I am an ardent viewer of the music reality tv show, Indian Idol. I am always awestruck when I hear the exceptional talent that the show finds and nurtures.
However, I often wonder why a majority of those who make it as contestants on these shows have such sad stories to share.
This year’s show is no different; there is a contestant who suffers from an ailment which has severely impaired his vision, another contestant who has been shunned and ridiculed because of the colour of her skin, and then another who is rising from one of the many settlements in Mumbai.
Nishant Kaushik, a contestant who crashed out in the third round of the 2012 season, has put out a series of tweets that throws some light on the darker side of the reality show. I read through the 20 odd tweets, and while none of them surprised me, I realised that over the years, I just chose to ignore the side he was presenting to focus on the music.
Each year, after the auditions are concluded, there are stories of contestants being ridiculed, made to wait under inhuman conditions, and sometimes even of scripted auditions. The reason why Nishant’s tweets are being taken seriously is due to some of the responses it has garnered.
Mini Mathur, a former host of the show, has tweeted in support of what Nishant has claimed.
In her tweet, she says, “This sucks. Thanks for forwarding me this thread. I wasn’t part of the 2012 season, but I know most of what he has articulated is known to happen on reality tv. One of the reasons I bowed out. This incessant need to create false emotion. RIP Organic, pure TV.”
This sucks. Thanks for forwarding me this thread. I wasn’t part of the 2012 season but I know most of what he has articulated is known to happen on reality tv. One of the reasons I bowed out. This incessant need to create false emotion.
RIP Organic, pure TV.
— Mini Mathur (@minimathur) August 22, 2018
On the assurance of anonymity, a former contestant of the reality show, says, “Having auditioned in two music reality shows I can say that there is too much unreality in what we call the ‘reality’ shows. Reading Nishant’s tweets resonated with all that I had also experienced.”
He goes on to say, “One can’t deny the fame and name that follows after one appears on these shows, but there’s a weird filtration process that I encountered. I was shown the door (in the most metaphorical way possible) in the third round; while the judges praised my singing and exclaimed with many “waahs”, I never made it to the final list — maybe because I had no ‘X’ factor or had no sob story to get their TRP-meter rolling.”
He continues, “What I also found startling was the fact that sometimes the final list had names of contestants who were never seen during the auditions.
“They just seem to pop up. Plus, in most of these auditions, the judges are local gurus who (obviously) give prominence and priority to people they already know; there is a lot of favouritism.”
Despite having gone through the bitter process, he says, “Honestly speaking, I have no qualms against the organisers, and I don’t even want to come across as a complainant. To each his own.”
To grab eyeballs and get the TRPs soaring, reality television producers seem to be going to any length. Ugly spats among judges, a constant reminder of the contestants’ backstory, and an immense pressure to perform in a certain way have often taken a toll on the contestants, so much so that they break down.
While these are one aspect of what happens, in the garb of making the show ‘look good’, these shows have the contestants undergo massive makeovers to look desirable, often leaving them with no choice but to live up to the image created.
Although these are certainly the perils of reality television, one cannot take away the instant fame and recognition it seems to provide, especially in this digital age. With one contestant coming out and speaking about the process almost six years later, and another who advises us to watch the show with a generous pinch of salt, the jury is out on this.
Here’s what these shows can perhaps do in the best interest of the contestants:
1. Ensure that each contestant who is finally chosen for the show undergoes an evaluation of their ability to handle pressure.
2. Ensure that there is a certified counsellor available for the contestants during the show and urge them to speak to them regularly.
3. Maintain a realistic schedule. While the industry is known to keep erratic timings, it is important that each of them gets the rest that they need.
4. Allow the contestants to be authentic – glamming them up and portraying them as something they are not will hurt their overall well-being in the long run.
5. Emphasise actual talent and reduce drama to a negligible amount.
I hope that the conversation around Nishant’s tweets causes the industry to reevaluate its process. In any case, music lovers like me will fast forward through the drama and continue watching the show for some brilliant singing.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)