The comedian Dane Cook does a great segment on the public service “Don’t Say Gay” TV ads that ran in the US. In the ad, two girls are shopping for clothes. One asks the other “do you like this top?”. The other girl responds, “no, its totally gay”. Out steps Hillary Duff, who tells the girls that its not ok to say Gay, when you mean Bad.
On stage, Dane Cook explodes, “well thank you!….. Hillary F*&%ing Duff. The next time I am facing one of life’s conundrums, I will stop and ask, what would Hillary Duff say now?”
I feel much the same way about Rakhi Ka Insaaf, the reality show on Imagine TV. It is something like Aap Ki Kachehri, but hosted by Rakhi Sawant. People seeking justice for problems in their lives can come on the show to have their dirty laundry aired in public, and hopefully cleaned, by Rakhi.
When has anyone, ever, in their lives, when faced with a problem, wondered, ”What advice would Rakhi Sawant give me now?”
Obviously people do want her advice (or are desperate to be on TV), as the show is currently running, Rakhi describes her role as:
Even though no one takes me seriously regarding my passion for social work, but through this show, people will get a chance to know me. I will only support the truth, be it a girl or boy, I will make sure my judgments are unbiased. Whatever decisions will be made, will be ‘dil se’”
On a particular episode, Laxman and Anita sought Rakhi’s advice regarding their marital discord. Rakhi humiliated the husband (calling him impotent) and his family. According to the man’s family, this caused him to sink into depression, he stopped eating, and died.
Many reality shows are designed to push contestants to the brink, way past their comfort zone. Should reality shows be held responsible for the consequences?
Based on limited online research, I’ve found references to around 10-15 suicides, lots of attempted suicides, and 1 murder, all committed by reality show ex-contestants, shortly after filming. Generally this behaviour spells the end of the show. As advertisers disappear, the network chooses not to renew the show.
Internationally, it has now become common for the producers to provide not only psychiatric screening in the selection phases, but also intensive counselling after the camera stops rolling. Counsellors spend time (often 2 – 6 months) with the contestant and their family to help them resolve the feelings that have arisen, as well as the added tension of being thrust into and then yanked-from such a public position, possible with rejection and humiliation.
Based on India’s massive shortage of trained counsellors, and the great difficulty a common man would face in seeking compensation from a TV channel/producer, I have my doubts that Indian TV producers are providing this sort of care to their participants.