As if I needed another reason for my dislike of reality shows. My friend, A. called me to say that the winner of a reality show we had worked on a few years ago, was now in Kerala recuperating from a nervous breakdown and trying to lose weight of an abnormal kind. She had gone up to 30 stones, where she broke commodes when she sat on them, and could no longer walk. We knew her when she was set to win on a talent show for British Asian young people aspiring to be Bollywood actors, and she never understood what hit her after the television cameras capturing her every sniffle and smile, turned away. Bollywood did not beckon.
I worked briefly on a reality show last week, the fag-end. I found yet again, the atmosphere as vitiated as it had been on the earlier show. Producers huddled up all day, exasperated with the contributors, trying to drum up more interesting, more sensational stuff, as they wallowed in mindlessly mind-boggling numbing details about each and every moment and thought in the contributors’ minds. The contributors’, tired with the close inspection of their hearts and souls over weeks, were irritable and querulous as children, getting more and more spoilt with the unnatural attention. The rest of the crew gossiped in mildly superior tones about the producers and the contributors, believing they were intellectually beyond the work they were doing.
But the truth is, the nature of work one is doing, affects one’s self-esteem, one’s well-being. I did a more strenuous shoot for 4 months this year, but because it involved journalistic stories on the changing Indian economy, I felt inspired, buoyed by the amazing stories of ordinary and extraordinary people who make the country tick. I never had the inclination to be tired. Whereas, in 4 days of this shoot, I felt exhausted, close to falling ill, and cheapened and humiliated, questioning my own motives in taking up work that I did not believe in.
The best day for me was when the cameraman and I went off on our own, shooting GVs (general views) of the city. Running across streets following a religious procession on its way to Shirdi, weaving through cars with a man selling Santa hats, crossing roads with school children, wandering through clothes stalls on the streets, walking, walking all day, my bones ached but I was happy.