There’s always another side when it comes to dazzling lives of reality TV show stars and couples today. What lies underneath the riches, glam and power?
Witnessing the scuffle between actress Rashami Desai and Arhaan Khan from Bigg Boss 13 seems almost comical. It involved a public release of her personal bank statements without her knowledge. These reflected transactions made to his account while she was inside the Bigg Boss house. The scandal that broke into a financial tug of war between the couple who grew apart and eventually split after it was revealed that Arhaan had a kid from this first marriage.
This dose of celebrity gossip is a representation of the innumerable fights and splits between celebrities and reality TV couples that choke the tabloids. These are the things often choking and filling up social media feeds and tabloids.
These relationships contribute a great deal to reality TV shows these days, particularly Bigg Boss, Roadies and Splitsvilla. They seem to be influenced highly by their western counterparts like Bigg Brother, The Bachelor and Love Island, among others.
The high-voltage drama and glamour of these shows seem to never reach a saturation point. Especially now with Netflix’s brand of reality shows like Love is Blind and Too Hot to Handle gaining popularity during the lockdown.
Shows like Bigg Boss are often in the pockets of producers and the networks who use contestants on the show for brand value and publicity. High profile celebrities like Shakti Kapoor and Sunny Leone have also made their appearances on such shows. They’ve captivated and engaged viewers in their own ways. And Salman Khan’s larger than life image in Indian pop culture itself is one of Bigg Boss’s most important selling points.
Every-day drama is almost a point of hyper-focus for long time viewers and fans of the show. For instance, the tension in Bigg Boss is often exploited in a sense as it translates to further viewership and higher network ratings. Many a time, friction is created between contestants for the sake of viewership.
TV relationships even go through the Reality TV Curse. They later find that they don’t have potential as a couple beyond the confines of reality television stage. And were in fact, motivated by the blare of the public spotlight.
For example, in the first season of Bigg Boss, actor-model Aryan Vaid’s rocky relationship with Anupama Verma. This relationship had suspicious effects on the sudden and timely rise of the TRPs of the show. Similarly, political leader Rahul Mahajan’s ambiguous flirtations with actress Payal Rohatgi also made headlines in the second season of Bigg Boss.
Yet another couple Gauhar Khan and Kushal Tandon saw their Bigg Boss relationship take an ugly turn after the season ended. This is quite reminiscent of what is happening with Rashami Desai and Arhaan Khan. In both the cases, the on-screen chemistry between the couples dazzled the viewers.
The fascination that the shows hold is a wider expression and display of complex human expressions and relationships. These seem to help viewers put themselves in the shoes of celebrities and even project in a certain sense to an extent.
Many of these squabbles and fights, whether between couples or contestants on the show, mirror everyday disagreements. Right from disagreements due to cooking, cleaning or even clashes between different personalities or egos on the show seem like fodder for the audience.
These larger than life figures are put into conventional settings where they manoeuvre daily life and activities very much like the viewers do. Often, this gives the viewers a feel that they are quite similar to the celebs they so admire.
However, at the same time, unknowingly, these also set up a rather distorted precedent for some of us, as viewers too. These can manifest into toxic realities and expectations, especially as these shows cater to mass audiences and stars are often put on high pedestals. Above all, shows like Bigg Boss aim to sell a particular concept, lifestyle or dream to its viewers.
These observations also tie in with the larger concept of glamour and image of so-called ‘influencers’ who often get their breaks on reality shows as well. They use it as a stepping stone to win over brands and travel the world. We often live vicariously through their pristine and perfectly filtered Instagram stories and posts.
There are now new brands and variations of this manner of outreach owing to the growth and diversification of the social media realm itself. Young TikTok stars who are barely 15 or 16 years of age have partially built and even cemented their images through relationships as well.
Many of these do seem to appear genuine. However, they seem to be another social connection marketed and amplified to sell a glamorous lifestyle to impressionable young adults.
Romantic relationships, in particular, tend to hold a large emotional pull on people for obvious reasons. The very notion and idea of a ‘power couple’ can be a great selling avenue. This often shapes, what is now being called ‘Influencer Marketing,’ owing to social media and reality TV relationships. It is easy to even monetise or capitalise on a relationship and brands can, in turn, use this as leverage.
Perhaps, it is best if we interpret these reality TV shows simply like we do any other form of entertainment and see them for what they are- fiction. It is time for that important and well-timed reality check the next time you idolise or read one of those perfect stories about a reality show celebrity or influencer.
Picture credits: Still from Bigg Boss
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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