TV reality shows - taking the tried and tested route

Rajeev KhandelwalTwo new reality shows, "Sach Ka Saamna" and "Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao", have hit the Indian small screen in quick succession, adding to the list of programmes adapted from tried and tested international formats.

Industry experts say it isn't lack of originality that makes producers and creative heads of channels adapt foreign formats; they do so because it provides a convenient reference point and also makes  business sense.

"In a highly competitive field, producers are always looking for a killer application. The appeal of an international format is that if a show has been tried and tested and proved to be a success elsewhere, it seems a better investment," Siddharth Basu, the pioneer of quiz and game reality shows in India, said.

Namit Sharma of Wizcraft Television agrees.

"International formats come with a certain learning like target audience for the show, time required to produce it, per episode cost, etc. And once you have these things in place, you don't have to start from scratch...I think buying a format gives you that strength," said Sharma, the business head and chief creative director of the production house.

Wizcraft has produced home-grown shows like "Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega" and "Nach Baliye".

"The disadvantage with home-grown formats is that they don't come with any reference point and it's like shooting in the dark - you have to go with your instinct completely," said Sharma.

Of the latest two reality shows, "Sach Ka Saamna" hosted by actor Rajeev Khandelwal on STAR Plus has been adapted from "Moment Of Truth" while Sony TV's "Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao", which shows several celebrities camping in a jungle, is the Indian version of "I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here".

Besides these two, the small screen has seen a slew of programmes inspired by western entertainment formats. These include "India's Got Talent", an adaptation of "Britain's Got Talent", while the idea for "Rakhi Ka Swayamvar" has been taken from "The Bachelorette". Similarly, "Dus Ka Dum", which saw Bollywood star Salman Khan play host, was a copy of "Power of 10" and "Sarkaar Ki Duniya" was modelled on "Survivor".

Sharma feels the demand for varied content has forced producers to adopt more and more global formats.

"The audience wants to see something different. In the last two years, we have doled out too many song, dance and celebrity-based shows. So it's time to change the paradigm. I think the overall mood in the business is to do something fresh and exciting that engages and excites the audience," he said.

But adapting international gameshows started right in the 1990s. In 1992, Roshan Abbas hosted the programme "Wheel of Fortune", modelled on an eponymous American game show.

However, the trend of adopting global formats intensified after the success of "Kaun Banega Crorepati" (KBC). The 2000 show, which was hosted by Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, was based on American show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". Its third instalment had superstar Shah Rukh Khan sitting in the host's seat.

Though some original shows like "Saanp Seedi", "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa", "Antakshari", "Tol Mol Ke Bol" and "Boogie Woogie" did surface on the small screen before 2000, but post- "Kaun Banega Crorepati" producers started lapping up foreign entertainment programmes.

Some of the other shows that made their way to Indian television post-KBC are "Indian Idol" ("American Idol"), "Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa" ("Dancing With The Stars"), "Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain" ("Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader") and "Bigg Boss" ("Big Brother").

Although producers are lapping up foreign formats, Basu points out that they usually don't buy the rights to adapt them.

"There are not many Indian broadcasters who actually license international formats. Rip-offs with a few tweaks are more the norm and so it is difficult for licensors to sue (the channels)," said Basu.

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