REALITY ‘BYTES’

A lot has been said and discussed around the topic of reality shows. Truth be told that there is no denying these shows are the bane of many an existence as far as entertainment and entertaining is concerned. One is faced with a barrage of these reality shows; be it on the international or the national forum. Television channels and production houses across the globe are cashing in on this plague-ish phenomenon in its various formats. While, there may be a faction of viewers that agrees and succumbs to the entertainment value of this genre, one is left wondering about the effects that these shows have on young minds especially the shows that target children as their participants.

In Indian television today, most reality shows that have special series or include children as participants happen to be related to the performing arts. The popular one being Zee’s “ Sa Re Ga Ma Pa – Little Champs” and “ Dance India Dance – Li’l Masters”, “India’s Got Talent” aired on Colors etc to name a few. While this could be considered a positive scenario on one hand, where children are spared the horror of participating in some other reality show formats that often take voyeurism to an unfathomable level – one does question the logic / reasoning behind parents decision to allow ones’ ward to participate in such shows, that most often than not put undue pressure on the participating child. Children from age six onwards are facing harsh situations starting from lengthy auditioning processes, facing large audiences, performing in front of judges who they have been told are acclaimed artists , having to listen to their critique and composing themselves with what they receive, handling rejection, fame, stress – the list is endless.

On observing the auditions to these shows and based on some of the talent that comes up in the process, one tends to question if it is really the child’s passion or the parents hidden desire that makes them attempt the audition. The parents seem to be pushing children beyond their capacities to make it through that stage. With this kind of pressure and hype, young minds might mistake this to be ‘THE life and death’ situation of their lives and then when faced with rejection, one fears, will have to cope with depression and loss of self esteem.

And it doesn’t end there. Assuming one does make it through to the show, there is a new set of devils to deal with. Starting with coping with the media hype that surrounds the show, the ‘makeover’s that have become part of these shows which have no relevance at the age at which the kids are, the excessive drama that is part of these shows which almost seems scripted – the tears, kissing the stage and bowing down to the judges on receiving feedback, running up to touch the feet of basically anyone who walks into the stage etc. Yes, there may be arguments that such acts are deep rooted in Indian culture and are a sign of respect. That is true to when there is an understanding on why that respect should or needs to be offered.

Emotionally sensitive areas are not left out by the shows either – having kids talk about their families, their hardships, their strife and struggle – there seems to be no limit to where the shows will stop at! Adults find it difficult to deal with intense emotions of this sort; can we not spare the children? – That too on national television? And feedback sessions take the cake – using profound terms and terminology about technique and technicalities when all the child really understands is whether he/she performed well or no. And why should there be a no in the first place – what they need is pure encouragement because they have years of learning and improvement to look forward to. There have been reported instances of children having paralytic attacks due to stress during these feedback sessions. What are the cost parents and adults are willing to pay to put their kids out there?

Kids who go on to win such shows have another gamut of emotions to face. The momentary fame, the fortune brought in by the prize money, the media attention, adulation from adults and peer groups are all volatile situations to deal with at that young an age. To handle this, the child needs a very strong and grounded support system on which they enjoy can their glory and also fall back upon when the hype dies down. Not all can be as controlled when situations start spiralling upwards or downwards – which is the graph for any artist. Gaining too much too soon can affect an adult tremendously just as losing it all can lead to severe depression – question then is if children are capable of handling such a see saw of life situations!

On the flip side and to allow a democratic argument to the case, there is no denying that there is a pool of genuine talent amongst kids – kids who are passionate about a performance art form and who look at getting somewhere in life, relying on that inherent talent. If parents have the resources, they may be able to allow the kids that opportunity. But for parents who don’t have the contacts or the resources, such talent show platforms are probably the easiest ones available to get their child closer to that dream. It gets their children noticed at a national level and they hope that the show gives the child the leverage to last it out in the industry. Also, these shows come with a good amount of prize money for the winners – which, in case of some parents, facilitates further training of these talented kids so as to help them perfect the art. There are proven instances where children coming out of such talent shows have really achieved that dream of being a performing artist – singers Sunidhi Chauhan and Aishwarya Majumdar to name a couple.

So , instead of completely negating the concept, one hopes that the production houses and television channels figure out a more understanding and encouraging format – one that is child centric and allows the talent to blossom – cutting out all that is detrimental to the emotional stability of the children participants. Oft quoted is the saying “Children are like clay in a potter’s hands” – you give them turmoil and they will be in confusion, you give them encouragement and they will go on learning affirmatively. Additionally, one hopes that there are better forums where genuine talent may be spotted and encouraged without having to go through the exercise of getting trying to get into these shows – a more democratic platform where, at no or an affordable cost, talented child artists can showcase their art form to a world of casting agents, producers, talent hunters, event managers or even established artists or teachers who may want to share their knowledge with promising talent. This could be an option like the ‘matchmytalent’ portal which is looking at showcasing talent online. This opens out the world to the talent, using the world wide web as a tool – all this while sitting in the comfort of one’s home.

Genuine talent, especially in children, needs careful nurturing and a direction in which it can be rightly steered. If the dynamics are figured out, there is no stopping a talented artist – society is forever hungry for new entertainers. The onus lies on us adults, as conscientious parents to these children, as to how we wish to expose our children to this industry – what path we choose to assist them to excel as artists and as people.

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