First among equals!

REPLICATING a 'winning formula' has always been one of the best marketing strategies. When reality shows first made it big on Indian television, every channel worth its salt, explored various novel genres to get maximum mileage. And suddenly, the winner of the 'challenge', a man or woman from nowhere, became a national hero overnight. But what about the subsequent winners of those ever so popular shows? Where are they today?

Let's rewind to the year 2000 when Amitabh Bachchan declared Harshvardhan Nawathe, 'the first TV millionaire' on his quiz show, Kaun Banega Crorepati. He was feted as a national celebrity. All of a sudden, every one wanted to be a TV celebrity and television channels sniffed an opportunity to strike gold.

The channels moved out of studios looking for prospective singers, anchors, VJs, stand-up comedians and even bathroom singers.

Remember the euphoria Abhijeet Sawant created when he became the first Indian Idol? Reams of newsprint were hungrily consumed when Sunil Pal laughed his way into the top slot on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.

While these reality shows went on garnering TRPs, winners in their subsequent innings failed to make much impact and slipped from public memory soon enough. What makes the first one click while others get lost in the wilderness? Does it have to do with overkill or viewer fatigue?

"It is true," admits Abhijeet Sawant, and explains, "people are on the lookout for something new all the time. With time, the shows gain popularity, but the winners remain mere faces. The last winner is on public consciousness only until the next winner is announced." He believes he was lucky because his show was first-of-itskind and he was numero uno. Seconds Prajakta Shukre, amongst the top 10 on the same show, "The firsts do have an edge as far as public recall is concerned."

However, singer Shaan, anchor of Voice of India, feels otherwise. "It's too early to predict a trend as reality shows and talent hunt contests are still in their nascent stage." Having been a judge on a couple of such shows, lyricist Javed Akhtar believes these shows give people a great amount of exposure and some fame, but it really depends on the individual to take it forward and carve his or her niche. "People should realise that these are mere shows, no insurance or guarantees of lifetime success."

Sandeep Acharya, winner of the second round of Indian Idol, agrees, "The rapport carries on, but contestants have to remain in touch with the stars. They guide you when you ask for advice."

Are spur-of-the-moment promises made to the aspirants by the judges on these shows honoured after the curtains fall? Yes, says Shukre. Music composer Anu Malik had promised her a song in one of his films and she got a chance of playback singing in Shaadi No.1 and Jaanemaan."

But for every Shukre, there are others who fade into oblivion after their 15 minutes of fame. Some participants return to their everyday lives and others brace themselves for the struggle that precedes existence in the limelight. And there are few who find it difficult to adjust to a life without flashbulbs and sound bytes, and they become withdrawn, depressed, or choose isolation. Are the shows responsible for that? "It's wrong to blame the shows," opines Akhtar. He believes people need to have a more practical approach. "It's just a game that gives everyone associated gains. The winners should not equate the popularity that comes along with winning as success." Shaan has a piece of advice for all who bask in such limited glory - "Let the adulation sink in fast and move on quick that's the way to go."



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