Just making some money, honey!

Bliss or biz? Rakhi ka Swayamvar had the TRP ratings going north, just like the item girl’s pay cheque for tying the knot on screen.

Would you do it? Would you marry one out of 16 people you met just four weeks back after a whirlwind on-camera romance? Would you pout, pirouette and flutter inch-long artificial eyelashes shrieking “where is the medias” because you want to tell them about bachelor parties you grew up dancing in, the swayamvar you’re having and how “its hurts, you know” when men use you as a ladder to Bollywood? Would you answer uncomfortable questions about your bedroom fantasies with your wife and mother seated across? Would you tell people if you ever did “susu in the swimming pool”? Would you bathe in a bikini under an open waterfall while a camera whirs and faithfully transfers images to millions of voyeurs watching from the anonymity of their homes? For a crore, or more, maybe you would.

Every evening, reality television (the new magic mantra of channels with sinking TRPs) is bringing to us shows that make us breathless with their audacity. There’s Sach ka Saamna on Star Plus where men answer questions like: “Do you think about another woman when you are intimate your wife” or “Are you secretly ashamed of your father”. There is Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao on Sony Television where a skimpily clad buxom Negar Khan bathes under a jungle waterfall and viewers frequently regurgitate dinners with visuals of Anaida eating ice creams garnished with giant cockroaches and earthworms. And last, but certainly not the least, there is, or rather, was, Rakhi ka Swayamvar where the crude, motor mouth item girl took the blood pressure of English language teachers and NDTV Imagine’s TRP ratings higher than ever before by her atrocious grammar and do-it-all-on-television attitude.

Celebs, we understand, do it for publicity and money, strictly in that order. But what about people like you and me who gasp at the programmes we watch and sometimes participate in as well but still continue to do so. Says microbiologist Neerja Sood, 43, “I don’t think shows like these should be promoted. They can only be bad for society. I’ve noticed all the time they try to evoke negative emotions like anger, jealousy, flirting, back biting for cheap publicity. Nothing positive is coming out of them.” And would she answer uncomfortable questions for prize money? “No, way,” she says. “Money is important but not so important that I stake my personal relationships for it.”

Mega-buck marriage
If rumour is to believed then Rakhi (when in doubt, pout) Sawant is a very rich girl at the end of the media circus titled Rakhi ka Swayamvar. Not only is she gaining a husband but also an incredibly fat cheque (Rs 4 crore, it is being said) for signing the contract that says she will marry one of the contestants and stay married for at least six months.

Funny that a channel that started off with Ramayan is depending upon Rakhi to save its soul. Well, yes, girls did marry for money, even in the olden days. But that was usually by tying the nuptial knot with a scion of some rich, respected dynasty. Not by holding a swayamvar on  reality television, dating boys who sometimes “don’t even look as good as your driver”, dancing with them to romantic Hindi duets and even being kissed by the more adventurous ones.

“What’s wrong with that? I think she’s good entertainment. Everybody knew she was doing it for money and publicity and so were her suitors,” says civil engineer Manoj Kumar, 40, who watched avidly while the item girl interviewed and rejected prospective grooms in the past one month. If a reality show where money was being offered for daring tasks was offered to him, he says he would love to participate. “It’s a fun and easy way to make money,” he feels.

Schoolteacher Anjana Joshi, in her thirties, agrees. “I would not do Sach ka Saamna where unpleasant truths might affect my present relationships but if I could have had a swayamvar, I would have loved that. Of course, now it’s too late, I’m married,” she laughs. Though she would not participate she does find Sach ka Saamna interesting. “These kind of reality shows expose the darker side of our personality. Some like to participate, others like to watch. People enjoy these kind of things though they might not admit it. Though we do form very poor opinion of the celebs participating,” she says.

Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao is the Indian version of the popular British reality game show I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! Sony Television has collected some whining B-grade celebrities to live in the synthetic jungles of Malaysia. They wade through ankle deep water in search for a box of chocolates and let snakes crawl on their bodies in exchange for dinner coupons. The easily forgettable star cast includes people like molestation-accused Aman Verma, ex-model Negar Khan, fading singer Anaida, Fiza (gone already) who came in the limelight because of her controversial nikaah with former Haryana deputy chief minister Chander Mohan; and somebody called Palak, a Roadies participant who has her own hate group on Facebook, and obviously aspires to be another Rakhi Sawant.

Unpleasant truth
Sach Ka Saamna is the Indian version of the immensely popular American game show, The Moment of Truth, which debuted on Fox network last year. After the grand success of the show, the format has already been replicated in as many as 23 countries, including the UK, Spain, Brazil, Germany, France and Italy. The answers given by the contestants are judged to be true or false by a polygraph machine that senses the anxiety and excitement levels of an individual, in order to determine whether a person is telling the truth. Facing a certain number of uncomfortable truths get you big money.
Understandably, as the prize money goes up, the questions asked get more personal.
Celebrities participating in the show include ex-cricketer Vinod Kambli, TV actress Urvashi Dholakia and TV-Bollywood artiste Bobby Darling. Common people also participate and vie for the prize money by facing their demons in public often at the cost of hurting people they love.

An easy way out
Are human values changing? And, distressing though the thought is, are we ready to do anything for money? “I have a feeling it has to do with it being an easy way to get fame, publicity and money. Otherwise in the normal world, and by the traditional route, you have to really struggle for these things. This maybe an easy way out. Also, yes, values are changing with every generation. So a generation or so ago, how you got fame and money was as important as getting it. Now, maybe how you get it is not so important, what is important is the fact that you get it! For example, earlier there used to be a stigma attached to people who made money through corruption. Today, it doesn’t seem to matter. The only thing that matters is the fact that you have money,” says counsellor Maullika Sharma who works with children and adults.

According to Keertan Adyanthaya, executive vice-president and general manager, STAR Plus, the core value of the show is based on the shining Indian principle of Satyameva Jayate (The Truth Alone Triumphs). “The programme will be a platform that values the courage exhibited by people, in accepting and sharing some pleasant and some not-so-pleasant truths about their lives,” he was quoted as saying.

What can one say to that, but “Balderdash and hogwash”. None of the celebs are doing it just to unburden themselves of some embarrassing untruths. Attach a polygraph machine to them if you must and ask them why they’re sitting in that chair. The answer is going to be: “I’m doing it for the money, honey!”

‘Swayamvar’ here, divorce elsewhere
While Rakhi Sawant found her soulmate on telly, elsewhere it was a divorce that kept the TRP ratings soaring.

American cable channel TLC never had it so good, thanks to Jon & Kate Plus 8, the big-brood reality show that has reinvigorated the once-ailing channel.
Recently on the show, Jon and Kate Gosselin, parents of eight children, confirmed to a record-breaking audience of 10.6 million TV viewers that they were separating after 10 years of marriage.

The episode aired the same day Kate Gosselin filed legal papers for divorce in the couple’s home state of Pennsylvania.

The Gosselins are famous for having twins and sextuplets, which made for a crowded house, and the show documented their family’s trials and triumphs as the kids grew up.
But their relationship had increasingly turned sour, and the Gosselins became fodder for celebrity press and paparazzi that speculated about extra-marital affairs in the weeks leading up to the breakup.

Gosselins said they would continue participating in the show — their main source of income — but separately.
Yes, the show must go on. After all, it’s about mega bucks.

Octuplets’ mother in $2,50,000 deal
In another part of the world, Nadya Suleman —  the mother of octuplets who faced allegations of labour abuses in recent months — signed deals for each of her 14 children to earn $250 a day to star in a reality TV show.
According to The Guardian, the contracts filed at Los Angeles superior court guarantee that the children will collectively earn about $2,50,000 over three years.
The agreement with the European production company Eyeworks requires a judge’s approval. The show is scheduled to begin filming on September 1. Suleman’s children will collectively earn $1,25,000 for 36 days of shooting in the first year of production, $75,000 for 21 days in the second year and $50,000 for 14 days in the third year. Any extra shooting days will be compensated at the same rate.

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