When ‘Nach Baliye 7’ proclaimed it was going to be different this season with the ‘too much’ tagline, little did anyone know it meant real business. It is a very daring experiment to mix different genres of Reality TV into one and if you go by the numbers garnered by NB this season, the risk has definitely paid well. As any casual TV viewer would know, ‘Nach Baliye’ , from season 1 to 6, has been a reality show, where real life television couples, participate in a dance contest to be scored by some in house judges and to be voted for, by the TV audience. Every year, the season winners, apart from the trophy & cash, get to earn popularity, fame and better career opportunities. So it’s no surprise that NB has till now, been one of the most sought after contest shows on TV. But the truth of the matter is that the dance show genre on Indian TV is getting very competitive, with almost every channel banking on the popularity of this particular art form. So how do you sustain your differential factor year after year? For NB creators, the answer has been simple: By going a step ahead or in this context, a step ‘too much’ ahead.
The season premiere of ‘Nach Baliye 7’ made it clear, right from the start that things were going to be different. It started with the jury: Only one choreographer was on the panel, Marji Pestonji. The second judge, Preity Zinta was an interesting pick: Although she has had a hugely successful Bollywood career to speak for her, her fame had nothing to do specifically with her dancing skills. But the third judge, Chetan Bhagat, has been so gloriously incongruous that his being there was proof enough that NB 7 had something very risky up their sleeve. A novelist by profession with absolutely nothing to do with dance, was curiously picked as the third judge on the panel.
As the premiere progressed into gala dance nights every Sunday, the reason behind such a weird panel became clear: This season it was not just about the dance. The contestants were to be judged on 3 parameters: Dance( Pestonji), Compatibility & Chemistry (Preity Zinta), and real life equations( Chetan Bhagat). As a writer, who has been able to connect to the common youth by bringing out their hidden emotions on paper effortlessly, this parameter did establish him as a suitable judge in more ways than one.
On the other hand, the celebrity couples who were introduced with a brief background on their real life relationships as soon as their first performance ended, are to be credited for some genuine poignant moments in the first episode itself. Unlike Bollywood, in TV,it is mostly the character that earns the popularity while the actor playing it ends up being just the face for these unreal characters. But through this show, by talking about some very real problems like getting the acceptance of their families or sorting out domestic issues, they got a rare opportunity to establish themselves as real people in front of their audience.
The gala dance nights (Sunday telecasts) of this season, were unusually high on the entertainment quotient, provided in equal measure by class dance acts, circumstantial humor, Zinta’s usual effervescence and the intelligently manufactured tension between Pestonji and Bhagat. It became obvious very soon that Chetan was to Nach Baliye 7, what Ekta’s vamps are to her fiction shows: There was a conscious effort to create altercations, which sometimes passed as genuine reactions on his part, but a few times, showed itself to be superficial. The outrage on Nandish-Rashmi ‘cheating’ was one easy example.
Another notable aspect this season was that the focus for the most part remained on the ‘good’ in all the individual performances and their relationship nuances. The judges did seem lenient (questionable, as there were no audience votes until finals), but this provided a very positive air to the show, unlike the usual contest shows, where the stress that comes out with tough competition is magnified in hopes of fetching numbers.
Rithvik Dhanjani and Karan Patel conjured up just the right chemistry to play their parts in making the entertainment wholesome. With an effortless stage presence, both of them seemed to have struck an accurate balance in regards to humor and sensibility. Anchoring reality shows need a careful restraint to make sure that the actual content gets enough platform and Rithvik and Karan knew very well when to take backstage and when to come forward.
Nach Baliye Panchnama:
Through daily Panchnama, NB 7 added a ‘Big Boss’ element to this season and surprisingly got away with it. Every day at 11:30, the Panchnama episodes threw a ‘love challenge’ for its contestants which aimed at testing their compatibility, love, friendship and at times, patience. This genre of reality TV, where competitive tasks are given under pressure, creates a great amount of tension and sometimes brings out the worst in people. This tried and tested formula for getting numbers, was actually put to some good use here.
Quite a few tasks were impressive in their innovative creativity and in fact brought out uninhibited sides of the contestants in a pleasant way. The task where newspaper articles were given out to each couple to guess who it was about made for a good watch, as it showed, on one side, the presumptions the contestants shared about each other and on the other, the raw expressions/reactions from people who were the news subject. The fact that it was done amidst genuine laughter and fun, set it apart from other reality based shows. ‘ Aji Sunte ho’ was another example of an innovative fun task, where the complains of the women were to be guessed by the men on the basis of lip-reading.
Some tasks on the other hand, were monotonous and the dramatic reactions of contestants to a few of them did seem manufactured for the sake of the cameras. For example, when the karwachauth thalis were lesser than the required no., the short collective mutiny among the girls about not doing it did not gather any steam. When few minutes later, someone suggested they should do it, the quick agreement made it seem like planned drama.
However , showing celebrities off stage, doing tasks which involve intimate details about their personal lives, might look like a sure shot way of getting numbers, but the way it’s done makes huge difference. It’s a grey zone, both for a celebrity, who voluntarily, puts their personal life on display to be judged, and the viewer, who is wary of a scenario where too many details could be revealed that they could have lived without. Panchnama scores in this regard as a subtle restraint was exercised all through, where things never got out of hand. Intimate details were revealed but the show handled it differently, by using it to show how there is always room for improvements/hope in relationships rather than going for the usual reality TV way: Freezing the vulnerable moments in black and white to flash it repeatedly on your TV screen.
Nandish-Rashmi were brought out as a couple very much in love despite domestic problems, Mrunal-Sharad were daringly vulnerable in putting on display their need for Sharad’s parents approval and Arpit -Nidhi stood up for themselves by continuously providing validation to their runaway marriage. Extreme personal issues were shared in order to communicate that there is always room for hope, not in order to make tabloid headlines.
The Grand finale Night started with an explosive opening act with cameos from everyone involved in the show and set the mood just right for a spectacular ending to a happening season. The festive evening was further highlighted by absolutely electric performances by all the four finalists, amplified by picturesque sets. A lot of varied content was packed together in this three hour telecast, but except for the dance acts, most of them left a lukewarm effect at best. The comedy acts did not have any effect due to an average script, whether it was Gaurav Gera’s stand-up or Chetan vs Marji mimicry. The funny awards given out intermittently were predictable and the entertainment quotient kept wobbling trying to balance itself too much on the Chetan Bhagat element. To Mr. Bhagat’s credit, it did work out well in parts, with his dance act being one of the most entertaining portions of the show. The ‘aji sunte ho’ challenge with Mrs Bhagat made for a fun watch as well, in addition to almost all the jokes made on his expense.
Rithvik set the stage on fire with his performance and fused the evening with a charming spontaneity through his uninhibited hosting. He was deftly complimented by a contained Karan, who brought on nostalgia by his act on a medley of Sharukh Khan Numbers. Ajay Devgan’s laconic participation contributed some precious gravity to the air and Darshan’s singing in the later part of the show added a much needed poignancy to the finale. The final performance from all four contestants just before the results, was wildly unrestrained and made the countdown to the result more charged. The emotional element was well exploited by involving family members of some of the contestants but was not taken overboard. The success of NB 7 was obvious when up until the final moment of the result; the verdict was utterly unpredictable with considerable amount of support for all three remaining couples. It was a moment worth applause when the winning couple’s (Amrita and Himmanshoo) choreographers were called on stage and acknowledged as much as the winners.
This season will be remembered for really classy performances owing to genuine talent and back breaking hard work. It will also be remembered for bringing out the humane sides of celebrities who dared to display, not just their dance skills but their imperfect lives to everyone. Through sensitive handling of these issues in the show, most of them in return, gained genuine love and respect for choosing to stay raw and real both on stage and off stage, instead of faking reality. The’ too much’ experiment was in all its right, a successful one and will be seen as a model of a kind to innovate reality TV.