Talk, shock and lock (the booty). This seems to be the new mantra on TV entertainment channels, if the strip-to-the-soul reality show Sach Ka Saamna (SKS) is any index of urban India’s viewing preferences. About 30 million viewers across metros, cities and towns watch, say, a Namraj Joshi—or it could be a Ram Mohammed Thomas—shrug a bit uncomfortably, then shake his head and respond ‘No!’, when asked if he had ever slept with a woman while conducting sightseeing tours. Now why would anyone except Mrs Joshi be interested in either asking Joshi that question or knowing his answer? But millions of Indians are, some sorry and others secretly thrilled that Joshi’s negative answer was caught out by the polygraph machine. He was branded a cheat by a machine whose verdict many take as irrefutable.
SKS addicts—a nascent community that gets its daily fix from watching people like themselves bare their darkest and deepest secrets on national television—are unabashedly lapping up lurid details of others’ lives and thoughts. The channel, Star Plus, is back as the country’s number one general entertainment channel after months, outsmarting upstarts like Colors and Sony. SKS producer, Siddhartha Basu of Big Synergy Entertainment, cloaks the moolah-making show as a way to “question our relationship with truth, tell the truth, and expose lies in a compassionate environment” in the land where Mahatma Gandhi titled his autobiography My Experiments with Truth. Contestants, who seem none the worse for being hooked to the polygraph machine, return to the arms of their families for an emotional reunion captured live; the 15 minutes of fame is a warm afterglow. Many, of course, are a few lakh rupees richer for their national tell-all effort; but none richer than the producer and the channel.