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Sex, lies, and videotape

There was a time when we could say, “It only happens in America.” But now it turns out India has been bitten nice and proper by the reality bug. Lalita Iyer investigates more into reality shows...

tv Updated: Apr 24, 2009 21:56 IST
Lalita Iyer
Lalita Iyer
Hindustan Times

Rakhi Sawant chooses her suitable man on it. Jade Goody chooses to die on it. Dancer Salman sets himself on fire reviving the Chau dance. Big Boss inmates scale walls and stage an escape. The Kamasutra gets redefined on Dance India Dance. All this on reality television. Elsewhere in the world, Akshay Kumar gets his jeans unbuttoned and faces charges.

There was a time when we could say, “It only happens in America.” But now it turns out India has been bitten nice and proper by the reality bug. Just how absurd can reality TV get? And when did it become the flavour of the times? Lalita Iyer investigates

You love it or you hate it, but you just can’t ignore the in-your-face reality TV. As a viewer, you are granted access through a keyhole (actually much more) to the subject’s life and have a voyeuristic view of supposedly unguarded human behaviour—weakness, suffering, kinks and eccentricities—while having the power to vote in or vote out, the reality candidate of your choice.

So rank newcomers could get instant fame, while renowned celebrities could just get voted out. Some reality shows provide artistes a good platform to get noticed, some earn you money and fame, but almost all keep the audience hooked.. sometimes craving for more! <b1>

Most of us found the concept of dying on TV morbid and unpalatable, yet, not many missed Jade Goody’s last hurrah and Shilpa Shetty’s homage to it. Although why would anyone in their right minds follow the last days of a faded reality TV star is a thought that still crosses my mind. May be it has to do with people’s fascination with death.

And so will a million viewers glue onto the idiot box when Rakhi Sawant finds her suitable man. Whether or not they will get glimpses of her alleged ‘test-drive’ remains to be seen. Still, Rakhi Sawant is reality TV’s poster girl and Rakhi ka Swayamwar will get TRPs soaring, whoever the man may be.

Reality bites

So here’s a recap of some interesting candid (allegedly) reality TV moments that occurred in the past few years:

* Saroj Khan walks out of Shweta Tiwari’s performance in Nach Baliye 2, saying it was “not up to her taste”. In the finale, since her husband Raja was admitted to the hospital, Tiwari dances with her choreographer, and later, the husband gives a long sentimental speech that has Saroj Khan in tears. What goes around comes around, huh?

* Prachi Desai wins Jhalak Dikhla Jaa 2 (surprise, surprise), much to the annoyance of the audience and all in favour of Jay Bhanushali who was everyone’s favourite. Theory is that mentor Ekta Kapoor and her daddy Jee (who was one of the judges) had something to do with it.

* In the battle between Mona Singh and Shweta Salve for Jhalak Dikhla Jaa 1, while the audience is all gungho about Shweta (clearly the dancer among the two) Mona Singh walks away with the victory. Not fair! May be the Jassi plain Jane image was a bit of excess baggage the channel wanted to shed?

* Vidya Malavade and Dipannita Sharma chicken out of Fear factor Khatron ke Khiladi, much to the annoyance of host Akshay Kumar who doesn’t quite see the point. But when you gotta go, you gotta go.

* In

Bigg Boss 2

, drama queen Sambhavna Seth wants to sleep with the boys (in the boy’s room, actually) and old-fashioned Raja Chaudhary doesn’t quite find the idea palatable and tries to stop her. She refuses to give in. He pours a bucket of water on her mattress. She follows.

* Further into the series, Ashutosh Kaushik, Zulfi Sayed, Rahul Mahajan and Raja try to scale walls and escape from the ‘house’. Surprisingly, the scaling of the wall is caught on camera, but the road scenes are not.

* Bhaktiyaar Irani and his gang of boys stage a walkout in Zara Nachke Dikha, accusing judges of being partial to the fairer sex, irrespective of how they performed. Sour grapes?

Best man wins

And now, Rakhi Sawant is taking matters of the heart into her own hands with a nationwide search for her perfect husband along with the support of the audiences. After exhaustive eliminations, Rakhi will take the saath-pheras with her husband in a grand ceremony that will be a fitting finale to this unique journey. Everyone is invited to

Rakhi Ka Swayamvar

, a concept that has never been seen before on television.

Types of reality shows on television:


Reality shows with celebrities are a rage with the audience.



Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, Nach Baliye, Zara Nach Ke Dikha


Reality shows that involve pranks played on ordinary people and capturing their candid reaction.



MTV Bakra

Game Shows


Reality shows that are based on games.



Kaun Banega Crorepati, Dus ka Dum, Jeeto Chhapar Phaad Ke

Talent Hunts


Shows on the lookout for talented people—singers, dancers or even actors.



Indian Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Boogie Woogie

Adventure/Fear-based shows


A genre of TV shows that challenges the participants with difficult and weird tasks.



Fear Factor

Khatron ke Khiladi



A new entry is makeover stories, a personal makeover or a home makeover.



Blue Carpet

(to begin)

Mating Shows:

A platform for match-making, these could get popular in India.



Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai

hosted by Madhuri Dixit

Down reality memory lane:

MTV Bakra
A wicked show with witty pranks and guaranteed laughter, courtesy Cyrus Broacha

Kaun Banega Crorepati

Perhaps the first reality show on Indian television to garner humongous audience response, and marked Amitabh Bachchan’s TV debut. The second season hosted by SRK somehow didn’t cut much ice

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa

A humble talent show hosted by Sonu Niigam is now an super-glam, reality show full of drama with celebrity judges like Himesh Reshamiya, Bappi Lahiri, Vishal-Shekhar and Ismail Darbar constantly at loggerheads with each other.

Indian Idol
One of the most popular reality shows on Indian television, perhaps due to the voting factor. Boys and girls next-door turn into ultimate singing sensations on this one which has completed four seasons.

The Great Indian Laughter Challenge
This hunt for India’s biggest comedian created a riot with most contestants shooting to fame. Four seasons down, of which the first was the best, the rest just limped.

Big Boss

The Indian version of UK’s Big Brother, perhaps the most sensational and controversial reality show in India. It put back actor Rahul Roy on the map, and got Anupama Verma, Aryan Vaid and Rakhi Sawant instant recognition. Season Two with Rahul Mahajan, Monica Bedi, Ashutosh Kaushik, Raja Chaudhary was also a bit of a riot.

Nach Baliye

Celebrity couples trained by their choreographers battle against each other in an entertaining dance competition. The show has celebrity judges like Saroj Khan, Malaika Arora Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Kunal Kohli, David Dhawan, Ishaa Koppikar and Vaibhavi Merchant. Season One and Two were hits, three and four didn’t have enough spunk.

Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa

Indian version of hit show Dancing With the Stars, had celebs like Mona Singh, Mahesh Manjrekar and Shweta Salve as participants and Farah Khan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Shilpa Shetty as judges. In its second season, Shiamak Davar, Urmila Matondkar and Jeetendra were on the judging panel and participants included actress Sonali Kulkarni, anchor Mini Mathur and singer Mika. Season Three is on.

Biggest Loser Jeetega:
Literally Biggest Loser Wins, a sort-of fitness oriented show that encouraged people to lose weight, under the motivation of Suniel Shetty. The show never made it to Season Two.

First Published: Apr 24, 2009 21:46 IST