The Reality of Reelity: Exploring the Seduction

The modern Indian audience resides in a country where public displays of affection, across the spectrum of physicality, are considered inadequate and, quite frankly, illegal. On the contrary, the more reserved, traditional households cling to their sense of conformity in a bid to remain cultural as per the, albeit widely detested by some, societal norms. In the liberal age of 2020, reality TV poses an enigma of much relief; a provision of entertainment undefined by classism, restrictions, and the sanctimonious nature of ‘Logh kya kehenge?’, it ensues a resultant sense of uplifting our inner hypocrites by judging these people for someone we tell ourselves we would never have acted, even remotely, similarly to if that was us, whilst inevitably coupled with the startled reactions of the conventional crowd.

Studies portray the Indian interest in reality television, whether it is famed talk shows, game shows, or Bigg Boss (a genre in itself, unmatched across Asia), arises due to a sense of commonality felt by viewing ordinary people, people like you, and I, on the big screen; applicable and safe for child viewership, psychologists have termed it as an innate desire to be a ‘part of a particular crowd’. In fact, the gist of it celebrates the shared significance between people on opposite ends of the screen, and why wouldn’t it? Reality television across the nation laces together contestants possessing differing, often conflicting, mantras and statuses, quenching our undying bloodlust for drama. And yet, perhaps the most intriguing of all is the willingness to avoid the fabricated nature of such shows in order to feed our inner Tinkerbells.

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Analogous to several aspects of cinema, the gamut of reality TV nestles on a fine balance of illusion and the unfiltered; the very essence of such entertainment relies on the attraction of audiences perhaps unaware of the seduction itself. TheVibe decidedly explored the Indian appeasement of such shows; socio-economic backgrounds, cultural factors, a sneak peek into the lives of influencers, an unquenched lust for fame- why are we drawn to such performances?

Arbaaz Kadwani, who has worked to curate multiple reality TV shows, states ‘It’s a massive loophole, a donut if you will, which largely depends on the way you curate a show and the targeted audience. It’s only reality to a certain point’.  Where it concerns the polished nature of the production, he admits ‘the essence of reality could very well get fluctuated, perhaps even start dissolving into fiction. However, it could also very well be real at the end of the day’.

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A wide range of reality TV shows leave the present crowd unknowingly questioning how, and why, an individual would agree to a portrayal of themself in a manner which leaves the rest of us gawking, heart-racing, awaiting; Arbaaz says cumulating a narration of this kind is prone to being awfully taxing, yet, relies on ‘finding the right people, because how else can you create something you wouldn’t want to watch yourself? There are no actors in reality TV, only people who are unafraid of putting themselves out there’. Though we may continue to question the falsified persona of such television, it is simpler to believe ‘the hidden truth’- we crave a ‘shot to fame’.

Admittedly shrouded by our reluctance to declare the same, the general mass (GM) is drawn to the ‘over-exaggerated masala’ dripping across Indian cinema generically. ‘It’s not calm, extreme shots are incessantly taking place, it’s difficult to create, but you have to recognise there’s a very niche market for forward English Tv shows. In fact, it’s quite recently, in the past two or so years, when the latter has reached wider audiences, that too majorly due to the newfound attention platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are receiving’, reasons Arbaaz. As to why the population, across the continuum of societal status, continues to reflect this ‘tonality of mindset’, he further states ‘it’s embedded into our culture, it’s what they know, it’s what we know. The drama, romance, uncalled attention, the unconventional…it appeals to the Indian audience since it possesses the element of familiarity’.

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The controversial and risqué constituents, alongside the presence of influencers incessantly crowding our feeds, beckons to us; when questioned what goes on on the opposite side of the screen, we learned that ‘it’s about finding that perfect moment where it’s real to a point where it looks real and you want to believe it’s real, but deep down inside, when you actively consider what’s going on, you question the scenarios’. After all, the immediately believable cannot be marketed in a country as diverse and blossoming as ours; the on-screen malevolence feeds our desires, contributing to the sought after rating channels thirst for.

In turn, it could be argued that the euphoric lifestyle exhibited by the personalities lighting up the midnight darkness of our homes have become unarguably favorable because it is, in the simplest of terms, human nature to want what others have. Opulence, recognition, exposure- reality TV allows the ordinary to fantasise about a potential lifestyle from the comfort of their residences. The majority of such programming is ‘a fictionalised world with a sense of reality’; however, this world we’re exposed to has craftily been imagined. Arbaaz declares, ‘everything requires creativity, it requires a lot of thinking about perhaps the most unintelligent factors, but it’s all business at the end of the day’.

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‘How do you script something that’s not scripted? Everything comes back to the masala when the sun goes down, but it continues to require immense planning, particularly while contemplating the effects unforeseen circumstances may result in. This is why you’ve to channelise the best mediums to curate the best out of people who aren’t actors’. Influencers themselves are gifted with platforms to allow their audiences to fawn over them in a more natural setting; it allows us to know, really know, these people we find rousing even though, ironically, the audiences are bereft of polarity when developing, questionably, unhealthy meme cultures as a bi-product of Indian reality television. After all, ‘reality TV revolves around appealing to the modesty and conservative nature of its targeted audience, yet resides on the pillars of controversy which they crave’.

Perhaps not intellectually stimulating, Indian reality TV indubitably ‘gives us room to experience a culture we’re aware of, know of, and are a part of’, Arbaaz articulates, ‘it gives us the power to expand ourselves into zones of other personalities’. In essence, it can very well be concluded that our involvement, on either end of the screen, yearns to ‘capture unscripted responses to scripted stimuli. They’re extreme versions, based on sensationalism, meant to teach and please your audience’.

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