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Roadies Rising: What’s making news this season

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-02-2017 Rajyasree Sen

“Sab hi chunana chahenge, apne badshah, rani aur ikka. But table main turn karunga. Maidan koi bhi ho, par meri spin har jagah bhaari padi hai.” (Everyone wants to choose their own king, queen and ace. But I will turn the table. Because whatever the playing field, my spin has always taken a heavy toll.)

What word play! Spoken by none other than cricketer Harbhajan Singh. Who is the latest judge on the show where good taste, civility and intellect comes to die—Roadies Rising. What a career chart. You start off as one of India’s most talented off-spinners. And you spin your way into the MTV Hall Of Infamously Bad Shows.

Harbhajan Singh is not alone. He is accompanied by four celebrities who have seemingly found permanent employment till they turn 60, on MTV. The other “gang leaders” are Karan Kundra, Rannvijay, Neha Dhupia and the wonderfully named Prince. Of these, Kundra and Dhupia have at least had alternative careers. The other duo have only known reality television as a source of income—first as participants in the same show, and then as hosts of this show. Prince branched out and even participated in Bigg Boss. The Quartet will choose 20 “warriors” who are the “best in the country”.

Harbhajan Singh in a still from Roadies Rising.

I watched two entire episodes of the show which seems to be a horrific celebration of machismo and crudeness. And just in case you think any and every dilettante can get on this show, think again. It’s tougher to get into Roadies Rising than it is to get into Tata Institute Of Social Sciences. There’s something called Gang Of Duster passes which allows you entry straight into the interview round. Prince hands these out. Otherwise, you have to take part in a group discussion (GD). If you clear the GD, you’re called for interviews in a Personal Interview Round. The audition form has questions such as—“have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex?” Good stuff.

Of the two episodes I saw, where the “gang leaders” were choosing contestants, the line-up of men was all that we dread when we walk down the streets of India. Rowdies. Hooligans. Loud. Aggressive. Violent. Abusive. The only saving grace was a well-spoken woman who turned out to be a working actress—who had watched the show since she was 8! While Roadies may be celebrating all that is vile in India—I really cannot understand why a teenager or his or her parent would want to be associated with Roadies—there is a morality lesson that this season seems to be giving. Not that this makes me understand how desperate people can be to have a moment in the spotlight. So desperate that they’ll allow themselves to be hit, slapped and abused by a bunch of four “celebrities”.

One good deed that Roadies Rising may do—and I praise it grudgingly—is that young men may start realising that it’s not a show of machismo or bravado to beat up or slap women. This season seems to have lined up all the men who’ve been indulging in domestic violence and made them audition. Only so they can be given lectures on not indulging in domestic violence or made to slap each other—or both. Now this is the only silver lining on this show. Because all sorts of impressionable people seem to watch it and want to be on it. So if even one male contestant or person watching it realises that it’s not cool or okay to beat up or threaten to beat up your mother, wife, sister or any random woman—then Roadies Rising has absolved itself for its usually puerile content.

Of course, Roadies Rising has been in the news for “gang leader” Kundra slapping a male contestant because the contestant had claimed he had slapped his sister, and therefore being replaced by that other MTV veteran, Nikhil Chinnappa. And this is the problem. That the moralising is drowned by the obvious eyeball grabbing tactic of slapping people on camera.

In the first episode, Vishal and Sunny, who are from Jaipur and Nagpur, respectively, claimed to have hit women. One had hit his mother. The other his sister. They were then instructed to hit each other. Then Harbhajan decided to remind us that he is Sher-e-Punjab, and told one of them to hit him. To be precise, “maar ke dikha. Dekh lunga tujhe”. (Hit and show me. I’ll see you.) In an earlier show called Dadagiri on Bindaas, a female anchor had slapped a male contestant. Who promptly slapped her back. I don’t know what that exchange was supposed to prove, other than that stupidity is not relegated to any one gender. In the same vein, you see Kundra wallop a contestant across the face—on camera.

While I get that Roadies Rising is trying to rise above itself and give us a lesson in civility, it would have been far more effective using just one contestant as an example. This is a morality lesson prolonged to a point where it becomes a spectacle and nothing more. There were two moments which were a little heartening. A contestant who is lesbian, came out to her parents on camera. And a paanwallah’s son, who till a few months back lived in a house without a bathroom and now has shifted to a house with an attached loo, came on the show and spoke of how he did a number of jobs and had saved money for his parents and how his sister was now a lecturer. But these contestants were few and far between. Because right after that you saw the promo of Kundra slapping a contestant across the face.

I don’t know whether Roadies is Rising or not. But by the end of it, I could feel lot of bile rising.

There you have it. Two episodes. Four celebrity “gang leaders”. One fame-hungry star off-spinner. And a whole bunch of physically abusive people slapping each other up. How can you possibly not want to watch this show?

You can watch Roadies Rising on MTV on Saturday and Sunday at 7pm. Enjoy.

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