She’s the epitome of wedded bliss. Today she’s dressed in a striking blue sari, this former teacher with a lovely smile (that fades rapidly as you watch her), two children and a husband of 16 years. A Sindhi married to a Christian. She’s classic Incredible India. Incredible at hiding the garbage life has shovelled her way. Until, of course, television offered her the chance to win Rs1 crore in exchange for 21 truths about her relationship with her mother, her inner sexual longings and her childhood secrets and jealousies.
True lies: Will Mathai spill all? Find out in Star TV’s new show Sach ka Saamna.
Thus far Indian television has never managed to successfully replicate the American-style intimate, confessional chat show format, a genre powered by Oprah Winfrey, arguably one of the world’s most influential women. Indians just aren’t brought up to confess on prime time television that they were raped by their uncle/neighbour when they were 11, or that they are having affairs with their wives’ sisters. Family secrets, we believe, should be buried in the darkest recesses of our emotional selves.
Star India’s sensational new show, Sach ka Saamna, the local version of the globally successful Moment of Truth, manages to smash through this barrier with its deceptively simple format. All a contestant has to do is answer yes or no to any question the host asks. Twenty-one right answers and she’s a crorepati. A lie detector test, taken prior to the show when the contestant is asked 50 questions, confirms whether the answer is right or wrong. How difficult can that be, right? And how dramatic can it be when she has already answered all the questions that she is going to be asked on the show?
It’s tougher than you think. Especially when your family is sitting on the same stage, watching you spill your guts with a simple yes, no, yes, no. “The best part about this show is that you know all the questions and you know all the answers,” says Star India’s Keertan Adyanthaya. The channel screened people with interesting lives, those who had been through a lot. Adyanthaya says nearly 50% of the contestants backed out when they realized how far they would have to go—some of them quit after the lie detector test. Smita Mathai decided she would stay on.
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In the first episode (catch it on 15 July at 10.30pm on Star Plus), she bravely answers many questions, including: Can you forgive your mother for not being there during the birth of your second child? Do you live in fear that your husband will become an alcoholic again? Do you think your mum-in-law was a better mother than your mother? Do you believe your parents love your brother’s children more than yours? All this, while her husband, mother and two more family members watch from 5ft away.
And here’s one for you, dear reader.
Would you ever cheat on your spouse if you knew he/she would never find out? There can be only one true answer to this question, if you don’t fool yourself. After all, a large part of the reason we stay faithful to the loves of our lives is because we want to protect the long-term security of our relationship more than anything. We can’t risk losing them. But if you knew for sure that you wouldn’t lose them, why then, cheating would be just another guilty indulgence.
Alas, the Indian version of the show will have less sex and more emotion. But maybe that’s the smart approach considering the show was recently banned in Greece on grounds of decency/taste. I’m almost certain that no contestant has won the big prize since this show went on air in the US last year. Incidentally, the US show was inspired by a Colombian show which also ran into trouble after a contestant said yes when she was asked if she had paid a hitman to kill her husband.
Star’s yes/no brand of truth certainly seems more radical than Rakhi Sawant’s attempts to play pastel princess on NDTV Imagine.
In the cut-throat world of general entertainment channels, Star Plus is bound to gain significant brownie points with this show. Then again, the executives at Colors are aware of the ratings potential of this show…maybe they have something planned?
Star’s new show also goes head-to-head with Sony Television’s new reality biggie Iss Jungle se Mujhe Bachao! that begins two days earlier, on 13 July, at 10pm. When viewers have to pick between Mathai’s secrets and a B-grade celebrity trapped in a Malaysian forest, who will they chose? I’m placing my bets on Mathai.
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