It is hardly surprising that the producers of Big Boss imported Sunny Leone from the US to feature on their reality show. After all,this is a game of grabbing eyeballs and who better than a full-fledged porn star to do the job? Intent on pole dancing her way into the hearts of the Indian public,Ms. Leone seems equally keen to project herself as a docile desi girl who simply does what she does as a means to an end.
Her ploy seems to have worked and Mahesh Bhatt has shrewdly ensured masses of free publicity and media hype by casting this princess from the adult entertainment industry in his upcoming skin flick.
Over the years,several adult film actresses have crossed over to the mainstream with varying degrees of success. Porn star,Sasha Grey,was cast by Steven Soderberg in his film,The Girlfriend Experience,and then went on to appear in the cult HBO series,Entourage. Playboy centerfold Jenny McCarthy appeared on the top-rated sitcom Two and a Half Men,where she played a sexy seductress opposite Charlie Sheen.
It seems to me,however,that Indian television itself is fast becoming voyeuristic porn. A slew of local reality shows showcase half-baked celebrities shamelessly flaunting temper tantrums,emotional breakdowns and psychotic behaviour in a desperate attempt to garner TRPs. These vulgar on-screen antics are as pathetic and pastiche a performance as the acting displayed in a porn film.
Viewers cast maximum votes in favour of uninhibited exhibitionists who have no qualms getting emotionally naked on-screen just so they can last another week on TV.
In the US,trashy reality shows like Jersey Shore and Keeping up with the Kardashians illustrate how greed,lust,betrayal and all-round boorish behaviour are rewarded with multi-million dollar contracts and lucrative endorsement deals.
Ironically,just when you thought that American television had sunk to its lowest depths you realise this is also a golden age for the idiot box. Channels like HBO and Bravo are presently commissioning some of the finest programming ever seen on TV. High concept shows with diverse themes and fantastic production values are proliferating the small screen. Mad Men is about advertising in New York in the 1960s. Boardwalk Empire,co-produced by Martin Scorsese,is a compelling tale set during the Prohibition era. Neil Jordans The Borgias is a sumptuously mounted Italian period piece whilst Game of Thrones is an epic,swashbuckling fantasy saga.
All these shows manage to earn high ratings and have a loyal viewership that effectively counters the mindless schlock of reality TV.
Perhaps our local channels need to take a cue from their American counterparts and also commission some quality alternative programming for a change.
The lead should ideally be taken by Doordarshan that once commissioned superb shows like Govind Nihalanis Tamas and Buniyaad,but now doles out utter rubbish as an excuse for entertainment.
Indian television can then enjoy a true renaissance instead of simply subjecting viewers to a daily dose of hysterical prime time tamasha.
(Fahad Samar is a filmmaker,intrepid traveller and inveterate chronicler of society)