By Manpreet Kaur (12:11)
New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) If the Hindi movie "Rules - Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula" failed to teach a thing or two about love, then there is always the small screen to turn to. Indian television is flooded with shows like "Superstud", "Perfect Couple" and "Emotional Atyachaar" that focus on flirting, romance and betrayal.
Whether it is tearing out each other's hair over trivial issues, using expletives or making manipulative moves to get someone's attention, the content on these shows is no-holds-barred, say viewers.
But the content providers insist it's all a reflection of social reality.
"People cuddle and get cozy even in real life and even get angry in real life as sometimes it's just what the situation demands. Moreover, what is shown on television is a reflection of reality. Thus, what you see on screen is a complete reality," Shalini Sethi, programming head of UTV Bindass, told IANS.
Prem Kamath, senior vice president and general manager of Channel V, feels the contestants' behaviour largely reflects the attitudes of Indian youth.
"I won't comment on isolated high points of shows, but largely the behaviour of contestants reflects youth in similar situations. It's unfair to conclude that the young only have an extreme dimension to their behaviour, but the content reflects them in certain situations," said Kamath.
The small screen is flooded with relationship-based reality shows like UTV Bindaas' "Superstud", which teaches youngsters how to flirt, "Emotional Atyachaar" gets as explicit as possible, and Channel V's "Love Net", "Perfect Couple" or "Love Kiya To Darna Kya" show youngsters going to extremes to impress the opposite sex.
Even those who watch them say they are not fit for family viewing.
"Love, hatred and betrayal are part and parcel of youngsters' life and if they are getting solutions through these programmes, then why not? I find them interesting to watch but, of course, not with the family as sometimes the content becomes very violent and abusive," said 22-year-old Akhil Anurag.
So what made the channels switch their focus to relationship-based shows?
"Relationships are important to our target audience, the most important thing being that people are most insecure about them. The youngsters are curious to know about relationships pertaining to not only one's partner/lover but also parents, and siblings," said Sethi.
Kamath added: "We have always considered relationships an integral peg. Even if there was a phase of reality shows that were competition-oriented, they always had a strong relationship focus, their partners or friends would ultimately influence their success in the show."
The channels claim the content is based on surveys.
"The content is based on understanding of youth and their passions. At the beginning of this year, we released FYI Youth Report, a comprehensive youth study undertaken in India across 20 cities and over 5,000 respondents. Ideas were filtered and finally shown on screen," said Kamath.
But one wonders if this is the real India!
Deepak Singh, a 23-year-old professional drummer who works for a multinational company, feels the depiction of youth on the small screen is blown out of proportion.
"No, there is more to youth. The depiction that is brought into limelight is probably a part of it but cannot be generalised for the entire youth as a community. Indian youth is much more conscious and they are smart enough to identify. They are focussed, they know what they want and are fiercely independent," said Singh.
But actor Siddharth of "Rang De Basanti" fame criticised youth-based reality shows "Roadies" and "Dadagiri" as being offensive.
"If these two offensive shows are not banned immediately, ragging in Indian colleges will never end. If these self-proclaimed bhais think they can verbally and physically assault swayed mindless youngsters, and they are allowed to (do so) by the govt (government) and by the censor board, then it is a shame," he said on Twitter.
The content on such shows is so explicit that the Delhi High Court, following a peition, has demanded to see two recent and unedited episodes of "Emotional Ataychaar" to decide whether the censor board followed the guidelines while issuing the certificate to the channel, UTV Bindass, for the telecast of such a show. The petition was filed by an NGO, Indraprashtha People, which sought a ban on the show due to its "vulgar" content.