It’s survival of fittest on Indian reality TV

January 8th, 2012 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) Be it the spicy “Bigg Boss 5″, “Spitsvilla” and “Swayamvar” or the adventure-based “Survivor India”, “Roadies” and “Khatron Ke Khiladi” — Indian reality television is laden with survival-based shows which are giving viewers a good dose of voyeuristic content.There are the “real survivor” shows like the international “Man Vs Wild”, where humans fight their surroundings to stay with the wild, and then there are “pyramidical shows” like “Big Switch”, “Superstud” and “Bigg Boss”, which are about winning against a changed environment, explains Keith Alphonso, UTV Bindass’ business head.

And both are a hit.

“Survivor shows challenge the survival skills of contestants, when put in a different terrain. Whereas pyramidical shows are typically about people being put in an atmosphere with a certain amount of change in their lifestyle, and topped with PDA - Politics, Drama, Action! That’s what makes these shows engaging,” Alfonso told IANS.

“Every person in a competition — whether on-screen or off-screen, has an indomitable spirit to win, be it by winning against your environment or against another person. And because people love to watch struggles, and enjoy voyeuristic viewing, these shows get the popularity they enjoy,” he added.

The underlying idea is survival - by hook or by crook.

So no wonder on a show like “Bigg Boss”, backbiting, gossip and arguements, apart from the way celebrities adjust to limited resources and amenities, are what keep the TRP clock ticking. Or a “Roadies”, where one does have to perform dangerous tasks, but unless you are smart enough to crack the plotting and scheming, chances are you will lag behind in the race.

Now comes in Star Plus’ “Survivor India”, where 22 contestants — 11 celebrity and 11 non-celebrity participants, are shown marooned on an uninhabited tropical island of the Philippines where even basic minimum amenities aren’t available.

“The show will be the ultimate game of physical and mental endurance. Its well encapsulated tagline — ‘Kya Jee Paoge?’ is a testimony that only the fittest, the grittiest and the ruthless will survive and will be the ultimate winner of this show,” said Nitin Vaidya, business head, Hindi Channels, Star India.

In most of these shows, barring the likes of “Roadies”, “Superstud”, “Big Switch” and “Splitsvilla”, which depend on the general public for participation, what adds to the spunk is the celebrity quotient.

Whether it is “Survivor India”, which went on air Friday, or others like Colors’ “Khatron Ke Khiladi”, Sony’s “Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao” and “Sarkaar Ki Duniya” involving tough tasks in difficult terrains, most of these shows have cashed in on celebrities for additional eyeballs.

But it also pays to have the common man, according to Niret Alva, co-founder, Miditech.

“Indians are celebrity obsessed but they also love the underdog and want to see the best win,” said Alva, also the executive producer of “Survivor India”.

“You need to cast a mix of characters that people can relate to across the socio-economic matrix. You need people who fit in and stick out. You need people to love and people to dislike…In short you need a microcosm, a mirror to your own world as a viewer,” he added.

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at

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