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Five Seconds of Fame
Dissent: Volume 6 of the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing

Five Seconds of Fame

At the crack of dawn, as a city sleeps, a visual of a group of hundred-odd enthusiasts greet you. On your ever-expanding, forever flattening television set—wrongly called the idiot box—you see these enthusiasts screaming their guts out as they realise that the camera has captured them in its frame.

Helter Skelter: MTV Roadies
Welcome to a rage called MTV Roadies.

Roaring so hard that their nerves seem a pulse away from bursting, these youngsters’s only appearance on television is this one, for those who scream, yell, and shriek in excitement prior to any of the elimination rounds never see the light of the day. Welcome to a rage called MTV Roadies.

In 2003, Roadies, an on-the-move reality show had made its debut to a very accepting, English-speaking Indian audience. The show amassed youngsters not only from different walks of life but such who would never see eye-to-eye in most situations they were to deal with within the realms of being a ‘Roadie’. The show was predicated on physical prowess and emotional (im)maturity. The contestants were routinely abused, shoved around, and made to perform ‘tasks’ that made for great T.V. viewing. The crux of the show intact, now in 2011, the brutality has grown; the ruthlessness is blatantly served to you in a plate even in their promos. Suffering has never been made so sweet.
In your drawing room, as you sit with your feet stretched out on the table, flicking through the channels, you would always stop on MTV, the channel airing Roadies. Your hand may still be in motion, on the button that will lead to severe plummeting of Roadies‘s T.R.P., but you look on intrigued. Surrounded by black walls that read ‘Shortcut to Hell’, three judges sit on one side of the room waiting for their ‘victims’ to arrive.

Once inside the room, harmless questions like ‘Please tell us something about yourself’ are thrown around. Clearing his throat, as an aspirant begins to answer, the judges, first listen intently and later latch onto every mistake, every goof up and every pause that he makes. There are inevitable comparisons drawn between his verbal answers and the ones he wrote in the form that he is made to fill out at the start of the show. During the course of this interview, if the judges meet with any aggression, or conflicting or disagreeable opinions, abuses are hurled at the ‘victim’, to ostensibly test their self-proclaimed ‘nerves of steel’.

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Even after watching just one episode of Roadies, one will realise the brusque attitude meted out. Why does it still sell, you may ask? It breeds on sadism. Sadism that is embedded deep in each and all of us. You take secret digs at the aspirants when he blurts out an answer you know would land him in a pit. Whilst feeling sympathetic, you smirk at the answers and within the four walls of your mind think you could have done better. In addition to this sadism, Roadies also hits home as it engenders every 20-something’s secret aspiration of being a known face, of being on television, of being the one who is recognised from a group of similarly placed young individuals. And for their five seconds of fame, the aspersions, impudence, disgrace, and disrespect seems like a small price to pay.

After all, this is Roadies.

View Comment (1)
  • sorry richa, but the article did not offer anything new. when it began, it seemed there would be an analysis of what the show reflects about the urban and semi urban youth of India today..their priorities, sensibilities and the impact of media culture on society and on and so forth. but it felt short by just giving a description of the show, which anyone whose seen bits of it on TV is familiar with.and as u said..most of the urban TV viewing population is aware of this series as it is..
    it would have been good had u given more as to why you chose a show like roadies only to gauge alternative culture in India..i believe that would have made the article more thematic.

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