April 15, 2021 9:25:45 pm
Whenever one thinks of unscripted reality shows on Indian television, the first names that come to mind are Raghu Ram and Rajiv Lakshman. The brothers have been the brains behind shows like Roadies and Splitsvilla. They even launched Skulls and Roses and India’s Best Judwaah under their own production house — Monozygotic Solutions.
Today, the duo has turned 46, and on their birthday, indianexpress.com spoke to Raghu and Rajiv about curating popular reality shows, current trends and the criticism that came their way.
Sharing that there was no single thought process behind creating reality shows, Rajiv Lakshman said, “There was so much happening internationally, but we were not aware of it. With time and the audience changing, MTV too was looking at an evolved identity, different from its countdown shows and comedy skits. Raghu and I have a certain kind of thinking which was very different from the producers at MTV. We came from a different background and with an extreme interest in experimentation. I think we were just in the right place and at the right time.”
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Raghu Ram further spoke about the current trend of reality shows, saying that on Indian television, there are ‘the GEC shows, with shining floors and singing and dancing happening’ and ‘the unscripted MTV kind’. He said, “Reality television has an advantage over fiction as it can be changed in response to the changing scenarios in the world. There is a certain kind of expectation from these shows, and it’s met every time. However, the formats haven’t evolved much. TV has enjoyed a monopoly for a long time, and with OTT platforms coming in, the game changed. It has caused a disruption, and I think television will have to up their game and get to a new level with their formats.”
Raghu further said that it’s because the channels are scared to take risks that the audience has to watch season after season of the same show. He added that one has to talk to the kids of today as the youth is adapting to the change around the world. And by not catering to them, the channels are suffering. The creative mind cheekily added that channels usually wait for somebody to do something different, and if it succeeds, they work around a similar concept.
Given the brothers have interacted closely with the country’s youth, we asked them if they and their aspirations from a reality show have also changed. “The youth has completely changed, and with social media, the battle lines have been drawn. Earlier, if you wanted to showcase your talent, you had to go through the gatekeepers, who were more like demons. However, now the bottleneck has been done away with. They can now be on any platform, showcase their talent and be the influencer they always wanted to be,” answered Rajiv Lakshman.
Echoing his Rajiv’s thoughts, Raghu added, “Reality television shows are in a danger of losing the youth.” He went on to explain that the way we love, fight, argue, interact or react has changed, and thus a season 25 of a show won’t talk to the same audience. “While yes, the hangover of being on TV will always remain, these kids already have a million followers. The danger right now is of becoming obsolete. It’s actually no big deal that you make a certain number of seasons. It’s about creating edgy content.”
Raghu Ram has always been at the receiving end of criticism and trolling. Sharing that it was part of his job, he said, “I gave them the impression that I was still in charge of my life. And I think given my beliefs, I will always be called controversial as it is against the norms. Also, on social media, I think everyone gets a lot of hate in general, so it didn’t bother me much. It only made me believe that I was doing my job well. As for the memes, it just goes on to say that I did leave an impact.”
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Interestingly, Rajiv Lakshman, for the longest time, worked behind the camera. Given Raghu was already receiving backlash from a certain section, we wondered how he dealt with it when he decided to come on screen. The birthday boy stated that while he has always welcomed criticism, he shut off all kinds of hatred. “My parents would get affected initially as for them we are these soft-spoken, good boys. They would think why people think otherwise about us. Once I had taken them for a concert, and a woman came up to my mother, and, in quite a loaded tone, questioned her about us. My mother simply said that she was proud of us. That made me carefree as these are the only opinions that matter to us,” shared Rajiv.
Their original series Skulls and Roses and India’s Best Judwaah did not see the kind of success, many would have expected it to. On asked if that deterred them in any way, Rajiv said, “In short no, and in an elaborate tone, we have worked on many shows over the years, and figured out the insight or hook to grasp the audience. Sometimes the platform doesn’t work, sometimes other things. But one has to keep thinking and creating.”
And rightly so, the twins are currently working on a reality show that would stream on one of the OTT giants. “We cannot talk much about it, but we will soon start casting for it. I am really excited about it as it’s an evolution for us also as we re-calibrate and re-learn to tell different stories. We are really happy to foray into this new project, and if we manage to pull off, it will start a new trend,” concluded Raghu Ram.
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