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A reality check

THE ASIAN AGE. | DYUTI BASU
Published : Aug 3, 2017, 12:20 am IST
Updated : Aug 4, 2017, 10:52 pm IST

With the next season of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa getting cancelled, we take a look at how the hype around reality shows are no longer what it used to be.

A still from Jhalak Dikhla Jaa
 A still from Jhalak Dikhla Jaa

With word that Jhalak Dikhla Jaa may be cancelled this year for the first time in a decade, allegedly to avoid going head to head with Bigg Boss, it looks like reality television has plateaued, with only the strongest of the strong surviving. Big names like Comedy Circus and India’s Got Talent and even Indian Idol having struggled to make a mark the last couple of years, reality TV doesn’t seem to have the kind of punch it had a couple of years ago when most TV channels were buzzing with new shows.

Still from Indian IdolStill from Indian Idol

The last season of Jhalak got dismal TRPs even though it had names like Karan Johar, Jacqueline Fernandez, Ganesh Hegde and Farah Khan associated with it. Gaurav Chopra, who has been associated with multiple reality shows, including the original British version of Jhalak — Dancing with the Stars — says that the problem lies with a lack of original content. “If you look at the shows that are there today, you’ll find that there’s nothing new. The shows are either rip-offs of western shows, as is the case of Jhalak, Khatron Ke Khiladi or India’s Got Talent. It’s not as though people have lost interest in reality shows, it’s just that the current shows don’t work,” he explains.

Ehsaan Noorani, who is currently a judge on the reality show, The Stage, agrees that there are too many shows that follow the same format. “When Sa Re Ga Ma Pa first came out, it was the only show of its kind and there was a lot of interest around it. Then Indian Idol came in, but it was still one of only two shows in the format. Today, you have so many singing and dancing reality shows and none of them are any different from the others,” he shrugs.

Ehsaan NooraniEhsaan Noorani

As the only Indian contestant in Dancing with the Stars, Gaurav says that there’s no difference between international shows and the shows in India in terms of content at all. “Even there, you have the same drama, the same kind of rivalry, the same amping up of on-stage injuries, to keep the attention and TRP alive. What we need is something that caters to the Indian audience. Kaun Banega Crorepati is probably one such show. It’s still going strong 17 years after it was introduced. It’s a show that targets the middle-class and lower-middle class Indian with the aspiration to use their knowledge to make better lives for themselves. So, of course people love it,” he states. 

Ehsaan adds that an economic approach to shows is another way forward. “A lot of shows work on a grand scale and overshoot their budget. It would be better if shows could stay within their budget goals in terms of sets and stars, and have a better idea about what kind of returns one can get. Stage, for instance, is in English. So that makes it a niche show, right there. So, after that we work with a smaller budget, which ultimately works for the show,” the music composer explains. 

TV producer Nivedita Basu also agrees that star shows are not the best way to get TRPs or stay within budgets. “People want to see real people and real stories that they can aspire to. When they see stars, they don’t feel that kind of connect. There’s no sympathy or aspiration there. Also, star-driven reality shows are much more expensive than others. So, it’s easier to exceed the budget,” she signs off. At the time of going to print, there was no response from Colours TV, which handles both Jhalak Dikhla Jaa and Bigg Boss.

Tags: jhalak dikhla jaa, bigg boss, india’s got talent