Quick on the heels of the Shinjini episode comes the news of another reality show ‘gone wrong’. A participant at the ‘Khatron ke khiladi’ show on the upcoming Colors channel has taken ill. He took part in an episode where participants were ‘dared’ to remain under water in a huge glass tank. Unlike Shinjini, whose parents must have exerted some pressure on her to participate in the show, our friend here must have come on his volition. What lures people to reality shows? Soaps and serials have ‘acting’ involved and that profession puts the gleam in the eyes of a select few – those that dream of making it big in the ‘make-believe’ world or the tinsel town. Reality shows ostensibly provide an opportunity to showcase one’s talent – be it singing, dancing or dare devilry.
Much has been written about the pushy parents who want to see their children under the limelight at any cost. The TV channels too have panned for chasing TRPs at any cost – manipulating the reality shows to have as much drama and tension as possible. The TV channels will always ask the question – does this make for good TV?. And they’ve been asking this for decades – not just recently. The movie Quiz Show , set in the 1950s dramatized the shenanigans that go beyond making a talent show (seemingly one where you can’t fake talent) popular. This would be true of talk shows – where heated arguments and sound bites are sought – or of talent shows. The argument between judges appear stage managed and tailor-made to imbue shock value. So almost all shows have an element of ‘fixing’.
Agreed that today’s kids grow up fast, but can 10 & 12 year old’s really grapple with what’s going on? They are not ready to make choices on what’s right and what’s wrong. Recently in one of the reality shows, a boy and a girl of the same age were seen dancing to a romantic number from a Hindi movie and apparently, the judge of the show commented, “In your act, the softness and the passion is missing.” Hmmm.
Kids get pushed along by the parents for good measure. Some of the kids that take part in TV commercials as models act like pros. While that maybe a good thing, the aggressiveness of the parents is seen to be believed. They push their child’s case with agencies & producers and aim to extract the maximum value of the kid. All parents love to see their kid earn a place in the sun – performing on stage is a big feather in their cap. And when the arc lights are turned on for TV and millions watch the show, its a big ‘high’ for them. This attitude may be more so with Indian parents? It starts early with the kid being goaded to recite nursery rhymes in front of guests. No wonder that even in the US, the Spelling Bee attracts participants from Indian or South Asian origin, in droves. Combine it with the kids behaving like adults today – they begin to chase the wrong rainbow.
The TV channels are getting away with murder in these cases. Owing to competition, each channel is outdoing the other in sensationalizing news. The other day, I saw a ‘natakiya roopantar’ of cricketer Pravin Kumar’s brawl with a doctor in Meerut! There was a brilliant article by Santosh Desai on the role of media with respect to Dr. Talwar case and other such news in India. The TV channels are not going to change their ways. If anything the competition is going to get dirtier in the days to come. Adding to Zee, Star Plus and Sony you have at least 5 other GEC channels and more to come!
It is time for parents to exert their judgement on what they are gaining in the short term (or what they think are gaining) and what they are losing in the long term. Unfortunately, what is likely to happen in the future is of least consideration to all of us. The one’s suffering now are our poor kids. Will we wait till another Shinjini episode comes on air to take steps? No wonder that Derek O’Brien has written to several schools asking them not to send school childrent to such reality shows. Will the parents pay heed? Or will the attraction of fame & money rule?