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Reality Cheque
Sidin Sunny Vadakut

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October 10, 2007

Last week, I wrote a column bemoaning the frenzied SMS culture that is gripping our country. A lot of people echoed my discomfort, and many of you had specific comments about how reality TV programmes are at the root of this problem.

However I want to clarify right away that I am in no way against reality TV shows. In fact, I actively encourage reality TV shows, as they often bring to fore several important aspects of our modern lifestyles -- like, for instance, bikinis.

But the problem with our current roster of TV reality programmes is that they somehow fail to hit a nerve with the average Indian viewer. The average Indian viewer does not really care for singing contests or modeling contests or road trips and things like that. "Where are the things that are quintessentially Indian?" asks the average Indian TV viewer. "I want more Rakhi Sawant [Images]!"

This is where our channels fail.

The thing is, most of our TV channels just ape the programmes that are successful in the west. Some of them are good, no doubt, but not all of them have swimsuit rounds. Also, why don't they adapt the really interesting shows for India? For instance the show called "Beauty and the Geek" where a roomful of supermodel types are locked up with some intellectual men could easily become a hit in India. "Beauty and the Humour Writer" is an idea that immediately comes to mind.

Therefore I decided that it was time we put an end to this imported nonsense and, over the last weekend, came up with some quintessentially Indian reality shows. These are competitions that truly bring out the salient features of our societies and the Indian way of life. Why bother with Prannoy Roy or Rajdeep Sardesai going on about current affairs and stock markets, when you can update yourself with key issues in a fun and entertaining fashion with possible nudity?

All these shows of mine are rooted in reality, have great TRP ratings potential and, most importantly, can accommodate Rakhi Sawant or Aadesh Shrivastava if viewers are beginning to flip to other channels.

So here is my list of ideas of kickass ek dum desi reality TV shows:

The Omnipotence: You don't exist!

Summary: A cutting edge reality show that really tugs at the religious fundamentalist strings that binds all Indians together. Gods from all major religions will assemble together in a spectacular studio for a round-by-round elimination process.

Format: After rounds of tests that measure omnipotence and engineering prowess, Karunanidhi will eliminate one God every week with the words: "You don't exist! Look here! I am looking at you! Damn these glasses!"

The final round will involve building a natural rock formation across a potentially lucrative shipping route. For the final round we will have special judges from the Archeological Survey of India who will submit their choice in the form of an affidavit that will immediately be revoked.

Survivor: Air Deccan

Summary: Here we combine the exciting concept of reality television with that of low-cost airlines. A varied group of travelers from all over India will be assembled in a room with one telephone and one desktop computer connected to the internet. Each week they need to use either the call centre (tension!) or the website (suspense!) to book a ticket on an Air Deccan flight to a random destination.

Format: Towards the end of each episode the players will be ushered into a set that looks like a real airport departure lounge. After a few moments of tension the PA system will switch on and Capt Gopinath's will announce: "Contestant XYZ, your Air Deccan flight to Indore is cancelled till further notice!" These cancellations will be based on actual live Air Deccan information. (It is possible that this competition may actually wind up in three or four episodes. If this happens I will refund NO fees to the TV station except taxes.)

The last surviving contestant gets a free Air Deccan flight ticket to a destination of his choice in Orissa.

Fear Factor: Organised Retail

Summary: If there is a more relevant reality show on Indian television, we would like to see it! In this exciting but nerve-racking competition, we choose three dozen supermarkets, including staff, all over India which are part of one of the new national chains like Reliance [Get Quote], Big Bazaar, Spencer's etc.

Format: We then ask the judges, 500 people from the Bahujan Samaj Party, to choose one supermarket at random every week and burn it to the ground. In order to heighten the thrilling reality experience, the contestants in each supermarket will not be informed of the impending attack at all!

The last supermarket standing is declared the winner and given fifteen minutes warning, after which the BSP burns it down anyway.

Big Father: Bengaluru

Summary: The real sign of a good reality TV show is its footing in the current life of people in the country. There cannot be a more up-to-date TV show than this. In this show, several contestants are flown down to Bengaluru and individually asked to sign legally binding documents that assure them that they will be made Chief Minister by the end of the show. (How can so many people be made CM? Therein lies the suspense!)

Format: Mr HD Kumaraswamy, the "judge" (there is a twist here!), and countersignee of the above-mentioned documents. Each week, he will choose one of these contestants and eliminate them by saying "Sorry! But there is a small problem with the agreement! I don't remember signing it!" He may make a derogatory gesture to accompany his statement. (Clue: Finger.)

It is only in the final episode that the truth is revealed: the real judge is HD Devegowda and not Kumaraswamy at all! (Surprise twist! He was the man sleeping in the corner of the set all the time but who no one paid attention to!) The last contestant is asked to pack his bags and leave quickly before Father gets angry and beats the no-confidence motion out of him, if you know what I mean.

 And finally, the national blockbuster TV show:

Who wants to make a mockery of Democracy?

Summary: This is truly in sync with the reality of Indian life. The format is simple but exhilarating. We will choose 30 MPs of the Congress party divided into 10 groups of three people each. They will be put up together in a palatial guesthouse.

Format: Each week the groups will be given a task. The task will involve solving a problem from the areas of foreign policy, nuclear cooperation, trade reform or FDI inflows. Each team will have to prepare a complete solution including legislation, regulation, red tape, excessive bureaucracy etc.

The teams will be judged by a panel comprising Sitaram Yechuri, D Raja and Prakash Karat. Each week, the poorest will be eliminated when Karat sends them a letter with the words "We have withdrawn support to your government!"

The last remaining congressman, Rahul Gandhi [Images] by default, will be declared winner.

Notice: National TV channels of good repute are welcome to approach me for the production and syndication of these reality shows. My contact details are with Rediff.

Earlier columns:

More adventures of the Vadakuts, mister and missus, can be found at Domain Maximus.

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