More real than reel: Uncovering the ugly truths behind reality shows

Updated: 22 December, 2015 11:15 IST | Letty Mariam Abraham |

There's a thin line between what's real and what's not. Fading that obscure line are today's reality shows. But, no matter how much is edited, viewers are inquisitive to get the behind the scenes scoop

There’s a thin line between what’s real and what’s not. Fading that obscure line into oblivion are today’s reality shows. Of late, every channel boasts of reality shows that has contestants not just competing with each other, but using abusive language and indulging in dirty politics. In some shows, there is plenty of sexual content as well. They claim that more the drama, more viewers. Everything is done in the name of entertainment. There are also scenes that are not telecast due to diktats from the Censor Board. But, no matter how much is edited, viewers are inquisitive to know what actually goes on behind the scenes. Reality shows feed off this and that’s precisely why the Salman Khan-hosted 'Bigg Boss' attracts eyeballs and 'Splitsvilla' receives numerous participants every year.

Bigg Boss contestants have claimed that the  show is scripted
'Bigg Boss' contestants have claimed that the show is scripted

An upcoming show, 'UnReal', is 'Bigg Boss' and 'Splitsvilla' rolled into one. The show lifts the curtains on the production of reality shows and the thin line that exists between questionable and loathsome behaviour. It is a drama about what goes on behind the scenes during the making of a reality show. In this case, a dating reality show called 'Everlasting'. It is what would happen if someone shot a video on the making of reality shows like 'Bigg Boss', 'Splitsvilla', 'Roadies', 'Nach Baliye', Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, and 'Box Cricket League' to showcase the ugly facets of these shows.

In a show like Roadies, people often get aggressive. Fights break out and contestants get physical
In a show like 'Roadies', people often get aggressive. Fights break out and contestants get physical

Inner self
Josh Kelly of 'UnReal' says, “When people take part in reality shows, or when anyone gets in front of a camera, it changes the way they act. I think, in many ways, the reason people are drawn to watching these shows is because it brings out what they actually are. If someone has to be the bad guy on a show, it shows their intrinsic nature. It is like hypnotism. A hypnotist cannot make you do what you don’t want to do. The lens of the camera is hypnotising. People get in front of the camera and do things they say they don’t want to, but it is what they really wish to do.”

The  upcoming reality show UnReal is Bigg Boss meets Splitsvilla
The  upcoming reality show 'UnReal' is Bigg Boss meets 'Splitsvilla'

Over the years, we’ve heard a lot about how reality shows are scripted. Channels refuse to accept it or even acknowledge the question anymore that the drama scripted? When queried, Ekta Kapoor replied with respect to her upcoming reality show, 'Box Cricket League 2', in which Sunny Leone owns a team. Ekta says, “Actors are the most aggressive and insecure lot. Put them in a competitive spin and they will create the drama. You don’t have to script anything. When you play a game and are actually involved in it, that itself is enough to create enough drama.”

Sunny Leone in the new reality show, Box Cricket League
Sunny Leone in the new reality show, 'Box Cricket League'

The written word
However, there are several actors who claim that 'Bigg Boss' is scripted. When contestant Rahul Bhatt exited the show a few seasons ago, he made a bold statement which stated that the reality show is very much scripted, although many past contestants still continue to deny this. This year, Rimi Sen went on record to state that the show is scripted.

Shakti Arora
Shakti Arora

Is this a case of sour grapes or the real truth? The reality of these shows sometimes, is truly not what we get to see on prime time. For a show like 'Bigg Boss', the viewers get to see the edited version of only an hour, although, the cameras are constantly running. In 'Bigg Boss 4' when Dolly Bindra got physically violent with Sameer Soni, the cameras were pulled off and the particular incident was not telecast. We only saw Dolly’s aggressive approach and Sameer insisting on leaving the house. The media was rife with stories about the punches and blows that were exchanged between the two.

Digangana Suryavanshi, Bigg Boss 9
Digangana Suryavanshi, 'Bigg Boss 9'

In the latest season, telly actress Digangana Suryavanshi was depicted to have a soft corner for co-contestant Rishabh Sinha. The actress claims that the show did not showcase the real picture. “Rishabh and I hated each other and had had a big fight in the past when we were working together in 'Qubool Hai'. So, when he came on the show, we barely spoke at first. But after a while, we discussed this and he apologised to me. Since I am not a person who keeps grudges, we let it go and have been good friends. So the little they showcased about me made it look like we were interested in each other.”

Digangana adds, “The reality is that I have spoken against everything wrong I saw. I raised a point, but didn’t feel the need to raise my voice. However, people believe that if you shout and create drama only then you will get screen time. In spite of not indulging in any such stuff, I had consistent high votes from fans. The show did not showcase my real side, so people didn’t really get to know me,” said Digangana.

Kamya Punjabi, actress
Kamya Punjabi, actress

The unseen
In a similar situation ex-contestant Kamya Punjabi said that in one hour it is virtually impossible to show everything. “I don’t think anything about me was omitted or edited. I didn’t really come out of Bigg Boss and see any of the episodes. I was in the house for 13 weeks, but yes, there is a thing that bothered me. On Thursday, I made a 'Big Brother' world record and the next day I was ousted. In addition, during the box task I think I spent 90 seconds more in it that my good friend, Sangram Singh, but these things were not highlighted on TV. As for the 'Box Cricket League', they’ve literally shown everything they could think of. So, I don’t think there is much reality behind reality shows.”

Ekta Kapoor, producer
Ekta Kapoor, producer

Sunny Arora of Marinating Films claims that the real reality of these shows is actually between the crew more than the stars. He says, “As a team, we’ve often got into arguments over how things should be and a zillion other things. There’s actually more drama between the crew than the cast. As a team, we’d have this small bet on the team that was supposed to play on that day. I remember when we were shooting for 'Box Cricket League' in the last season, one ‘out’ decision went to the third umpire. The team lost the match and was obviously upset. Unfortunately, they accused us of cheating and influencing the third umpire. Things got ugly and to resolve the issue we showed them a video footage of the wicket. They were convinced, but it left a bad taste. So, we stopped betting on any of the matches.”

Shake it
Arguments, tiffs and yelling matches are no big surprise but seeing them on a recent dance reality show was definitely a new surprise. This year, with Ekta Kapoor at the helm of things, 'Nach Baliye' turned out to be quite chaotic. It was a mini Bigg Boss series, which led to a lot of fights and arguments.

Telly actor Shakti Arora of 'Meri Aashiqui Tum Se Hi' fame, says, “The thing about reality shows is that they doesn’t always show the truth. In Nach Baliye this year, behind the camera, there was a lot of back biting, insecurity, accusations and doubts which created quite a stir. Contestants would sometimes assume that the judges were being partial, argue with the judges regarding scores and everyone would suspect that things are not fair on the show. So a lot of drama was omitted from it when it went on air.”

A show like 'Splitsvilla' and 'Roadies' which survives on the drama created by the contestants also goes through some crucial edits before telecast. A source informs that there have been times when a contestant has been shown the door because he is disliked by a majority.

Another source informs, “In shows like 'Roadies', people often get aggressive. Fights break out and people tend to get physical, which is very rarely showcased on TV. In fact, most often, that part is always edited out. As for 'Splitsvilla', a few times, when things got too hot between people, things are edited out.”

Heard this

>> Shows like The Bachelorette India with Mallika Sherawat (below) and Swayamvar had aspiring actors and singers get in line to date and marry the star. In Mallika’s case, she had decided the winner even before the dating reality show began.

 In Khatron Ke Khiladi season 4, Akshay Kumar roped in Dina Umarova because of his friendship with her husband Vindu Dara Singh.

 Jay Bhanushali and Mahhi Vij had a huge spat in Argentina while  shooting for Khatron Ke Khiladi recently.

 Salman Khan has been seen to be partial towards a few contestants in Bigg Boss and giving them special treatment. The actor apparently plays a role in deciding the contestants who go in the house as in the case of Mahek Chahal in season five of the show in 2011.

First Published: 20 December, 2015 08:30 IST

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