Before TV grew to become so big and multiplexes dominated the movie-scape, cinema in single screen, prestigious theatres was the king of entertainment and lucre. Movies then ran for 50 weeks (Golden Jubilee – does anyone even remember that phrase anymore?) or even more. The length for which a movie ran had direct impact on the moolah that the makers raked in and the price and popularity of the actors. Those days actors were truly stars and there was avid interest in them and their lives. Many people bought tickets to movies that starred real-life couples: Raj Kapoor – Nargis; Dharmendra – Hemamalini; Amitabh Bachchan – Rekha – to name a few. In the 1980s and 1990s, moviedom got wise on this trend and it wasn’t uncommon that before the release of a movie, the lead pair got linked together and even had a few weeks of very public togetherness. It practically became de rigueur and a part of the publicity plan to link lead pairs.
Mid-2000s saw television take over the mantle of primary entertainment. The number of channels exploded – with that the number of serials too. Everyone was vying for TRPs (Television Rating Points). Print media started dedicating a goodish amount of space to television stars. So naturally, the tried and tested publicity generating technique of “in a relationship” was used. Pretty effectively.
Both the above cases deal with an entire medium and the relationships are engineered by producers. But now individuals have got wise. Reality shows are the most viewed programmes on TV these days. Their popularity has been steadily growing. Every reality show, irrespective of the form and format has one thing in common – votes. The channel and producer/s make money from public votes. Votes also decide the longevity of contestants. Most reality shows have massive amounts of cash prizes as the victory cup and some like Bigg Boss actually pay the contestants an agreed amount each week. In a quantum shift of using relationship rumours for money, it is suddenly the contestants who have hijacked the age-old technique to hook viewer interest. Each season of Jhalak Dikhala Ja is peppered with on-set romances that spill over into the news media and suddenly those contestants develop a fan following.
However, it is in Bigg Boss that this technique is most effectively used. Since the contestants are paid each week, it is important for them to stay on as long as possible. To stay on, one needs to be seen. (Those not seen are out of the show rather quickly – Hazal Keech is a good example. She got no airtime in the first week of the show and was the first to be eliminated.)
— BIGG BOSS 8 (@BiggBoss__8) October 16, 2013
There are two ways to ensure airtime – be controversial or get into a romance. In each season of Bigg Boss, unfailingly some folks strike up romantic relationships. Rajeev managed to make it to the end of Season 6 by ensuring he was seen – first by following his divorced wife, Delnaz around and then by developing “feelings” for Sana. Both the women benefited from this too. Another season had the Malik woman from Pakistan almost all over Amisha Patel’s brother. Yet another season had a farce of a marriage (which quickly went kaput). But this season really takes the cake. Gauhar Khan – Kushal Tandon; Tanisha – Armaan; Andy – Pehelwan (as the other contestants call Sangram Singh) plus the oh-so-in-love couple, Shilpa and her husband, Apurva Agnihotri. The remaining two or three contestants are for sure going to be out of the show before these clever publicity and attention grabbers.
Truly, in the world of make-believe, Relationship has become a four-letter word with a specific purpose: eyeballs and attention grabbing.