This year, the famous MTV series Roadies is in its 9th edition. And it has been bigger, better and more keenly followed than the previous ones. It’s a brilliant concept that I would have loved to work on. If TRPs are to be believed, the producers must have made a killing on their bonuses and the channel must be basking in the amazing ad rates that the show must be commanding. I wouldn't be surprised if the recent decision by the arch rival Channel V to turn into a GEC was encouraged by its inability to come up with shows as captivating as Roadies.
So the idea of Roadies is that about 10 -12 young men and women are asked to finish a road trip (on a bike) from point A to point B. Along the way, they are supposed to undertake various "tasks" and failure to finish those tasks could result in elimination from the show. The ones that complete the road trip are guaranteed of their shot to fame (contestants from previous editions of roadies have gone on to become successful VJs, anchors, singers, actors etc). If nothing, almost every youth in the country would start recognizing them and the face would become as common as Salman Khan's. No I dont have the empirical data to support this assertion, just my opinion.
If you live under the rock and haven't heard about it, you may ask what makes the road trip of 12 kids so interesting. This is where the wizardry of the producers and writers comes on. The show is spiced up by adding lot of glamour, politics, manipulations, surprises, impromptu tasks etc. So to do well on the show, apart from being a good biker, you need to be able to stab your friends in the back, look for your interests over the groups', excel in the subtle art of bitching and whining, indulge in petty politics, ready to pounce over every tiny opportunity to bend the rules and most importantly, be rude while you are conducting yourself in public or in private.
And since the majority of youth in the country consume this content, the next generation of India is being groomed to accept these as the traits required for success. Gone are the days when hard work, perseverance, resilience, brains and respect were the values that youngsters wanted to imbibe. Now its about overnight success and stardom. And if Roadies is to be believed, the kids on the show are the epitome of someone on the fat road to success. Funny is that Roadies doesn't really market itself aggressively at all. For some reason, it just attracts youngsters like a magnet. For example, the Roadies page on FB, has 4+ million likes? Do we even have that many Indian users on FB? I really feel sorry for all these 4 million people. They are in for a rude rude shock, as and when they grow up.
I am scared that some day, these kids would actually grow up and yet they would not know an iota about the world around them. It would be a scary day. In fact a few years back when I was a brand planner, I conducted a survey amongst college kids in Mumbai where I was trying to understand who they idolized. As part of the survey I asked them about their favourite young politician. Of the answers I got, a large number said, they loved Rajiv Gandhi. And not because of what he said or what he stood for or the reforms he initiated but because he was cute. Cute. And while analysing I realized, that they meant Rahul Gandhi! Imagine, the person who could very well be one of the future prime ministers of the country, kids in affluent colleges in Mumbai dint even know his name!
I dont blame the kids for not knowing these things. I blame it squarely on content like the Roadies. Ask any kid about the show's host and anchor and not one would get it incorrect. But ask them about the reason for recent row in the Indian Tennis and I would be surprised if more than 10% know about it. Do a small dipstick. Ask any teenager around you, who is the president of India? And ask them about the Vice President. If more than 20% get the VP correct, I would send in an application to the next edition of the Roadies.
As a stakeholder in the society, I am very wary of the generation that is growing up watching content like this. And the sad part is that Roadies is not the only one. There are countless such television shows that paddle exactly these things, just that they are wrapped into a different garb. Gone are the good old days of Small Wonder, Jungle Book, Dekh Bhai Dekh where each episode, apart from the great entertainment value, taught something really important to the audience.
All said and done, Roadies is a brilliant television property. Ofcourse TV is serious business. About 30000 crores if some numbers are to be believed. But more than just that, the media has some responsibility as well. The fact that TV is almost universal in reach, the platform could be used beautifully to talk and educate the youth about issues where their input could be critical. TV could create abundant resources that our country would eventually need. Only if we could find an alternative to the Roadies generation!