Saturday, September 20, 2008

Once upon a time I watched a reality show on TV

Saas bahu serials
When cable TV came into India, they did not have much idea what to do in the early days.Initially, they had song and dance shows like chitrahaar. Then came serials. Then came Ms Ekta Kapoor, daughter of the erstwhile Jumping jack of Bollywood movies, and she hit upon the jackpot- in the form of Saas Bahu serials. Now, Ekta means unity, but her saas bahu serials have actually caused disunity in many families which have been avid watchers of such serials.

Quiz shows
Then came quiz shows.These quiz shows, hosted by celebrity actors,would reward participants who could reach the hot seat. Of course, reaching the hot seat through by dialling the given numbers was tougher than the tasks that mythological heroes were called upon to perform in the past. These quiz shows in turn were often used to launch new saas bahu serials which followed just after the quiz show.

Reality show
Now, these channels have hit upon another formula. It is called "reality shows". In these shows,people typically sing and/or dance,and their performances is judged by celebrity judges. After their performance, jugdes give them marks. A few participants, getting the least marks get eliminated. Not just the jugdes, public is also asked to jugde the fate of the participants. After the performance, the participants has a message for the audience in which he requests the audience to vote for him through SMS.

Presenter of the show takes sadistic pleasure in announcing which participants are in danger zone, and then it is with great fanfare and melodrama that the eliminated participant is thrown out of the contest.

Dissenting Participants/Judges
Often, some participants who get poor marks allege foul play and stage a walk out. Not just that, sometimes, one of the celebrity jugdes also alleges foul play when his favourite participant gets eliminated, and he too stages a walk out.

Vote through SMS
And there are a huge number of audience who enjoy watching these "reality" shows, but the people who really enjoy it the most are the serial makers and the mobile companies, who roll in megabucks through the millions of SMSes that the public sends to vote for their favourite participants. The revenue thus generated in a matter of hours is easily more than what the sponsors of these serials pour into the coffers of these serial makers.

Watching a reality show
I am one of the few who can never watch these kind of shows, and I make no secret of my aversion for such serials.And as if to tease me, every channel has got this kind of serials at prime time. And incidentally,there are quite a large number of Indian channels these days.

Against the best of my judgement, I decided to watch one such show on 26th january.

What was this show
It was a Zee TV show called "Sa Re Ga Ma" where kids special contests were going on. Kids would sing songs and they would be judged by two celebrity judges- viz playback singers Suresh Wadkar and Sonu Nigam. The show, like all such shows had a host too, the host being son of another playback singer (Udit Narayan).

topic of show for 26 january
So, the programme begins with music, and the teenage host welcomes all, like the grown up hosts do in other such shows, using big high sounding words. The show apparently has songs sung by kids on a particular topic. The topic for 26th january was patriotic songs.I had actually managed to find out beforehand that the topic had to be patriotic songs. You see, I have access to a cluster of supercomputers, which we Rocket scientists use to decode such hard to guess information.

Chief guest arrives
These programmes have one more mandatory member- viz the chief guest. And the host welcomes the chief guest- the one and the only Bipasha Basu. She arrives on the stage, accompanied by background music of "back to the future". And before you have any naughty ideas, she was properly covered in a white sari, which, it appeared to me was not washed with Super Nirma. Not surprising, as she, like Mallika Sherawat, does not have any endorsements with companies that have anything to do with garments.

The kids may be only 10-12 years of age, but they appeared well versed in the manners of such reality shows. It appears that one of the kids had thrown a tantrum in yesterday's programme, like Rakhi Sawant throws in another such reality show, and had walked out of the show. The judge lectured her against such conduct- "buri baat hai", "hamare show me aisa nahi hona chahiye" etc. And if the kid was anything like kids of her age,the message fell on deaf ears ( ek kaan se sunkar doosre se nikaal diya).

Contest begins. A kid comes, and she sings a patriotic song which was at least 50 years old. I am stumped, because I have never heard this song. The judges are equally clueless, going by their facial expressions. But after the song was over, Sonu Nigam must have found out about the song by googling, and he displayed his knowledge nonchalantly by saying things like" How come you sang this song. You are a girl, this was sung by Rafi, even boys would shy away from singing such a difficult song". The girl mouths some sentences memorised by rote- viz I love this song, this is such a nice patriotic song, I always wanted to sing this song, and the jugdes go, wah wah wah wah, bahut achche, bahut acche, taaliyan. After the song, the girl requests the audience to vote for her through SMS, just like the participants do in other such programmes.

Another participant, a boy this time, comes and sings another patriotic song of equally old vintage. But I could vaguely recall having heard the song sometime in the past. And I feel so pleased about myself.

Chief guest intervenes
Then a girl participant comes, sings another patriotic song. Judges, like me, are on a strong wicket this time,as both have actually heard this song before. So, they start finding fault with the performance, something which they could not do with the earlier songs. You misspelt one word- says one judge. You lost the sur at one place,comments the other judge. Bipasha Basu, unable to take this nitpicking, compliments the girl in Bangla that she sang well, and do not get discouraged by such criticism. And it turns out that the girl is Assamese ! Does not matter, Assamese people can understand and talk in Bangla, but the two jugdes are once again stumped. Sonu Nigam tries to curry favour with Bipasha by trying to speak some Bangla, but not with much success.

Another participant sings, followed by another nitpicking by the judges on the diction of the singer. When Bipasha basu intervenes, Sonu Nigam pulls her leg ( figuratively- you naughty!) saying that yes, the singer at least did not get her "ra" and "da" mixed, insinuating that Ms Basu gets them mixed.

Then one kid came, and he sang the song "kar chale hum fida jaan o tan saathiyon" from Haqeeqat. This was one song that everyone had heard about, and everyone appreciated the singer.

Voting by public
Then audience are urged to vote for their favourites, and it turns out that whichever singers are praised the most by judges are kicked out by the audience. Lovely. I enjoyed this part ( wearing my sadistic hat) to see the expressions on the face of the judges.They express their disappointment that the best singer should be kicked out of the show. Their reaction, as well as the reaction of the public is priceless.

I will let you know when I watch another such show. May be I should watch a saas bahu serial next and present my report. So keep watching this space.


Toonfactory said...

Good to have U back Atul ji

squarecut.atul said...

I am a "bit" preoccupied with a few things these days.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

:) Welcome back. I'm Raja Mama's neice and I have a song request for you!

Aaj Unse Pehli Mulaqaat hogi? COuld you write about this song, please??

squarecut.atul said...

Definitely, Nandini. Welcome to this blog of mine.

I write on indiviual songs in my other blog viz

Look for mywrite up on this song on tomorrow.

squarecut.atul said...

My writeup on the song "aaj unse pahli mulaqaat hogi" now appears at

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Thanks a ton!

Raja Swaminathan said...

Hey back to reading your blog after a long you know, I was in India and, on a very slow dial-up line, I limited my Internet activity very much.

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of your one experience with reality shows. I know you have a lot on your mind at the moment and I hope it all works out well for you.

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Hi Atul - long time no 'see' your blog. Nice post - these reality shows are quite unreal if you ask me! Not for simple people like you and me. And this sms voting stinks! I was recently spammed by someone whose cousin was a contestant on the Indian Idol. To think that it's not just about talent but how many SMSes you can 'pay' for!!

squarecut.atul said...

Well, I am a "bit" preoccupied, which does not allow me to post long posts like what I used to post here. Hopefully I will be able to resume my posting here soon.

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