Sunidhi Chauhan, Kunal Ganjawala, Shreya Ghoshal & Abhijit Sawant, what is so common among them? The answer is, all the above mentioned singers are discoveries of various Talent Hunt shows beamed out of the various television channels.

Lets run back in time when every parent wanted his child to be an Engineer or a Doctor. Children were subjected to full time studies with very or less importance given to extracurricular activities. Scoring high marks in exams were the prime focus.

Today if you ask any parent or child what he or she wants to become the answer would be ‘Actor’ or ‘Singer’ or ‘Dancer’. Gone are the days of only concentrating on studies and nothing else, today’s parents are more keen on making their children celebrities thanks to shows like Indian Idol, Saregamapa, Fame Gurukul, Dance India Dance or Dance Premier League.

The craze for reality television hit India when channel V came up with Viva, a band of five young singers. When channel V announced the auditions, young dreamers gathered in huge numbers to give their luck a try. They cried when they failed, celebrated when they triumphed. The audience, on its part, lapped up this overdose of emotions thrown at them by the channel. The show was a big success and an inspiration for both the shrewd business minds and also for the young dreamers waiting for their share of fame.

Since then there has been no looking back as reality television proliferated with each passing day. With the registration for each show surpassing the last one and the audience votes pouring in billions, all doubts over the acceptability of these shows by the Indian audience were cleared. The real life Bunty and Bablis came forward for the auditions of Indian Idol, Fame Gurukul, India’s Best, Roadies, etc. Almost every channel today has an Abhijeet Sawant and a Prajakta Shukre to boast about.

Even before commercialized format of talent hunt shows started in India we had our very own Yash Chopra to thank. Chopra started a show in the early 90’s called ‘Meri Awaaz Suno’ which gave us a talent singer in the form of Sunidhi Chauhan. Same was the case with Shreya Ghosal who won the Zee Saregamapa at a very young age and was discovered by Sanjay Bhansali to sing for his magnum opus ‘Devdas’. Sonu Nigam and Shaan who were a nobody, came to be noticed through Zee TV’s Saregama, as they hosted the show for many years and became the favourites of the Janta.

The reason for these talent hunt shows to become a success is anybody’s guess because anything that strikes the emotional chord is an instant hit in our country. The reason for this is that we Indians are high on the emotional quotient and every Indian (even the most practical one) has an emotional soul hidden somewhere. The success of reality shows in India can be attributed to a great extent to this weakness of ours. Apart from this, the relief that these shows provide from the saas-bahu soaps, which currently dominate television, is another reason for their immense popularity.

The various television channels exploited the potential of reality shows and saw a huge surge in popularity. Sony’s popularity saw a huge rise after it launched Indian Idol, an adaptation of a hit British reality show. It was reality television that wrote the destiny of television channel Star One. The two reality shows, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and Nach Baliye, are to a great extent responsible for the popularity that Star One has got.

Reality shows not only changed the destinies of many television channels but also of many ordinary people. People like Kunal Ganjawala, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghosal and Anushka Manchanda are some of the successful finds of reality television. It was only for these shows that a teashop owner, Sunil Pal, became a laughter champion and Prashant, a sepoy from Darjeeling, became the third Indian Idol.

Reality television is a win-win situation for everyone, be it contestants, channels or the viewers. The high TRPs that these shows command explains the advantage they have for television channels. For the viewers, they are refreshing change from the somnolent Saas-Bahu dramas. The biggest gainers, however, are the contestants who are provided with the right platform to showcase their talent. There is a lot of untapped talent in our country and these shows by extending their reach to small cities provide an opportunity to bring out this hidden talent. These shows give an instant recognition to the contestants. A chance to showcase their talent on such a big platform and in front of such esteemed judges is something for which any struggler can die. Reality television can provide them with this lifetime opportunity. The rest, of course, depends on their talent and destiny.

Apart from this, the emotional angle of these shows is to a great extent responsible for their success. The fact that the contestants in these shows are ordinary people with whom audiences immediately relate to is the biggest trump card of these shows. The vicarious joy which people get in seeing somebody from amongst them living an almost impossible dream glues people to these shows.

Reality shows have come under a lot of criticism. Questions have been raised over the authenticity of the voting system on the basis of which the contestants are voted out. Prominent names like Lata Mangeshkar have raised fingers over the very method of selection that is used on such shows. Throwing contestants out on the basis of the votes cast by people sitting at home with hardly any knowledge about the technicalities involved in a contest like singing or dancing has been questioned.

Moreover the competition has become so tough its taking its toll on the contestants more on young children like Shinjini Sengupta.

Shinjini used to be a normal 16-year-old girl. She loved to dance, she went to college and probably had a great set of friends. A talented youth, Shinjini is a very good dancer who has also acted in Bengali tele-serials and has even acted in a Bengali movie.

Just like all other kids like her, Shinjini entered a dance-based reality show that has been airing on a Bengali TV channel. Things seemed to be going okay until the fateful shoot on May 19 saw a turn of events that changed this young talented girl forever. Shinjini was criticised harshly by the judges after her performance. Unlike other contestants she kept her cool and didn’t break down and cry.
Things got increasingly worse when Shinjini went into depression and eventually lost her speech… Today, her parents are worried as this once active dancer has lost even lost the use of her limbs. Psychiatrists claim that her case is an extreme and rare one in which depression plays a vital role.

To avoid such similar cases in future a new ruling has come into being which bars any child below 8 to take part in any reality shows and moreover the money of child artist will not go to them or their parents but will be kept in the form of FD.
Despite all this, the end reality is that such shows enjoy great popularity among the audience. Reality television is a ray of hope for the ordinary people. It not only gives them the courage to dream but also the assistance to turn their dreams to reality. It is difficult to say whether reality shows are a phase or they are here to stay, but we wish they stayed for long so that more and more Debojeets aand Abhijeet Sawants get a chance to live their dreams.

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