What’s the essential ingredient for a reality TV show to work?
Miditech has been working with the reality genre for more than 10 years. Among the shows we did earlier were Hospital for BBCWorld and Romance, Adventure, Aap Aur Hum, which had newly married couples facing off against each other. They were able to win flats and cars. Then, Indian Idol, Sarkaar Ki Duniya, Fame Academy… Miditech has done a lot in this space. For a reality show to be successful, simplicity is critical. You should have a clean grasp and a roller coaster ride that people can genuinely connect with. The show has to have a beginning, middle and end, and a clear takeaway for the audience.
Why do you think reality shows have been so successful?
Because audiences are searching for a more authentic experience. They can identify with the participants. During Idol 3,Mayank Chang did not make it to the end. But this year, we experimented with using him as an anchor. Kids who saw him felt like he was one of them, unlike the intimidatingly good looking anchors. Then they think that if he can do it, they can too.
Aren’t participants faking things?
Everybody who auditions is already acting. They’ve watched five seasons of the show and feel like they know what to do. They are coming across as fake because they are imitating someone else who might have already appeared on the show. When someone puts on fake humility, I ask him why he’s doing that when he’s not humble at all! You can’t fool the audience. A lot of the bad feedback is as much to do with the contestants as with the programme makers. Especially in shows where there’s public voting, participants act in a certain way because they have to appeal to the widest possible audience.
Shows like Splitsvilla leave the viewer unsure about their ethical core.
At Miditech, we have a simple rule — we should be able to sleep easy at night. You have to create artificial reality and play it out as real as possible and as unscripted as possible. Reality TV is a fantastic story telling genre that allows you to centrestage people. I’m not sure about shows like Splitsvilla where you are playing on vulnerability and the stakes are much higher than they seem…
What has struck you in the years that you’ve worked with this genre?
I’ve seen the emergence of a mass culture. When we were doing Fame Gurukul, you could tell the socio-economic background of participants by their clothes and speech. That’s not the case now. A participant who sings the same songs as the others could turn out to be a farmer. Reality TV mirrors what is happening in this country. The contestants are really like the country’s cricket team — younger people from smaller towns. They see this as an opportunity to get somewhere and are not shy about projecting themselves. I have never had that sort of confidence!