of the Rs 7,000-crore TV advertising revenue.

But it is their role as a meeting ground for young, restless India — bringing together people who might never ever meet otherwise — that has attracted politicians to these shows.

In this election, there are 43 million new voters, all presumably young. For politicians scrambling for ways to reach out to these young people, reality and talent shows, which are there on all regional channels too, offer an unparalleled opportunity.

Mumbai Congressman Sanjay Nirupam used Bigg Boss to seek a popularity vote and Dalit leader Ramdas Athavale threatened to sue producers Endemol for not casting him.

The Congress government in Maharashtra announced a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh for the four winners of a music-based reality show on a Marathi channel. Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray lauded the contestants at several of his rallies.

When Rahul Mahajan wanted to undo his bad boy image, he did it with Bigg Boss, but it unfortunately backfired, and his sister Poonam was finally the one to gain (she is contesting, he isn’t). Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee went on Sa Re Ga Ma and sung Ae Meri Watan ke Logon; BJP’s Sushma Swaraj espoused her support for 2009 Sa Re Ga Ma contestant Yashita Sharma publicly.

Several young politicians too have realised reality shows are a one-stop shop to connect with people across segments. With elections around the corner, it may not be a bad move to do a crash course in Bollywood dancing — it always works.


Inputs from Shailesh Gaikwad, Saurav Turakhia, Ruchira Hoon and Nandini R Iyer