Show them a boy-meets-girl story and chances are today's Indian youth will switch off their TV sets. What they are looking for is some serious 'love, sex aur dhokha' on the small screen that is closer to the reality of their own lives.
Shows like Emotional Atyachaar, Dadagiri, Axe Ur Ex, Splitsvilla, Dare 2 Date, Love Net - about double timing your partner, backbiting and making a mockery of relationships - have become a craze among college-going students these days.
Shimanti Sengupta, 19, a sociology student, feels people her age get sadistic pleasure in watching break-ups and deceit on TV."For one, most of us feel these shows are not real and all pre-planned. It's the same with fiction shows. When both kinds of shows have no reality, I feel it is more exciting for us to watch shows that are closer to our experiences and are slightly bitchy!" she said.
Some youngsters are hooked to these shows because their own lives are reflected in it and they even find solutions to their own problems.
"It's all good entertainment. At times it makes us come out of our own make-belief perfect relationships and gives good ideas for checking on our partner!" said Karan Malhotra, 20.
"Due to my past experiences, I have stopped trusting girls.. So I love it when girls are caught flirting and cheating, especially in shows like Emotional Atyachaar."
Though parents are worried about the kind of content, especially targeted at youth, channel officials say there are no takers for soft content.
"We tried showing the softer stuff to youths, but it didn't work. Take the example of Emotional Atyachaar - when we cut out all the dark parts, the numbers started going down," Nikhil Gandhi, business head of youth entertainment channel UTV Bindass, told IANS.
Emotional Atyachaar conducts a secret fidelity test on one's partner and captures the emotions that ensue. Unfortunately in most cases, the person in question turns out to be cheating on his or her partner.
"When we had telecast cases where there was no infidelity, no sleaze, no sex, a limited amount of violence and aggression, the audience just didn't like it. We had three clean episodes. Youths want aggression and they want the dark side of everything, that's what the new craze is," he said.
Gandhi says when they choose the content for new shows, it is not a result of baseless presumption.
"The shows are outcomes of our research. When we went to colleges, we asked them : 'which is your biggest fear in life?' They said they fear that their partner may be cheating on them or might leave them. We took that as a hook and developed Emotional Atyachaar," he explained.
But this changing trend in content is not confined to just the small screen, insists Aditya Swamy, senior vice president, sales and marketing, MTV India.
"Look at the films that youth are watching - Love, Sex Aur Dhokha, I Hate Luv Storys, Aisha...these are off-beat films but all about youth, their lives and things they connect to. So it isn't as if the small screen is doing negative things for them," said Swamy.
Such a trend on small screen especially emerged after music channels like MTV and Channel V decided to go beyond music and entered a space more adventurous, wild and engaging for the young Indian audience with shows like Roadies, Splitsville and Dare 2 Date.
It's just that the shows are getting meaner and wilder!
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )