Thursday, 15 October 2009

Not a child’s play

Reality shows should desist from exploiting audiences in the name of entertaining them, writes Sneha May Francis

The telly is supposed to entertain, not infuriate. However, while watching the latest reality show entrant Pati, Patni Aur Woh I was filled with negative emotions. It’s a show that ignores basic ethics and propagates tacky concepts, blatantly abusing our sensibilities on the pretext of entertaining audiences.
While the US churned out reality shows by the dozen, India made a slow move. Only when B-town’s glamour doll Shilpa Shetty returned home a winner from the UK’s Big Brother did the Indian TV channels wake up to the idea of milking such concepts. Immediately production houses worked overtime, rehashing international reality shows. From American Idol to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, we’ve seen it all tweaked to Indian tastes. And the latest to join the bandwagon is Pati Patni Aur Woh. Based on BBC’s Baby Borrowers, it has courted more controversy than fame because watching an infant being jostled around by a bunch of inconsequential TV actors is not amusing at all.
Instead of celebrity couples, the original show tracked teenage couples in a bid to teach them the nuances of parenthood. So I cannot comprehend why the channel traded the basic concept with immature telly actors; surely this is beyond reason. Is the channel trying to propagate the idea that couples should refrain from having babies? Also, the original format included a nanny who monitored the children. But the desi version went a step further and planted real parents next door. Watching those helpless teary-eyed moms watching their babies howling on screen is disheartening.
Barring one couple – Rakhi Sawant and Elesh, who dubiously hooked up on another reality show on the same channel, the rest of the faces aren’t remotely famous. Forget parenthood, these fancy non-entities can’t even brew a cup of tea without making it seem like a herculean task. It’s dreadful to watch them cribbing and whining about every-day chores.
I recall empathising with Jim Carrey’s character in Peter Weir’s The Truman Show, where he objects to being made a scapegoat for telly viewers. Out here, the sympathy lies with the viewer, instead, for being subjected to such sub-standard shows. Guess it’s time to switch off and read a book!

After tricking its viewers into believing that B-town’s item girl Rakhi Sawant would tie the knot on reality show Rakhi Ki Swayamvar NDTV Imagine is back to squeeze out more from their drama queen in Pati Patni Aur Woh. The show sees five celebrity couples – Debina Bonnerjee and Gurmeet Choudhary, Rakhi and Elesh, Juhi and Sachin Shroff, Gaurav Chopra and Mouni Roy, and Shilpa and Apoorva Agnihotri – tackling parenthood challenges under the constant glare of the cameras. The show, shot over 30 days, will be divided into five stages, namely pregnancy, infants, toddlers, teenagers and the elderly. There are no winners or eliminations in this game.

(Published in e+, Gulf News, Oct 15, 2009)

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