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Reality show that MPs fear...

For a society known to conceal its fat underbelly under the kurta (or salwar kameez), it’s shocking how many Indians wish to go public with their private closets through this show.

tv Updated: Jul 25, 2009 20:57 IST

When Big Synergy, the producers of

Sach Ka Saamna

, approached this reporter to participate in their prime-time show on Star Plus, it seemed a fairly harmless bet.

There is Rs 1 crore at stake. Skills applied to take a crack at that crore is self-knowledge alone: no borrowed trivia, guesswork, or any special talents. If you’ve nothing to hide from your personal life, you should feel safe. A popular version of this show,

Truth Or Dare

, has been a party-game for years. An easy nut, it appeared.

Until, you actually watched the show. Most questions posed have little to do with what you’ve been through, though that’s part of it. The tricky bit is what you think. There is no accounting for crazy thoughts, or deep fantasies. There is lesser accounting still for public voyeurism.

The first episode of

Sach Ka Saamna

on July 15 unexpectedly opened to a rating of 4.59, by far the highest in the past two years for any non-fiction programme. To offer comparison,

Dus Ka Dum

, the Salman-starrer reality-show (with Kareena and Karisma Kapoor contesting) had opened with a viewer rating of 2.2.

Since the said Wednesday, the nation has watched, from the comforts of its couch, five contestants so far — a housewife, two TV actors, an ex-cricketer and a marketing professional — bare their darkest secrets out. A suppressed desire to cheat on the spouse, even killing them off, is the commonest confession made, even on other versions of this syndicated show.

Moment Of Truth

currently plays in 20 countries, and has been banned in two.

In the case of small-time celebs, the show has strangely revealed what would’ve missed the nosiest tabloid reporter: a TV actor (Urvashi Dholakia), who said she’d enjoyed male-strippers at parties, and decided to quit school for being pregnant at 16. Or former cricketer Vinod Kambli, who vented out being physically tortured by his father he never returned to since 11. Nothing so far has been kosher.

Rajeev Khandelwal, a popular television star is the host; a lie-detector for a gizmo, the final arbiter of truth. Herb Irvine, the show’s polygraph expert says, “There are wires that track the participant’s heartbeat. Psychological changes in the body are recorded, and one can instantly know when the person is not speaking the truth. The lie-detector is 99 per cent accurate.” Even if it were not, everyone is dying to spill the beans anyway.

For a society known to conceal its fat underbelly under the kurta (or salwar kameez), it’s shocking how many Indians wish to go public with their private closets through this show.

Star India’s response cell gets at least 400 phone calls a day. The numbers are said to be rising. Requests come from under-aged kids, teenagers, housewives and older men, largely from cities like Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Indore. Haryana, apparently, tops the list of callers from among states. The channel has to reject all such requests. Participation is by invitation only.

Says Khandelwal, the host, “People are playing the game in their minds when they are watching it. Some crazy dudes have even messaged me their confessions after watching the show. They are discussing it at work, home and even in the Parliament.”

No politician has made it to Sach Ka Saamna, which isn’t a surprise. The Parliament has issued a show-cause notice to Star, mainly in response to an episode where a minor-actor, Yusuf Hussain, admitted to sex with a prostitute while his daughter sat in the audience. The actor also revealed he’s fathered a child outside wedlock.

The channel has to reply to the Parliament’s notice by July 27. Hussain’s daughter, on the other hand, says, “I’m proud of my dad. He admitted to so many things that I may never have asked him, or known about him. Our relationship has gotten a new lease of life.” We’re pleased this reporter didn’t agree to be part of this programme.

‘No one really bares it all for free’

Dr Trupti Jayin, clinical psychologist on what draws contestants and viewers to Sach ka Saamna

There’s fame and money involved in the show. So, needless to say that it is one of the strongest factors for anyone to participate. No one really bares it all for free. I’ve been part of reality shows and I know, there is no contestant, commoner or celebrity, who comes aboard without being paid. I’m sure there’s some money that is paid for participation; otherwise it sounds like a raw deal.

People become talking points overnight through shows like these. But money or fame are not the most important factors for everyone. For someone like Yusuf Hussain, it was about getting rid of guilt that he would have otherwise died with.

Today, he can hold his head high and say that he has confessed about nearly every secret of his life. He was bringing out skeletons from his closet and now, no one can really point a finger at him and say that he was wrong. His family, friends and associates look at him in awe. He’s earned himself peace of mind; it doesn’t matter if he didn’t win a rupee.

For viewers, it’s about vicarious pleasure. Anyone who watches it, somewhere says to himself or herself that I am not as bad. Even viewers want to get rid of their life-long stock of guilt. We love peeping in other people’s bedrooms and that’s why the show has grabbed eyeballs.