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Text, lies and tape!

A miffed woman getting obscene SMSes has opened up Pandora's box on reality TV.
None | By Piyush Roy | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON OCT 27, 2006 07:33 PM IST

A miffed woman receiving obscene SMSes from a zealous husband has opened up a Pandora’s box on the kind of canvassing and self-promotion reality show contestants resort to.

With a fat cheque of Rs 50 lakh awaiting the winner of shows like Sony’s Jhalak Dikhhla Ja or the soon-to launch Big Boss, not to mention the gifts, goodwill and prizes the contestants stand to win, spending Rs 80,000 (on 200 SIM cards) seems like a small investment.

Though the Nach Baliye prize money for this year is yet to be finalised, last year’s winners — Sachin and Supriya Pilgaokar — won Rs 50 lakh as prize money. Add to this is the monthly episodic cheques for appearing throughout the series and the sponsor’s gifts. The show has even boosted the careers of several participating couples like Rajeev and Delnaz Paul, Varun Badola and Rajeshwari Sachdev, Manish Goyal and Poonam Narula.

Last year too, participants faced allegations of massive self-voting. However, Star Plus sources inform that for Nach Baliye 2, there is a cap of 20 votes per number — landline or mobile — per episode. But the channel does not exercise any control visà-vis the number of votes cast beyond that.

Sameer Nair, chief executive officer, Star Entertainment India, says, “We have definitely encouraged all Nach Baliye participants to canvas for votes, and many of them have gone the extra mile to do so — from printing posters and distributing them, travelling to different parts of the country and canvassing, urging their family, friends and fans to vote for them in large numbers, to getting special “vote for us” T-shirts created.

“Our systems are robust enough to ensure that all set rules and regulations are followed in toto,” adds Nair.

However Sony’s chief creative director Sandiip Sikcand said they have a different rule. “To avoid bogus voting, we have a cutoff count of 500 votes per number on a weekly basis per show,” he says.

So how far will participants go to bag the booty? Apparently Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa finalist Shveta Salve recently threw an informal party for friends from the television fraternity, urging them to vote for her. “I am a very shy person. At most I would ask my friends and family to vote for me,” says Salve. In contrast, Mona Singh has been spotted campaigning for votes in some city malls.

Nach Baliye season one finalist, Manish Goyal, does not see anything wrong in selfpromotion. “Self-campaigning is okay as long as it doesn’t harm fellow contestants. Any election calls for canvassing, but while in case of political and college elections, you can only cast one vote for yourself, reality shows allow you the chance to cast many votes. A difference of one or two votes can throw you out. So as competition peaks, it’s natural that insecurity increases,” Goyal says.

“All’s fair in love and war,” says Rajeev Paul, one of the top four finalists of Nach Baliye 1, adding, “The contracts don’t forbid us from campaigning and I did that religiously every week. Coming from an Army background, I have friends all over the country whom I asked to campaign for me. We (with wife Delnaz) also asked everyone in our building of 50 flats to vote for us and did school and mall visits where our fans could vote if they liked our performances.”

SMS scandal exposes reality shows

“I am not ashamed of asking people to vote for me, especially since I am not a great dancer, so audience votes were necessary to keep us going,” Paul says.

Some contestants and shows play the regional sympathy card. Like Debojit Saha from Assam and Qazi Touqueer from Jammu and Kashmir who garnered many votes on account of their regional and emotional connect. “As a voter, I would definitely be a bit biased towards someone from my community,” says Salve who not only performed a Kohli dance, but also appealed for votes from the community in Jhalak’s penultimate episode.

The motivation is that the longer you stay on a show, the more you earn. And even losing can be profitable. Sources say that the first couple to be voted out of Nach Baliye 2 made nearly Rs 10 lakh.

I am a shy person. At the most, I would ask my friends and family to vote for me — Shveta Salve The contracts don’t forbid us from campaigning and I did that religiously every week. I am not ashamed of asking people to vote for me — Rajiv Paul Self-campaigning is okay as long as it doesn’t harm fellow contestants.

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