Low Notes of High Success on Reality Shows

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Budding singers never had it so good before. Flip through a horde of TV channels and chances to spot youngsters crooning are invariably high. Yes, times are changing and the buzzword today is music-based reality shows. Not surprisingly, more than the Indo-US nuclear deal, Indian viewers are engrossed in Ishmeet Singh, Prashant Tamang, Aneek Dhar’s victory.

“These competitions are aimed at a shallow form of music. It is an out-and-out money making enterprise where emotions are used to mint money. Thus, it is obvious that the winner of such a competition will not reach anywhere,” says singer-music composer Rabbi Shergill.

When asked about how did Ishmeet Singh win Voice of India (VOI), despite Harshit Saxena beating him in three regions, Prem Kamath, Head of Marketing, Star India says, “It’s the cumulative votes that matter. It’s very possible that the north outvoted the other regions.”

Many felt Ishmeet should have been eliminated in the fifth round itself. “Hey, that’s unfair! Ishmeet is very talented and deserved to win. The judges did protest when Abhaas was voted out but that’s the format. You can’t change it.” says Kamath.

Even though VOI borrowed hugely from Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge in the concept, judges and even the anchor, Shaan, it trailed way behind in the TRP ratings. “VOI was a spectacular success. True, we weren’t able to beat Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, but that’s because they went on air weeks before we did. Throughout, VOI had TRP’s between 4 and 4+. The most popular show has a rating of 6. If the show was disappointing, why would so many of our sponsors offer to return on VOI Kids?” explains Kamath.

Abhaas Joshi will be hosting Voice of India Chhote Ustad. The musical reality show, which goes on air from December 7 on Star Plus, will see the 17 year-old, who made it to the top three on VOI, take over from Shaan.

Along with the host, there’s been a change in the show’s format as well. While the audience will decide who goes out in the initial rounds, the last four contestants will stay on or be evicted purely based on the judges’ decision. The judges are Shreya Ghoshal, Pritam and Kunal Ganjawala.

The real craze for reality television hit India as Channel [V] introduced Viva, a band of five young girls. As the channel opened gates for new world, young dreamers gathered in hordes to give their luck a try. They cried and celebrated with their failure and triumph and the audiences, on its part, lapped up this overdose of emotions. No wonder then, it was a big success and an inspiration for both the shrewd business minds and youngsters waiting for their share of fame.

“But all of them can’t be successful. Ultimately their hard work, their planning and how well they handle their career matters. These shows can certainly give them an initial boost, but nothing more than that,” says Vishal Dadlani of Vishal-Shekhar duo.

Post-Viva’s arrival, there has been no looking back for musical television shows. As the real-life Bunty and Bablis rush to test their vocal chords, the burgeoning entertainment industry has spawned a number of shows like Indian Idol, Fame Gurukul, Voice Of India, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Mission Ustaad.

“There is no doubt that singing-based talent shows are a definite hit in our country. This is a new phenomenon that needs to be encouraged. However, I am totally against the voting system as the judgment should entirely depend on judges,” says Khayyam.

Reality shows has not only changed the destinies of TV channels, but also of several common people. But barring names such as Kunal Ganjawala, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghosal and Anushka Manchanda, a majority are scrounging for their share of fame and money. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise if names like Raja Hasan, Harshit Saxena, Vinit Singh, Ujjaini, Aishwarya, Sharib, Amit Sana, Bonjyotsana, Qazi Tauqeer and Sandeep Acharya fail to ring a bell.

“It is impossible to make a singer in three or six months. And this is the main reasons behind talent hunt winners not doing well in Bollywood or any music industry. Parents must send their children to good music schools before heading for such shows,” says singer Shubha Mudgal.

Experts believe that an aspiring singer should have the ability to adapt quickly. “As composers have their own style of composing songs, one must be versatile in his approach if he really wants to be successful in Bollywood,” affirms music composer Rajesh Roshan.

Reality shows are in nascent stage in India, but it still does a business of over Rs 300 crore. So, while new players continue to join the moolah party, old players are ensuring that their ogle value remains intact. Even the stakes are very high for participants. For instance, Indian Idol winner Prashant Tamang has bagged a Rs one crore contract with Sony besides winning a car.

Similarly, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa king Aneek Dhar won a contract worth Rs 50 lakhs with Universal and Zee TV along with a car. In fact, the number of participants have also been swelling with each passing day. “It takes a lot of effort and hard work to make a name in the industry which is full of experienced and talented singers. No one can become a Star overnight. But people expect a lot from the show winners,” says Abhijeet Sawant.

According to an estimate, the dream city Mumbai has witnessed almost 25,000 wannabe singers trooping in to try their luck in last two years. “Thanks to several reality shows, the competition is very tough but give us at least five years to prove ourselves,” says Sa Re Ga Ma Pa winner Debojit Saha, who is hosting the Bangla version of Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa.

Reality television seems to be a win-win situation for everyone: contestants, channels and viewers, but broadcasters are laughing all the way to the bank. Besides ad revenues, a popular reality television show, on an average, gets about 7 million mobile phone text messages for each episode. “Channels are hardly concerned about participants. They are only interested in their revenues,” says Sawant.

At Rs 4 per SMS, it adds up to Rs 28 million per episode. Over a year (52 weeks), the figure is Rs 1,460 million. And on a 50-50 split between the channel and operator, it works out to Rs 730 million to the channel. “They show concern for TRP’s of their shows and then forgetting about it and it’s winners,” says Vishal.

Whatever the case, reality television has brought the ordinary people closer to their fantasies. And it’s here to stay as more and more Qazis and Abhijeet Sawants get a chance to Live their dreams.

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