Joined: 19 March 2005
|'TV reality shows get regional, ignore talents'|
|Wednesday, 29 March , 2006, 11:43|
|New Delhi: While audience polls through SMS on reality TV have succeeded in making this visual medium truly interactive, the emerging fact that not talent but voting on regional basis decides the winner is a worrying trend, experts say.
So when Kashmiri Qazi Tauqeer won the Fame Gurukul contest on Sony Entertainment Television, the ULFA is reported to have put its muscle behind Debojit from Assam on Zee's Saregamapa Challenge to make sure that the region finds its share of glory on reality TV.
In another instance, when Dia Mirza was on the jury of one such show, the contestant spoke to her in Telugu, while another thanked his parent in Marathi.
"It is true that more votes come in from the region of the contestant, but then all of them face this bias. In that sense all are on an equal footing," justifies a spokesperson of Sony Television. Their popular shows Indian Idol and Fame Gurukul garnered close to 5.5 crore votes a piece.
"At our end we have tried to convey through our hosts and judges that people should vote for the best contestant, irrespective of where they come from. If people still choose otherwise there is little we can do.""Regionalism plays a role in promoting a candidate only to some extent. It cannot stop the real talent from emerging at the top," says Navjot Singh Sindhu, one of the judges of Laughter Challenge on Star One. "In the penultimate stage, it's really about choosing between Rs 500 notes. All the contestants are good," says says Ashish Kaul, senior VP, Zee TV, speaking in the context of Saregamapa, a show that raked in 10 crore votes through the course of its run. Discuss: Public voting in reality music shows is a joke Prof Anand Kumar, a political sociologist says, "Earlier people aligned around nationality but with boundaries getting diluted, regional identity has become a rallying point." For all its faults, it is a welcome relief from the "saas-bahu serials" which are "full of negativity and "put the nation in a strange remorseful mood. At least the reality genre is dominated by song and dance based shows that bring a sense of joy and provide wholesome family entertainment," Kumar adds. He further makes the point that owing to a colonial legacy, India as a society has been "socialised into silence. So either we agree or keep quiet. At least people are voicing their opinion and taking a stand." "SMS are a great way of empowering a consumer. This way they feel connected to the product and can make a choice either in its favour or reject it," P N Vasanti, director, Centre for Media Studies, questions the very premise of the reality TV format saying that presently, news alone qualifies as reality TV. She goes on to add that that the programming goal of most of these serials is not to provide a platform to talent but entertain. At best, these serials on air are really pre-recorded reality or rather entertainment packaged as reality. Factors like regional biases, humble backgrounds and sob-stories are played up. After all, there can be no hero without a villain, she points out. Another important sub-trend of this genre has been the lack of women contestants emerging winners unless the format explicitly demands so. Vasanti says it is a part of the larger strategy to sustain viewer interest. Sony, however, says that they prefer women contestants for the "glamour quotient. We did try to bring in six men and six women but people somehow seem to choose the men." Prof Kumar sees it in a slightly traditional context of 'opportunity.' " The women on the shows tend to hail from small towns and appear homely while the men seem to have more personality." Zee attributes it to the fact that women control the remote in the house. "Women will win in a situation where there is no vote-in. Women are women's worst enemies," Kaul says. He says that they are trying to rectify this by bringing in a show where a people have to vote in for couples. "This should somewhat negate both the regional slant and the bias against women." In the light of these trends and considering that our cultural sensitivities and reactions are different from the Western formats that these serials have been borrowed from, is there some tinkering required? Sony feels that so far the show has done very well and there is no change required. "The goal of Indian Idol was to provide an icon with an X factor and charisma. There was a buzz that Amit Sana was more deserving but the fact is that Abhijeet Sawant has to his credit the highest selling record in the past five years. Ultimately the consumer is paying to listen to him." Kaul warns though that if reality TV formats continue without changes, it will lead to a disconnect between aspirations of the channel and the contestants.
Vasanti predicts the death of this genre soon. She says that TV serials follow a trend- mythology, thrillers, saas-bahu. "I think the genre will get much worse before it sees its death."
Joined: 01 December 2005
Joined: 21 February 2006
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