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A reality check on the reality shows!

Believe it or not, the popular US reality show, “The Apprentice” had played a significant role in the accession of President Trump to the White House! Over fourteen seasons, the show made the brand “Trump” familiar all over America, which eventually ended up in Trump’s candidacy. Similarly, even though it didn’t land actor Oviya in any presidential race, the reality show Bigg Boss Tamil gave birth to an army which fought in her defence. Yes, the reality of the reality shows is unreal and often bizarre. And the latest entrant in the bandwagon is actor Arya with his bride hunt reality show 'Enga Veetu Mapillai'.


The buzz started when Arya posted a Facebook video inviting applicants for his bride hunt. He said, “I don’t have any conditions, nor do I want to make any demands. This is a matter of my life. If you believe I can make a good life partner, then you can call 7330173301.” What followed was more than 80,000 calls and 8,000 proposals to take part in the show, and to win the hand of the handsome actor. The applicants arrived even from various countries and Arya handpicked 16 bride-to-be contestants, say reports. The show, which started telecasting from February 20 and is hosted by actor Sangeetha Krish, has already created mixed responses among the viewers.


Be it Americans, Indians or any other nationals, everyone is in awe of taking a part in the buzz of “reality” shows, which hold the claim of reality up front. While western reality shows diving into erotic themes head first, Indian reality shows are often adaptive to the norms of sanskar by incorporating concepts like swayamvara. Earlier, Rahul Mahajan, Mallika Sherawat and Ratan Rajput have ventured to pick their partners through reality shows, with a considerable amount of criticism from the social media.


When a popular actor like Arya steps into the reality show arena, it indicates a significant change in the borders defining private and public spaces and affairs. As we know, there is a natural curiosity to update oneself about the affairs behind your next door, except that it brings a lot of money when you put it for sale in a TV show. The first reality show in television history, which was broadcasted in 1973, was "An American Family", a chronicle of the daily lives of an American family up-close. The 12 episodes broadcasted showcased marital tensions in the family and an eventual messy divorce.


Even though severely criticised as the lowest form of entertainment, the show was a big hit and detonated an outburst of similar shows. There are a number of observations and conclusions for the unprecedented popularity following reality shows ever since. The predominant among them explains how reality show culture encashes the voyeuristic desires of the society, a view showcased brilliantly in the movie Aruvi. Another take on reality shows is that they make us feel superior. Most of the shows around the world are copiously using abuse, shallow emotional outbursts and dysfunctional relationships to this end.


Contestants are often humiliated in front of viewers and their dreams are squashed to tears. While only one person steps onto the podium, all other contestants are desperate to hide their failure, which in turn helps the viewers to vent out their own frustration in daily lives. Often, the contestants go to any length of deceit, vengeance and spite to outrun the others in some shows. Thus, reality shows are also acting as a safety valve of desperation and hopelessness, and a confirmation that the lives of other people, however celebratory they are, are as despicable as in real life. 


It’s treating our day-to-day wretched reality with a high dose of televised reality, like we treat fever by keeping our body temperature higher. On a positive note, contestants are often picked up from obscurity, skyrocketing some talents to instant fame, even though many would disappear after the rush hour.


The willingness of ordinary people to showcase their private lives in front of a camera and the eagerness of a viewer base to consume those private moments is at the core of a reality show phenomenon. So, It may be a life matter for the star, but the tears, bruises, ploys, and loss during the show make it a dish served hot, and who would be bride is just a tail end of the story. Because the show must go on!

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