HT Image
HT Image

Freak Show

Someone forgot to turn down the heat. When the lid blew off last month, with 16-year-old Shinjini Sengupta’s paralysis after an alleged public rebuke in a reality show at Kolkata, it showed us a side of show-time, we hadn’t seen.
By Shalini Singh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2008 12:46 AM IST

Someone forgot to turn down the heat. When the lid blew off last month, with 16-year-old Shinjini Sengupta’s paralysis after an alleged public rebuke in a reality show at Kolkata, it showed us a side of show-time, we hadn’t seen. It also held up a mirror to ourselves: Parents pushing children to perform. Six-year-olds prancing about in grown-up attire. Producers, hiring — we are told — psychologists as counsellors to uncork a child’s ‘evil genie’!

A well-known Mumbai-based psychologist who had once served as counsellor on a reality show, says on condition of anonymity: “I was asked to uncover a child’s hidden negative personality traits so that they could be played up. You don’t want to see a good child on stage; you want to see his wickedness, because it’s the drama that raises TRPs (Television Rating Points). Fifty per cent of what you see on the show is scripted reality.”

NO CONTROL

Reality TV is a monster that is running without controls. It conforms to no set of known morality. “Talent hunts, game shows, reality shows — everything about them is about winning and losing. It’s all instant — name, fame, game and what’s worse is that the prize is big money,” says Abdul Mabood, director of Delhi-based Snehi, an organisation that works for community mental health. “After KBC, earning in thousands and lakhs wasn’t good enough anymore,” adds Anjali Chhabria, a psychologist.

Experts feel that unprincipled success can have psychological consequences, as it has proved in Shinjini’s case. The doctors treating her say that when an ambitious child is humiliated in front of millions, s/he can suffer trauma. The subconscious distress experienced by the child, can manifest as a physical ailment in a few weeks or even a few years after the incident. “You’re labelled a loser. Imagine the emotional volatility it causes in a young mind. Judges run down the child in an instant,” says Mabood.

THE PARENT TRAP

“I know of an eight-year old who didn’t take her maths exam because she had a ramp show the next day,” says Raghu Ram, the brain behind reality shows Roadies and Splitsvilla. Ambitious parents and acidic judges — who will judge them? The mother of 14-year-old Delhi-based Ridhi Walia told us she let her daughter miss her evening tuition to let us speak to her. Ridhi, who ended up in the final ten, says with frequent prompting by her mother in the background: “Star Plus had sent audition forms to our school. I stood out first among all students from 35 schools and represented Delhi this January in Star Voice of India. I remember crying a lot when I didn’t win. In the finals though, I controlled my emotions on stage.” Her parents, though disappointed, had the perfect remedy. Why worry, they said, when she could always participate again.

“At least 50 kids and their parents come to me every week saying they want to become singers, dancers, actors,” says Sidhant, who runs BKT Academy in Shahdra. His academy offers one-year courses but nearly all parents ask him if it can be wrapped up in three months.

While identity was defined through family name in the 60s and 70s, and in the 80s through education, the 2000s are about the talent ‘hunt’. Parents who couldn’t achieve their dreams in their time, want to realise them through their children. “The talent hunt craze has nothing to do with the middle class. I see well-off parents standing for hours in audition queues with their children,” says Chabbria.

JUDGE THEM

But Ram also feels that there is no conflict of interest in such programming. “I’m good at manipulating emotions. I can make people feel sad, shocked, angry, happy... We’re here to entertain and do something different creatively. Where is the contradiction?” he asks.

Suleiman Merchant, composer and a judge on the new show Chak De Bachche, argues about the advantages of having a million for an audience: “Television is an exalted medium today. Would you ever get an opportunity like this earlier? But as far as judging is concerned, no one should be rude. I agree it can affect a child rather negatively.” Celebrities are becoming ‘professional judges’ observes music composer, Ehsaan Noorani. “The money they get is good. Even their bitchiness is scripted.”

Reality TV is honing competition into a fine art. While the film Chak De India harped on the nationalistic spirit, reality show Chak De Bachche has drawn on regionalism, pitting rural kids against their metro counterparts. Indian Idol had also encouraged people to vote for contestants from their states. “Not just contestants, it’s making audiences compete with each other,” says Sidhant.

So what do contestants who cannot cope, do? Their scars remain, as they would with Shinjini, who’s making slow progress after losing use of her speech and limbs. (The I&B ministry has plans to hold meetings with representatives from the television industry to discuss reality shows.) “Every facial expression — whether you’re winning or losing — is up for grabs. Imagine the pressure on the child. I think it’s high time we grew up and stopped gambling away the physical, emotional and mental health of our children,” cautions Mabood. Listen to him. There might be monsters out there. As a producer says himself: “We are the bad guys.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Vikas Gupta is back on Bigg Boss 14.(Colors)
Vikas Gupta is back on Bigg Boss 14.(Colors)

Bigg Boss 14: Vikas Gupta is back on the show, says Eijaz Khan is an honest man

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 01:48 PM IST
Vikas Gupta re-entered the Bigg Boss 14 house on Monday's episode, after spending some time outside due to health issues.
Close
Devoleena Bhattacharjee entered Bigg Boss house as Eijaz Khan's proxy.(Twitter)
Devoleena Bhattacharjee entered Bigg Boss house as Eijaz Khan's proxy.(Twitter)

Bigg Boss 14: Devoleena enters as Eijaz's proxy, says he has been wrong at times

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 12:47 PM IST
Devoleena Bhattacharjee entered Bigg Boss 14 as a proxy for Eijaz Khan and she has said she will maintain his equations in the house.
Close
Rakhi Sawant said that she has frozen her eggs and wants Abhinav Shukla to be her sperm donor.
Rakhi Sawant said that she has frozen her eggs and wants Abhinav Shukla to be her sperm donor.

Rakhi Sawant says husband Ritesh will never accept her or their kids publicly

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 11:48 AM IST
  • Rakhi Sawant said that she misses having a man in her life after her break-up with ex-boyfriend Abhishek Awasthi. She added that she has frozen her eggs and wants Abhinav Shukla to be the sperm donor.
Close
Sunil Grover as Dr Mashoor Gulati (L) and Gutthi
Sunil Grover as Dr Mashoor Gulati (L) and Gutthi

Sunil jokes Dr Mashoor Gulati was more difficult to play than Gutthi. Here's why

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 11:05 AM IST
Sunil Grover joked that he found it more difficult to play Dr Mashoor Gulati than Gutthi in The Kapil Sharma Show, as he got accustomed to wearing women's clothes.
Close
Rahul Vaidya and Rubina Dilaik have an ugly fight.
Rahul Vaidya and Rubina Dilaik have an ugly fight.

Bigg Boss 14: Rahul Vaidya drags Abhinav in fight with Rubina, here's her reply

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 08:40 AM IST
The promo for Tuesday's episode of Bigg Boss 14 shows Rubina Dilaik and Rahul Vaidya dragging each other's personal lives into an argument. While Abhinav Shukla comes to Rubina's rescue, Aly Goni comes out in support of Rahul.
Close
Bigg Boss 14 promo: Salman Khan scolded Aly Goni for his allegations against Vikas Gupta.
Bigg Boss 14 promo: Salman Khan scolded Aly Goni for his allegations against Vikas Gupta.

Vikas and Jasmin argue on social media over Aly Goni's alleged homophobia

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 06:56 PM IST
  • Vikas Gupta took to Twitter to share 'proof' of Aly Goni's homophobia, which Jasmin Bhasin didn't take quietly.
Close
Mona Singh had two releases in2020- Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain S3 in June and Black Widows in December. (Photo: Prabhas Roy)
Mona Singh had two releases in2020- Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain S3 in June and Black Widows in December. (Photo: Prabhas Roy)

Hope to create something on OTT: Mona Singh on turning writer

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 05:35 PM IST
The actor revealed that she has been writing a script with her husband. She talks about why she felt the need to write at this stage of her career, the importance of word of mouth for OTT shows
Close
Actor Devoleena Bhattacharjee was last seen in the TV show Saath Nibhaana Saathiya 2.
Actor Devoleena Bhattacharjee was last seen in the TV show Saath Nibhaana Saathiya 2.

Devoleena Bhattacharjee: You don’t have to be a part of any groups or camps

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 05:07 PM IST
Actor Devoleena Bhattacharjee says it’s never easy and it shouldn’t be easy to succeed in showbiz or else we won’t value what we get.
Close
Gauahar Khan and Zaid Darbar during their honeymoon in Udaipur.
Gauahar Khan and Zaid Darbar during their honeymoon in Udaipur.

Gauahar Khan, Zaid Darbar enjoy honeymoon in Udaipur, share pics

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:16 PM IST
Gauahar Khan and Zaid Darbar have shared pictures and videos from their honeymoon in Udaipur. They shared glimpses of their visit to the Mehrangarh Fort, breakfast at the hotel and auto ride.
Close
Mona Singh said she was disappointed by Shyam Gopalan's marriage proposal.
Mona Singh said she was disappointed by Shyam Gopalan's marriage proposal.

Mona Singh reminisces about husband Shyam Gopalan’s ‘super bad’ wedding proposal

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 02:10 PM IST
Mona Singh said that Shyam Gopalan's proposal was 'super bad'. He nervously blurted out, 'Will you marry me?', and slipped the ring on her finger even before she could answer.
Close
Aari Arjuna wins Bigg Boss Tamil season 4.
Aari Arjuna wins Bigg Boss Tamil season 4.

Aari Arjuna wins Bigg Boss Tamil 4, Kamal grants interesting titles to others

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 08:07 AM IST
Bigg Boss Tamil season 4 host Kamal Haasan announced Aari Arjuna as the winner and handed him the prize money of 50 lakh.
Close
Arshi and Eijaz Khan in Bigg Boss 14.(Colors)
Arshi and Eijaz Khan in Bigg Boss 14.(Colors)

Bigg Boss 14 promo: Arshi cries as Eijaz exits show, Devoleena enters house

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 07:21 AM IST
While Eijaz Khan will have to exit the show, Devoleena Bhattacharjee is all set to enter the Bigg Bos 14 house. Watch video.
Close
Jaya Prada was a guest on The Kapil Sharma Show's Sunday episode.
Jaya Prada was a guest on The Kapil Sharma Show's Sunday episode.

Kapil Sharma makes Jaya Prada blush: 'Other MPs must have been like aaye haaye'

UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 07:17 AM IST
Kapil Sharma invited veteran actors and politicians Raj Babbar and Jaya Prada on his show The Kapil Sharma Show recently. As always, he tried his best to make his female guest blush with incessant compliments.
Close
Eijaz Khan on Bigg Boss 14.(Colors)
Eijaz Khan on Bigg Boss 14.(Colors)

Bigg Boss 14: Eijaz threatens to quit if he was disrespectful to Rubina

PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:51 PM IST
Bigg Boss 14 Weekend Ka Vaar written update day 103: Eijaz Khan says he’l quit if he was disrespectful to Rubina Dilaik, Salman Khan defends him and scolds Abhinav Shukla instead.
Close
Mohit Malik announced on Instagram about testing positive for Covid.
Mohit Malik announced on Instagram about testing positive for Covid.

Mohit Malik: The vaccine is here and cases are low but Covid is still here

PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 05:56 PM IST
Mohit talks about his Covid experience and urges people to be vigiliant. He is relieved that his pregnant wife tested negative. “It is all about us taking care as Covid is still contagious.”
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP