Joined: 11 April 2010
This week I shall eat humble pie. I have always said there is nothing real about reality shows. But I take back my words. Last week, as is my wont, I was flipping channels when I chanced upon Maa Exchange on Sony. This particular episode had TV actress Vaishnavi (best remembered for her role as Arjun Bijlani's mother in Miley Jab Hum Tum) swap places with the wife of ventriloquist Raja.
This was one episode, which even if I go with the assumption that almost all reality shows are scripted, was heart-wrenching. And that is why I choose to dwell on this one because if you are clever and have managed to camouflage your 'script' in this one, so much so that it appears real, then this one is a winner. Vaishnavi played 'mother' to Raja's two young children, a seven-year-old daughter (I don't know her real age but she looked not more than five because of various reasons) and a son who was probably four or five. Apparently, the daughter was being ill-treated by Raja's second wife as she was from his previous marriage. As the show progressed a distressed Raja confessed that even he was to be blamed as he too was responsible for her present state. The little girl looked so emaciated that my heart went out to her. In fact she didn't have a single toy to play with and had to make do with her younger brother's playthings.
But Vaishnavi not only set this house in order but gave so much of herself to the little girl that it was truly touching. There were moments when the actress cried (and one could make out it wasn't glycerine) when she agonized over the way the little girl was treated. In the end, she confronted both Raja and his wife and pleaded, cajoled and requested them to give as much love to their daughter as they give their son.
Now I don't care if this one was scripted (which I doubt it was) and if it was it was indeed beautifully done. It made me sit up and do some serious thinking. Because so many children like the little girl and so many such families are waiting for a Vaishnavi to enter their lives and make them see sense.
Moreover this should be a learning lesson for all those who make such shows. If you want your show to touch every single viewer, be honest in your approach. Also allow the actors to be themselves on such reality shows. If they go with the flow and be natural the show is sure to generate interest. Since most viewers are intelligent enough to differentiate the fake from the real, it's time to get real.
This brings us to the very crucial question: How real are reality shows?
Let's begin with a basic understanding. The premise of reality TV is to put individuals in situations that will evoke candid reactions from them.
In this sense, reality TV is real, as there are no scripts, and the participants are actually reacting to situations in real life.
Many reality TV shows use editing to alter what actually happened. Time magazine says some of the most commonly-used practices involve cutting and rearranging footage so that facial expressions and other reactions occur at certain points to play up the drama. Other editing techniques involve splicing audio to add words or sentences to conversations. Producers may also suggest activities or actions that will likely lead to reactions from participants.
Jokes are penned for hosts, banter for judges. Plot points and narrative arcs are developed. In some cases, lines are fed directly to contestants. So the next time, you hear a judge call the contestant an idiot or a wimp remember it's not the judge but the writer at work. For that matter if you laugh at a good joke cracked by the anchor or host or even shed a tear at some emotional drama don't forget to thank the writer. So the question that arises is does a viewer really care if a show is scripted? Well, I think that as long as the viewer is entertained he doesn't care. And for those who care there is the remote.
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