After briefly mentioning the phenomenon of reality TV in India last month, I’ve since had a chance to speak with our India correspondent Shreyasi Singh about it in more depth. And I was delighted to find that she had some insightful thoughts to share on the subject:
Do you watch much reality TV?
Yes. I make sure to catch a few episodes of each to see what the buzz is about. Actually, the reality television show boom already has two distinct categories: 1. talent hunt shows, 2. the more candid camera types. I’ve actually followed a few shows of the earlier category diligently such as Indian Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, etc.
These have in fact done a lot of good for the country in two ways-one, by giving budding talent a platform to get noticed, and by infusing younger, newer talent into our entertainment industry. Of course, there’s still staging of drama, fights between judges and issues with contestants.
What about the other category? The ‘candid camera’ types?
Over the last year or so, many shows in the second category which is more disturbing, intrusive, lowest common denominator type television have sprung up such as Big Boss (an Indian version of Big Brother), and Indian versions of Get Me Out Of Here, Moment Of Truth, etc. The furore over indecent language, explicit content and controversial issues have emerged from these shows. To be honest, I find most of them unwatchable.
So would you agree that these shows are damaging to Indian culture/values?
Well, I personally don’t think they are damaging to Indian culture. I think they’re an assault on people in general. Things like glorifying promiscuity and sexual infidelity-I think that would be worrying in most countries. A robust culture needs to come to terms with its popular culture but, that popular culture can sometimes give a negative image of many situations and circumstances to a younger, more impressionable audience.
What is the general buzz right now regarding reality TV in India?
The intelligentsia and media critics bash the shows, but what’s also true is that almost all of them have been huge money-spinners, and have helped networks that showed them come out on top in an extremely competitive entertainment business in India.
Shreyasi’s blog on India will debut on The Diplomat website later this month. Her latest feature story is on women (or lack thereof) in the Indian military: ‘Women Not Worth the Money.’