Last week has been a study in reality television and how marriages made on reality television, through some ironic twist of fate and a love for being on TV, also come to an end on reality TV. Rahul Mahajan had supposedly found true love and his betrothed on the Indian version of The Bachelor.
Their wedding was part of the show Rahul Ka Swayamvar, in which 17 girls tried to win Mahajan’s hand, as all women should aspire to. Let’s not forget that just before Rahul ka Swayamvar, he had been charged with domestic battery by his first wife – pictures of her bruised face and body were pasted across newspapers – following which she divorced him. But Dimpy Ganguly fell for Rahul’s charm, of which, despite many seasons of watching him on the telly, I’m yet to spot a glimmer.
Following his marriage to Dimpy, the duo set out on a career in reality TV. They danced in two seasons of Nach Baliye. They took part in other spin-offs of American and British reality shows such as Welcome (Baazi Mehmaan-Nawaazi Ki). Then Dimpy accused Rahul of domestic violence and once again, pictures of Rahul’s wife and her bruises were in the papers. Dimpy supposedly filed for divorce in 2014.
Now, Dimpy is on this season of Bigg Boss, as is Rahul. He is what is called a Challenger, the new set of wild card entries on the show. The only positive about their relationship seems to be that despite being batterer and batteree in a well publicized case of domestic violence, Dimpy and Rahul seem to be extremely friendly and cordial with each other. They don’t scream and shout or behave acrimoniously even though it would be understandable if they did.
The only problem is that old habits seem to die hard for Rahul and, no pun intended, he seems to have an addictive personality. Right before Rahul Ka Swayamvar, on his first stint on Bigg Boss, he’d very bravely romanced Abu Salem’s ex girlfriend Monica Bedi and a starlet called Payal Rohatgi. If there’s anything Rahul does, then it is to keep his options open.
This season, despite his wife being present in the same house (even if they are only technically married), Rahul has decided to pursue another contestant, Karishma Tanna, with an ardour that would put the stalker hero of Raanjhanaa to shame. He has been ticked off by Karishma, told to stop trying to buy her affection with money or threaten her into a relationship – all in front of his wife. A wife who spends every episode watching her husband in hot pursuit of another woman who in turn makes no bones that she would rather throw herself under a bus than romance Rahul Mahajan.
In classic jilted spouse mode, Dimpy occasionally blames Karishma for not rejecting Rahul’s overtures adequately and then weeps copiously in her husband’s arms – while he stands like a statue – every time Karishma is rude to him. If only they could throw in a murder, we could at least pretend we were watching a reality version of Gaslight.
This is a modern day farce like no other. An estranged husband and a wife staying together voluntarily in a house with a bunch of strangers, repeatedly washing their dirty linen and stringing up their dysfunctional marriage in public, with 80 cameras telecasting their every move to televisions every night.
It’s strange what the need for two minutes of fame will encourage you to do to your privacy and self-esteem. After seeing what good can come of romances made on reality television, one would think that anyone with half a brain would stay far away from repeating that mistake. But I underestimate Bigg Boss 8’s contestants. They’re nothing if not true believers of romance and a dash of infidelity. So Upen Patel, who has recently been brought back to the house – did the producers realise watching Rahul and Dimpy’s marital problems doesn’t make for the most riveting television? – has decided to become Don Juan. Within two episodes, he has professed undying love to Karishma Tanna.
That she’s announced that she has a boyfriend in Mumbai is a minor detail. Upen has asked her to marry him and listed at least 20 travel destinations from Venice to Canada to Paris where he will take her, with an ease that should make Cox & Kings contact him as soon as he steps out of the house. A kiss has been exchanged, loving looks have been shared, and much romance is in the air. I’m wondering what Karishma Tanna’s boyfriend is doing while watching the show, and has he gone on a ticket-buying spree to outdo Upen Patel’s travel plans for his inamorata?
In between all these romances, confessions of love, proposals of marriage, stalking of disinterested women and total destruction of self-esteem and a marriage, there’s a crude comic interlude as well. That of another contestant, Ali, repeatedly telling Gautam Gulati that he will smooch him. And the latter telling him that he’ll wallop Ali if he does so. Of what worth is an Indian TV show if it doesn’t have a healthy dose of homophobia thrown in for good measure?
American reality TV should be pleased that it’s found a worthy contender for smarmy television in India. Raise your glasses to our bunch of semi-celebrities who are willing to go to any length for their moment in the reality TV sun.