I am not a fan of reality shows. I am a follower of that for sure. Of course, Bigg Boss 4 is the flavour of the season while various music and dance reality shows have ensured that I have my evenings packed. Was there any stagnation coming in? No, not really, as there was some spice or another that was added to every new season, hence keeping them alive and kicking. Of course, I saw them more as an audience rather than a participant since I haven't sung in my life, I haven't danced and I haven't participated in any quiz programmes during college. But then, who cares, I haven't acted either but I do enjoy my fair share of Bollywood movies and music.
While I have been entertained by these reality shows ever since satellite TV has become an integral part of our lives, I didn't quite foresee one being designed on cooking. There was an on and off glimpse that I had caught of a show like this on one of the foreign channels but it never came to my mind that something like that would be attempted in India as well.
This is where the announcement of 'Master Chef India' caught my attention. More so because it was being spearheaded by Akshay Kumar, who is one of the biggest Bollywood names. Since he had earlier shown his connect with the audience through 'Khatron Ke Khiladi', I could well trust him to do the job here as 'Master Chef India', which required him to interact with the 'aam junta'. Of course, being a housewife, this show also made me curious to know whether my own culinary skills would be taken to test here. The well cut promo and some aggressive marketing further did the trick and I now really wanted to check out what he had to offer.
I switched on the TV at the designated time on D-day and what followed next turned out to be pretty much in the same format as most reality shows are designed. However, was I entertained? Oh! of course, yes.
The beginning of the show was just the kind that most reality shows are made of. Long queues of participants arriving for auditions, them braving sun and rain, a high energy voiceover excitedly telling audience how thousands wanted to be a part of the 'biggest show of this kind' ever etc. etc. etc. It was pretty predictable so far.
However, all of this was thankfully told in a concise manner, which means the actual fun began once the three judges - Akshay Kumar and a couple of other major Chefs from Goa and Gurgaon - were introduced. The match was set, as it was well established that one of the judges would be the blunt one, another somewhat reasonable and the third a little unpredictable.
Oh yes, this was predictable.
And this is where the direction of 'Master Chef India' and its editing helped as audience was taken through various emotions - those of humour, drama and some weepy moments - that pretty much made it a packaged affair that you would want to revisit. So here we had an over confident Sikh man who tried to unnerve the judges, a couple of middle class men who had their own past stories of struggle to tell, a middle aged female school teacher who barged into the room protesting the delay and a Lucknow housewife who got even the judges shedding a tear or two.
Well done Mr. Director and the actors (read judges) - I wept too!
Well, this is the reality of the 'reality shows'. Howsoever you may be tempted to believe that all of this is make believe and pretty much scripted, you still get carried away. You may blame it on my feminine virtues but then what the hell, the drama out there on screen touched me and even though in the hindsight I feel that my emotions were played with, it's okay. After all I had bargained for this.
I love the fact that the show is in Hindi which means Akshay can just go and establish the kind of connect that he enjoys with the 'aam junta'. Really, he was there as one of them. Whether it was his dress up, mannerisms, body language or the words he exchanged with the participants, there wasn't any star like aura being put on display. When I think about it, I feel that the superstar side of his personality could actually have been put on display at least at some instants. After all that would have lent a star quality to the show.
But then perhaps this was the basic design of the show. Moreover, it is still early days when the show is more about independent presentation but participants rather than any competition taking place. I do expect that tomorrow when the show catches heat and the competition becomes intense, Akshay Kumar - the star - may show different side of his personality as well.
Perhaps there would be bigger sets, bigger canvas, more thrilling moments and detailed talks about the 'what went on during the cooking' rather than just 'how the dish was presented to the judges'.
I enjoyed the start and now I wait for that tomorrow.
(Neha Sharma, 28, is a housewife with a 6 months old kid. A Delhi resident, she lives with her husband and also works from home as a recruitment consultant.)