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Rediff.com  » Business » 'Reality' bites: Saas-Bahus in big trouble

'Reality' bites: Saas-Bahus in big trouble

September 16, 2006 04:42 IST

This season, get ready to watch 10 dancing couples gyrating to Bollywood tunes and urging you to send SMSs, a string of wannabe ex-celebrities (displaying ignorance about the Ps and Qs of dancing) begging for audience votes, models sashaying down the ramp to gain some brownie points from the judges and, of course, the audiences too, and a house holed up with personalities disconnected from the rest of the world and on camera 24x7.

And don't forget the volley of singers parading their high notes, all aspiring to become desi pop stars.

Phew, the non-fiction list is not only longer this season, but cyclical too. With repeat seasons of Fame Gurukul, Fear Factor, Indian Idol, Laughter Challenge and Nach Baliye, the small screen drama-cum-sob queens are set to face 'reel life' competition from reality shows.

Not to forget, a fresh line-up comprising shows like Jhalak Dikhla Ja on Sony, Super Star on Sahara One and L'Oreal Paris Elite Model Look 2006 on Zoom.

Admittedly, reality TV shows with celebrities (of whatever variety) are the only ones to have made some money for the channels and hence the craze to launch shows that have well-known faces.

"Celebrities or TV stars in real life-like situations, from blind dates to impulse stunts, command high TRPs and promise a better audience connect," points a media analyst adding, "A non-fiction show is labelled a success only if the audiences spend money voting for it."

A few years ago, it was the likes of Channel V with its Roadies that inaugurated this genre of programming, encouraging voyeurism among audiences and an exhibitionistic streak among participants. Within two years, the trend has become a staple for television channels.

Sony is probably the lone channel that will broadcast a couple of hand-me-down reality shows from the West. The most awaited is the Indianised version of Big Brother, which will be produced by Endemol.

The show involves locking up 12 strangers in a house, with no communication with the rest of the world. Rajesh Kamat, MD, Endemol India, admits that it will be a drummed down version of Big Brother, edited in order to suit the conservative masses. There will be a mixture of TV celebs, cricketers, actors, news anchors and the list is almost finalised, says Kamat.

He adds, "It will be a huge show in terms of production and the impact that it will have on the audiences (and thereby on Sony's TVRs) and we are absolutely delighted to be producing it."

For Endemol, the production house that brought us The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and its spin-off Laughter Champion, Big Brother is a step that will place it in the thick of the reality shows.

Sony is also playing host to a celebrity dance show called Jhalak Dikhla Ja where eight celebrities jiggy with their choreographers and call it salsa-jive fusion!

The show is eerily similar to Star one's Nach Baliye, now in its second season. Nach Baliye's inaugural season got decent TVRs of 4.5-5 and is expected to be bigger and better this season. Conceptualised by Star Television's inhouse creative team, Nach Baliye II will bank heavily on the charisma of telly stars to draw audience votes.

According to Sameer Nair, CEO, Star Entertainment, India, Star One will showcase a fresh season of Laughter Challenge and Nach Baliye in an attempt to consolidate its TVRs.

He says, "At the end of the day, the shows made money for the channel and audiences loved it. I see no reason why we cannot have another popular season."

Sahara One Television, which almost missed the reality bandwagon, promises a talent hunt-based reality concept (yes, yet another) titled Super Stars, in association with Endemol India.

The show, which makes its debut in September, proposes to provide Bollywood fans an opportunity to showcase their talent and perform as their favourite star. Stars adorn the sets of Super Stars in the form of a jury comprising of actress Urmila Matondkar and choreographer Shiamak Davar.

Somehow, point out television critics, shows like Fear Factor and Business Baazigar that are essentially adventure-based concepts did not gel well with viewers. "That is the reason why every single channel has celebrities and stars droning endlessly about a talent hunt or song-n-dance non-fiction show."

When celebrity gameshows like Deal Ya No Deal, Heartbeats and Kam ya Zyaada failed to make money, the charm of having a gameshow quickly wore off for many channels like Sahara One, which had plans to launch Mission Dus Crore Ka, to be hosted by actor Sanjay Dutt.

And what do you do if you have no stars? You take refuge in glamour and fashion. Starting on September 22, L'Oreal Paris Elite Model Look 2006 will give audiences a peek at the nuances of a photo shoot, training sessions and behind the scene activities of nimble and svelte-looking girls, all aspiring to become supermodels.

Imagine the kind of TRPs when one can have his fill of ogling at lissome bodies working out with fitness trainers like Leena Mogre and getting groomed by the renowned make-up artist and stylist Ambika Pillai.

"Interactivity is the latest buzzword for television and non-fiction shows are the only way to get there," admits Siddharth Roy Kapur, senior VP (marketing and communication), UTV. Its Hungama channel has launched a kiddies talent hunt show called John Aur Kaun where the winner gets a chance to work with the Bollywood star.

"JAK has got us an overwhelming response, with kids voting and participating in hordes, our experiment with reality has paid off," he enthuses.

Realising the economic sense of connecting with kids, Star TV has also launched Rin Mera Star Superstar -- a nationwide talent hunt for kids aged 5-14 years and hosted by television actress Shilpa Sakhlani.

Who can deny votes to cute little girls with pink ribbons who look at you solemnly and urge you to "dial BSNL number..." to help them win?

One question thrown up by the preponderance of shows like Big Brother is: how will the changing social attitudes, especially relationships between women and men who meet as strangers, work with conservative Indian audiences? Nobody has the answer.

But for now, nobody's kissing reality shows goodbye.

Priyanka Joshi in New Delhi
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