Ever since reality television shows made way into our lives, the dreams of instant fame began floating in the eyes of middle-class Indians. While adults competed for fame, the producers and directors also came up with reality TV shows for kids.
Now, who doesn't enjoy seeing a talented little kid dance like no one's business or singing high notes like a pro?
We get carried away when the judges shed a tear after a child's emotional performance or when a kids' backstory is shown on the AV screen on the stage. The whole setup and ambiance is so touching that we consider those kids lucky to have left their miserable lives behind in search of success, which eventually inspires more parents to want the same for their kids.
But is this really how it works?
The attraction of meeting celebrities and appearing on television lures many parents and their kids, but the dark truth behind these kids' reality television shows is horrifying to say the least. Indian screenwriter and director Amole Gupte reveals how these reality TV shows are creating more and more casualties than benefiting the lives of participants.
As opposed to how happy these kids are when they win a ticket to Mumbai, the reality is far from a fancy dream.
Gupte told Hindustan Times:
"They are brought from distant towns to Mumbai and huddled into cheap hotels with their parents. Every morning, they have to travel to the TV studio for rehearsals. These kids are wrenched away from all normal activities and are thrown into a single-minded devotion to lending their voices to these reality shows. They are made to shoot for countless hours, sometimes in humid non-airconditioned rooms. It’s barbaric."
Citing an incident that left a child scarred for life, he said:
"A little, blind boy had made it to the finals of a singing contest. Throughout the day he was rehearsing under gruelling circumstances for his song and finally at 1 am when he was to record, he lost his voice. The child was traumatised for life."
There's so much pressure on these kids that when they are unable to live up to those expectations, they are disappointed beyond imagination.
"The kids shoot when they want to. There is no pressure on them. I’ve seen what happens to these children during long hours of shooting. Once a two-year-old child was shooting a Maggi noodles ad which I was directing. It was late in the night and the shooting was halted because the child was asleep. I saw the mother hissing and prodding the child to wake up. I went up to the mother and told her to please stop, that we will hold the shooting until the child is ready, even cancel it."
Gupte shed light on how the whole system needs to be changed to prevent parents and children from getting beguiled by the instant fame.
"Everyone is a victim including the parents. The government needs to enforce laws against children being made to work long hours. When I was the chairperson of the Children’s Film Society, I pushed for a law preventing children from being made to shoot for more than five-and-a-half hours. That law is now existent. The law says children cannot shoot for more than five-and-a-half hours for TV serials or films. But how many people follow this law? More needs to be done to ensure they are comfortable. When I was shooting in Madh Island for Sniff, my child-hero stayed there at a hotel with his mother, while all of us travelled back to the mainland every day. The work-load for children has to be decided by the people who make them work. No law can dictate the individual conscience."
Is anyone listening?