New Delhi/Mumbai: Sixteen-year-old Shinjini is struggling to cope with depression in a Bangalore hospital after allegedly being rebuked by a judge on a TV reality show. The shocked family is crying foul.
So is this the price talented youngsters must pay of fame? Are reality shows really about talent hunt or are they just another method of marketing forces to get more eyeballs on television? From lazy small towns to big cities, the desire to shine under the arc lights is putting children under pressure like never before.
Desperate to be famous, regular people with no sugar daddies queue up for auditions in reality shows, shake a leg, sing a song, all for the proverbial 15 seconds of fame.
For some it's even a career option when nothing else seems to be working.
And as Shinjini’s case shows, the reality in reality shows may be painful, even tragic. But it’s unlikely that one such incident will stop people from participating.
And the first seeds of aspiration were sown with the first poster boy of reality TV, Indian Idol Abhijit Sawant.
“We were thinking of buying a bigger house. But never thought we’d afford it this big,” Sawant, who won a major booty and a singing contract, recalls.
Meet Milan. In a remote corner of Bihar, the teenager never misses a talent hunt show on TV. The dream to make it big made him convince two of his friends to run away with him to Mumbai to take part in a reality show.
"In Bombay, a man who works with stones helped us. He put us up in a hotel and showed us around. He used our money to move around as well. We saw Shah Rukh's bungalow, Amitabh Bachchan's bungalow and Aishwarya Rai's garment store," he says.
However, it is not just the star shine that attracts Milan.
"Had I participated and sung, I would have had a quality apart from studies. People of Begusarai would have been proud of me,” he says.
But what is it in reality shows that attract millions - both adult and children?
“Kinky, voyeuristic, isn’t it? I love it,” says the mastermind behind MTV Roadies, Raghu Ram.
A reflection on the reality shows will reveal that it is probably an addiction, a vicious cycle in which participants, their parents and the show makers are trapped, some make it while the majority take an emotional beating.
(Inputs from Priya Krishnamoorthy)