If you like to see some hot stuff on television, theres good news for you. MTV has recently launched a reality show called MTV Vodafone Splitsvilla that is high on the oomph factor. With two cool dudes dating — and judging — 20 bikini-clad babes in a beach setting, this is as raunchy as it gets when it comes to Indian reality shows on television.
At the end of every episode of Splitsvilla, the men get to dump a few girls. The choice narrows and the contest gets tougher, meaner. For the prize is not to be scoffed at — Rs 5 lakh and the chance to be the first video jockey couple on MTV.
But Splitsvilla is not the only show with a bold format. A random check through the youth channels reveals that there are quite a few such shows on air. Channel (V), for instance, has Get Gorgeous, now in its fifth instalment. Its a reality show that hunts for a gorgeous face and a fresh modelling talent. The winner gets a contract worth Rs 1 million with Channel [V] and the ICE Modelling Agency. Needless to say, the knockout rounds feature lots of scantily-clad girls all vying for that ultimate prize.
Bindaas TV (the youth entertainment channel of UTV) too has a reality show called Dadagiri where four students are made to go through the horrors of being bullied on the first day of college. It features a bully named Esha — The Goddess, who is a nasty girl dressed in skimpy attire. She makes the contestants go through countless indignities, such as making them wear a diaper or forcing them to suck karela juice from a feeder lying on an ice slab. Those who fail the test get to date a gay character called Juicy. And the language used in the programme is often frankly raunchy.
For MTV too, Splitsvilla is hardly the first programme with lots of sexy girls on show. The channel recently ran Teen Diva, which was a beauty contest for girls between 13 and 18 years. There were rounds like Fitness Wear and Fun & Fashion where the girls turned out in clothes made of such outlandish stuff as CDs or ropes. Another MTV show called isuperstar picks up ordinary fans and transforms them into their favourite stars. These stars are made up to look like their glamorous screen idols and it concludes with them taking the stage and performing a song or an item number by their favourite star.
The honchos at MTV insist that though Splitsvilla has a bold format, they have taken care to ensure that no one crosses the boundaries of decency. No matter how provocative the content, we make sure not to cross the boundary, says Ashis Patil, general manager and vice-president (creative and content), MTV. We have researched this well and know for sure that Splitsvilla will be a hit, he adds.
But what happens if in the heat of the moment a participant crosses these so-called boundaries? Contestants know what is permissible and what is not. But if there is too much explicit stuff then we have to censor the content. After all, we are not running a pornographic channel here, says Patil.
So does a bit of skin show ensure high TRPs? Nobody will admit that, though past experience shows that shocking behaviour (bitching, backbiting) punctuated by love, romance and some sexy bodies will always garner high viewership. The Bigg Boss show which aired on Sony in 2006 is a case in point. It made Indian television history with starlets Kashmera Shah and Rakhi Sawant bitching about each other, model Carol Gracias in her sexy lingerie giving foot massages to Ravi Kishen and Anupama Verma and Aryan Vaid not able to keep their hands off each other.
It was a bold show, but what made it click was that we were showing what generally happens behind the scenes, says Vaibhav Modi, creative director (non-fiction), Endemol, the producer of Bigg Boss. However, he maintains that Bigg Boss participants were briefed about their code of conduct and were well aware that all their moves were being monitored.
Mohit Anand, senior vice-president and general manager, Channel [V] also insists that shows like Get Gorgeous have not been designed with a brief to flash skin. However, if the contestants have to participate in a swimwear round or a belly-dancing task then it is but natural that they will do so in a bikini or in harem pants, he adds.
Anand says that compared to the singing and dancing talent shows, Here the stakes are higher and, so, the competition is fiercer. Relationship dynamics come into play when you have 20 good looking girls battling it out for a prestigious title.
But then will such content be able to garner the desired TRPs with respect to other family channels? Albert Almeida, business head of Sony Entertainment Television, has this to say: We live in family units and most homes are single TV homes. So no channel in its right mind will go over the top. Content that will surprise people will make news. But at the end of the day, it will be a hit only when it doesnt cross boundaries.
But Generation Y doesnt seem to care either way. Sixteen-year-old Shagun Kichlu, one of the participants in this years Sananda Tilottama beauty contest, says, Splitsvilla is a reality show with a fresh content. I am okay with its bold format and wouldnt mind participating in such a show.
Now, if more young people feel like Shagun, what more could the producers of Splitsvilla want?
| A poster of Splitsvilla