Reality bites: Sleeze, cat

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The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s crackdown on two reality shows — Bigg Boss 4 and Rakhi ka Insaaf were asked to be aired only between 11 pm and 5 am — can be seen as a pointer to the changing definition of prime time viewing. Earlier dedicated to family dramas, this slot has now been taken over by reality shows. Since such shows are currently seen as kingmakers (read top TRP grabbers) in the television industry, it’s hardly surprising that channels are pulling all stops to stay ahead in the game.

On Colors, actors Veena Malik and Ashmit Patel were seen cosying up in the confines of Bigg Boss house while Dolly Bindra went on a rampage, spouting profanities. Rakhi Sawant often insults contestants on Imagine’s Rakhi ka Insaaf while doling out justice. For more, 20-somethings can often be found canoodling in cafes and bars on UTV Bindass’ Emotional Atyachaar while exposing unfaithful partners. With such shows on prime time television, Madhu Saxena, mother of a seven-year-old, has decided to keep a close tab on what her daughter is watching. She, however, is not sure if her daughter is protected enough from such contents. “I don’t know how long can I keep a tab on her,” she says.

Reality TV started a new trend after the deluge of saas-bahu sagas. Now, most of the reality shows thrive on controversies, scripted dramas and bizzare behaviour. As if the current bunch of voyeuristic TV shows wasn’t enough, new ones like Big Switch 2 on UTV Bindass, Indian version of Wife Swap on Sony, and the second season of Channel V’s Truth Love Cash 2 and Date Your Folks are ready to go on air soon. UTV Bindass’ Big Switch 2 that started on November 19 is based on the concept of troubled teenagers exchanging families and the first episode was rather explosive as a contestant is seen breaking the toilet apart from other violent acts. The channel, of course, has its reasons for choosing such shows. “We have done a lot of factual research on youth-related issues and that’s why we pick issues like generation gap to connect with the audience,” says Nikhil Gandhi, Business Head, UTV Bindass.

The recent ruling of the I & B ministry that all shows with adult content should be aired between 11 pm and 5 am has found a lot of supporters. TV anchor Mini Mathur says, “Most families watch TV together during dinnertime. Trash content like all these reality shows should be slated in a late night slot. I would not want my kids to watch someone like Dolly Bindra on TV.”

Grapevine has it that Bindra’s wild card entry into the Bigg Boss house was a desperate bid to boost the show’s TRP. Earlier, the show had tried to achieve this with the entry of international wrestler Khali in the show and most recently by bringing in Pamela Anderson for three days. The inclusion of all these guests in the Bigg Boss generated lots of drama, as expected, though maximum credit goes to the loud and volatile Bindra. “I am like this in real life. The house inmates underestimated me — I am not the kind of person who tolerates nonsense,” says Bindra nonchalantly, after being evicted from the show.

If that’s the reality, many are relieved not to be part of that. Former contestant Sakshi Pradhan, who was evicted from the Bigg Boss house earlier, heaves a sigh of relief. “Bigg Boss is now turning into an adult show. It wasn’t like this when I was inside. It’s no longer suitable for prime time viewing,” she says. Such controversies, however, are not new. In the past, Rahul Mahajan was seen playing Casanova on Bigg Boss 2, Rakhi Sawant romancing then fiance Elesh Parujanwala on Imagine’s Pati, Patni aur Woh, Raja Chaudhary dirty dancing with random women on Emotional Atyachar and young boys and girls getting cosy and abusive on MTV’s Splitsvilla. Adman Prahlad Kakkar blames the media for the popularity of such shows. “These shows are devoid of intelligence and dignity. But media gives these shows unnecessary attention,” he says.

However, everything associated with reality TV can’t be labelled ‘controversial’. “I like reality shows that promote talent such as Jhalak Dikhla Ja and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Watching a Bigg Boss is boring and you achieve nothing at the end of it. If I ever take part in a reality show like that it will only be because of the money,” says actor Suchitra Pillai.

Fortunately, all channels do not swear by reality shows. Channels such as SAB TV and Star Plus have managed to hold forté without giving in to voyeurism. “We have defined our channel as a family channel and we do not need the crutches of reality shows to gain TRPs. We will enter the realm of reality shows but only if they are clean and wholesome programmes,” says Anooj Kapoor, Business Head, SAB TV.
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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.

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