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Millionaire slumdogs

Millionaire slumdogs
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First Published: Fri, Oct 23 2009. 10 54 PM IST

 Reality bites: Contestant Bindi Mehta tries her hand at cooking.
Reality bites: Contestant Bindi Mehta tries her hand at cooking.
Updated: Fri, Oct 23 2009. 10 54 PM IST
Going on air this evening is the latest entrant to the reality show line-up, UTV Bindass’ Big Switch. The format of the show is straightforward—Rs.10 rich, “spoilt” (according to the producers) youth are paired with an underprivileged child each. The 10 pairs compete for a cash prize of Rs10 lakh. The participants have to live in a slum-like set-up and perform a series of tasks, such as doing laundry at a dhobighat, selling vegetables and cleaning toilets.
Reality bites: Contestant Bindi Mehta tries her hand at cooking.
The pairs will be judged on how well they perform the chores, with the worst performers getting eliminated. The show’s producers and the contestants will both be involved in the judging process. The last pair left standing will win the prize money, which will go to the underprivileged participant.
Among the “rich” participants are Adam Bedi, actor Kabir Bedi’s son; model Pooja Missra; Sunny Ikbal Sara, who owns the nightclub Squeeze in Mumbai; former Miss India Nataasha Suri; and Kunwar Harjinder Singh, grandson of politician Buta Singh. To add some glam quotient, there are guest appearances by actors Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham and Neha Dhupia.
The entire show has already been taped and how the rich youth react to and cope with their drastically altered living conditions should be worth watching.
Speaking over the phone, a nonchalant Bedi said he steered clear of the “politics” among the contestants, something which Missra says she was not able to avoid. “Nobody took to me because I am my own person,” she said. “They were mean enough to create differences between me and my partner Shabana.”
The 13 episodes of the show have been shot in a “slum” constructed in the fishing hamlet of Versova Koliwada in Mumbai. The set is a patch of land on which stand a dormitory, toilets and a shack designated as the confession zone. The constructed structures are relatively comfortable, but then there is rotting fish, with wild pigs and cats that feast on them, providing some feel of a real slum.
UTV Bindass’ channel head Heather Gupta admits that the show’s focus is on the rich contestants—it’s not so much about poor children being able to fulfil their dreams as about sensitizing their richer counterparts to the hardships of their less privileged peers. Bedi says the experience has motivated him to work towards starting an NGO that will help slum dwellers address their infrastructure-related problems. Missra feels that participating in the show has “improved her karma”.
Like every other channel, UTV Bindass is banking on at least one reality show per season to keep the TRPs steady. According to Gupta, every channel is moving into what she calls a “non-fictive” space. “The soaps have an older audience which is loyal enough to come back to it,” she says. “But reality shows are aimed at the younger generation, a category that wants instant gratification.”
Creative director Malaya Pradhan, with shows such as Chotte Miyan to his credit, says that one reason channels are investing more in reality shows is that these hook an audience much faster than a soap. And with an average length of 10-15 episodes, reality shows conclude before audience fatigue sets in.
According to Gupta, reality shows have the drama of a soap while being “real”. For now at least, reality television shows are here to stay. As Pradhan puts it, “People never get tired of lives, especially other people’s lives.”
Big Switch, hosted by Genelia D’Souza, goes on air on UTV Bindass today at 7pm.
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First Published: Fri, Oct 23 2009. 10 54 PM IST