Reality show contestants Abhijeet Sawant (Indian Idol), Sidharth Bhardwaj (MTV Splitsvilla), Vaishali Made (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009), Salman Khan (Dance India Dance) and Debojit Saha (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005) talk about reality shows from a contestants' point of view, their remuneration and how it has changed from the initial times.
After Hrs: How much of reality shows is real?
Abhijeet Sawant (AS): When we started, everything was real. The effort was very genuine and new. No one knew what a reality show was. Everyone was putting in effort and was being honest. So, whoever was genuine, made it to the show at the beginning. After that, everyone started to do their own thing.
After Hrs (AH): Since all of you have been a part of reality shows, was there a time when you felt there was fakeness was creeping in?
AS: I don't know if 'fake' is the right word. Even people who were new to reality shows knew how to look into the camera and smile.
Sidharth Bhardwaj (SB): A character of the show was set.
AS: Yes, a character was set. If I stay, I might win using our USPs. If someone is talking too much on the camera, try and get him to stop because he is getting extra footage. Those kinds of things happened. It wasn't like the channel or production houses did this, even contestants did it.
SB: And with the kind of editing we do now, I think the shows are weird. We see the judges of the various singing and dancing shows fighting with each other. This is a becoming a trend. That makes it look a little unreal. Why do judges fight on every show?
Salman Khan (SK): It depends. For example, the show I was in, the situations might have been built up but the reactions were real. The audience wants to see emotions, so, they might start narrating background stories. The way the respective contestants react to it is real.
AH: Wouldn't the contestant already know that something's coming up?
SK: Never. We are not informed about the next step. It's all on the spot. But, for me, the presence of the camera has more of an effect than the presence of my mother on the set. I'll show more emotions if there are 10 cameras on me… (laughs) maybe I'll cry, maybe I'll touch her feet. Suddenly this fakeness is added because I'm conscious about the camera.
AH: Debojit, in Bigg Boss, the cameras were on all the time. How did you react?
Debojit Saha (DS): Initially, it was a little weird because, barring the bathroom and toilet, there were cameras everywhere. The problem is how long you can stay like that. If you are kept under observation 24 hours a day, your real self will be seen. But for a reality show, masala is very important. I'm not blaming anyone because that's what the public wants.
AH: Are you under pressure to provide the masala?
DS: No. There's no pressure. I was in Bigg Boss and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa but there was no pressure on me.
SB: No channel asks for masala. But yeah, they want your real character to show because that's why they've selected you. I try to control myself a little so that I don't become bad in people's eyes. According to me, the ruckus that Akashdeep Sehgal created on the show Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao was not needed at all. I've also been on a show where there were a lot of fights. I've also had instances where I was bleeding but I've never cursed a girl on the show.
AH: Sidharth entered the reality show for
Rs5 lakh. What were your reasons for entering this show?
Vaishali Made (VM): I have a contract for Rs50 lakh with Sa Re Ga Ma Pa to launch an album.
SB: Gosh, I got myself hit in the face. She's getting Rs50 lakh!
VM: At least you got cash. I'm not going to get any cash. The channel will launch my album with the money. I'll just keep getting Rs30,000 every month for one year.
DS: You'll get it for a year. But they are recovering that money from you only.
AH: But whether your album is sold or not, you'll get that Rs30,000?
SB: These reality show guys do a lot of scheming. If a new boy is coming, they make him sign a contract as they know he doesn't think before signing the contract.
VM: When we sign the contract, there are 30-35 people who sign with us. But we think of it seriously only after we win.
DS: But there are a few people who didn't sign their contract till the end, thinking they'll lose in the next episode, so why sign?
SK: I have signed a contract for Rs50 lakh and am happy with it. I'll keep receiving a cheque of Rs1 lakh per month for two years, mandatory. Other than that, whatever work I do, that's separate. I have to give Zee a certain percentage as per the contract. But its up to me if I want to work separately or not.
AH: But what about the shows that you do personally?
SK: I cannot do anything without Zee's knowledge for two years.
AS: Oh. That's nice. In this context, Sony did a very good thing. I have a contract with them for Rs1 crore which gives me Rs10 lakh in three months. It will be over in two years. And whatever shows I do, I have to give them 30% of the share. It's no big deal. That was the contract for the first Indian Idol.
DS: I didn't even want to go into reality shows. My wife, my guruji and my father pushed me to participate. I didn't want to go for Bigg Boss because my wife was three months pregnant. But she said she'll manage on her own. I hadn't gone to win. I thought I'll go and do riyaaz and get some money also in return.
(Co-ordinated and compiled by Ranjib Mazumder and Chhaya Toshniwal)