India may have caught on to the reality show trend a tad late, but going by the raging TRPs, it’s clear that such shows are here to stay. Talent hunts, game shows, model hunts as well as celebrity-centric reality shows offer a much-welcomed break to viewers who find all those overly dramatic ‘soaps’ to be a drag. Viewers aside, thousands of eager participants from Indian metros and small towns alike vie to be a part of these shows with hopes of becoming the next small-screen star. After all, reality TV shows offer a great platform to those who wish to showcase their talents but not without a struggle that includes gruelling tasks, highpressure to perform well, risqué situations and keeping with scripting tactics. The prize: fame, hype and large investments that naturally trail these winners. While some winners find themselves facing a much different kind of reality when the hype eventually dies down, there are others that enjoy continued success even after their 15 minutes of fame are over. Whether these shows are rigged or not, one thing’s for sure – most of the winners walk away with a new life.
Recently, a computer operator from Bihar became an instant millionaire on Kaun Banega Crorepati. In a Slumdog Millionaire moment, 27-year old Sushil Kumar and his wife of four months wept when Amitabh Bachchan, the show’s host, handed him a cheque of Rs. 5 crore after he answered all the right answers. This Rs. 6000-a-month salary earner’s life was instantly transformed! He may have left a winner, but all’s not swell for this victor who is now being approached by dozens of strangers, demanding a part of his big win. “People from different places and backgrounds have been requesting financial help. It’s a new thing in my life for people to be expecting charity from me,” said the soft-spoken Kumar. A woman is said to have asked for Rs. 20 lakh for her daughter’s wedding, while a man wanted the same amount to meet some emergency. Topping this list of random strangers would have to be a priest, who did not disclose his name but asked for an obnoxious amount as a donation in exchange for a deity’s bountiful blessings!
Sunidhi Chauhan’s journey to stardom began at the young age of four when she was discovered by a TV host at a local singing contest. But, she tread the real path to fame when she won the first televised music show Meri Aawaz Suno when she was just 12 years old! She walked away with a record deal with HMV and later that year, stepped into the world of playback singing for a large number of Bollywood films. By the age of 19, Sunidhi had already lent her voice to over 350 songs and today, her highpitched, yet full-throated voice, and energy-packed stage performances are what she has come to be known for. True to the adage that one cannot suppress talent, it took a reality TV show to help Sunidhi eventually find her place in the cut-throat music industry. Today, she is one of the toppaid playback singers in India and has won many an accolade. Sunidhi, who was a judge on Indian Idol, feels that the reach is fantastic. She says that the show reached out to the people who couldn’t reach them and feels that this reality is real. “I do relate with the contestants on Indian Idol. Some are nervous; some are confident. I see my shadow in every one of the shortlisted contestants as they go through a gamut of emotions – anxiety, fear, excitement, exhilaration – everything,” says Sunidhi.
A winner all the way
The original ‘Roadie’ Rannvijay Singh was launched into the world of stardom after he won the first season of MTV Roadies. Interestingly, Rannvijay said that when he had auditioned for Roadies, he just knew that he would make it! “It was the bike that motivated me to audition in the first place. I just really wanted to win the bike!” He sure did weave his magic on the show’s producers because after winning the show, he was chosen to host Roadies. “The MTV producers asked me to try Veejaying and not join the army. They liked the way I interacted with people. I was very camera shy, but I thought it would be fun. I think that was the hand of fate since I ended up in a totally different profession.” Since then, he has acted in many films, hosted MTV’s reality shows and even featured in Vipul Shah’s London Dreams!
Got gorgeous and more!
In the show’s first season, Channel V’s Get Gorgeous received over six thousand entries that included a certain Archana Vijaya. The beautiful and peppy girl went on to win the show, propelling her into the glamorous world of modelling. With a host of popular ads, magazine covers and editorials in glossies like L’Officiel, Elle and Seventeen, she was headed in the right direction to a brighter future. All this was accomplished within a year of her big win. In 2005, Channel V signed her on as a VJ, while modelling assignments increased by the day. She also went on to host prestigious events like IIFA 2011. Neo Sports roped her in as a cricket presenter, and from 2007 to date she brings the live action from the sports grounds to television viewers. Today, Archana is one of the leading names in sports entertainment. In fact, so fresh was her appeal that she was named as the best thing to have happened to cricket since the IPL by GQ magazine! “It’s been a truly magical and exciting journey! So much so that I have to sometimes pinch myself to realise it’s all for real! I’m grateful to have the best family and friends in the world who have been there for me right through and to God for giving me a wonderful life!” says Archana.
Abhijeet Sawant, the season one Lucknow to London When Pankaj Bhadouria quit her teaching job to participate in MasterChef India, she must have really believed in herself. The housewife from Lucknow emerged as the winner of season one and is still reaping thebountiful harvest of her victory. Not only does she host her own cookery show on Star Plus, but is all set to open the first of her restaurants in Lucknow. She has also authored a cook book and has been recognised internationally She was invited to Cambridge University in the UK to showcase and speak about healthy food and to break the misconception winner of the ever-so-popular Indian Idol, shot to instant fame after his victory. Not only did he go on to participate in other reality shows such as the music talent hunt Jo Jeeta Hai Wohi Superstar and the reality dance show Jhalak Dikhla Jha, but he also went on to do a lot more than his other talent hunt counterparts. “I participated in Indian Idol to prove I can sing. A lot of people weren’t happy when I won. People only liked my smile. Today they realize I have it in me,” he says. Abhijeet also took part in Asian Idol, and was praised by the judges for giving the Asian audience a taste of Indian music. Since then, life has not been the same for Abhijeet, who released an album in 2005. He has also dabbled in Bollywood films. Today, his music career has reached an all-time high as he shuttles between performing at events, hosting shows and playback singing for films.
Lucknow to London
When Pankaj Bhadouria quit her teaching job to participate in MasterChef India, she must have really believed in herself. The housewife from Lucknow emerged as the winner of season one and is still reaping the bountiful harvest of her victory. Not only does she host her own cookery show on Star Plus, but is all set to open the first of her restaurants in Lucknow. She has also authored a cook book and has been recognised internationally She was invited to Cambridge University in the UK to showcase and speak about healthy food and to break the misconception that nutritious food need not always be bland.
Reality TV shows spawn winners and losers alike, but not all is lost for those who fail to make the cut. Fleeting fame doesn’t really escape even those who lose, offering them a memorable journey as well as the ephemeral brush with fame. Such is the fascination of participating in reality shows for they no longer simply represent TV shows with entertainment value; they also offer a touch of hope and aspiration to those who painstakingly await the day when they become a part of the exciting world of reality TV, where dreams come alive.
Volume 1 Issue 7