By Radhika Bhirani
New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) Horror shows are back to spook television viewers, but with a touch of 'reality'!
Good old thrillers like "Aahat" and "Maano Ya Na Maano" have made a comeback with a refreshed look. But what's new is that the horror genre is also seeping into the non-fiction space with shows like Bindass' "The Chair" and MTV's "Girls Night Out".
While contestants get a chance to connect with the paranormal in the subconscious mind in "The Chair", three girls dare to go to a haunted location and stay for an entire night, every week, on "Girls Night Out".
The sudden demand for such shows is the result of youth's desire for challenges, says Nikhil Gandhi, business head, UTV Bindass.
"All our shows are backed by research about what youngsters want to watch, and our research indicated that they want content which seems challenging. We wanted to experiment with spirits...and what could be more exciting for youth than to be able to challenge the supernatural? That's how 'The Chair' was born," Gandhi told IANS.
No wonder these shows have caught the fancy of youngsters as the fear of the unknown, dead and supernatural gives them the jitters - but watching others in such situations brings them some kind of pleasure.
"The supernatural space has always intrigued me. My friends used to plan to call spirits, but at the end everyone used to chicken out. However, with shows like these, it is interesting to watch people of our age as they are caught in the midst of a haunted location. The way they scream, the darkness... it is all so exciting," said 23-year-old Arisha Virmani, an avid viewer of horror shows.
The setting and the look of the shows play an imperative part in making these horror reality shows look as real as possible - and that in itself is quite a challenge for the crew.
"These shows, unlike other colourful reality content, are shot with night vision cameras. In 'The Chair', we attach the camera with the contestant so that no crew or person is around him. You can see the contestant as he is...sweating, panting, scared. It makes the show believable," said Gandhi.
However, if Namit Sharma of Wizcraft Television is to be believed, "it is very hard to make horror reality shows believable".
"We have many ideas coming in from writers for the horror reality space, but they seem very unrealistic to us as viewers. One even suggested that we should try putting 10 celebrities in a haunted house and shoot for a reality show... but I was not totally convinced. And frankly, we will have to wait and watch if horror and reality will meet for a long time," Sharma, business head and chief creative director of Wizcraft Television, told IANS.
"As a creative individual, I have tried hard to crack the code of making these shows convincing and believable...but sadly, I couldn't. Nevertheless, fiction horror shows have worked well on the small screen," he added.
Well, they certainly have - considering "Aahat", the first series which ran for over a decade till 2007, made a comeback after two years to a roaring response.
Now producers have started a refreshed series of "Aahat", for which they have roped in 12 popular television celebrities, to play themselves.
Names like Roshni Chopra, Aashka Goradia, Vivan Bhatena, Gautam Rode, Ketaki Dave, Tanaaz Irani, Bakhtiyaar Irani, Aryan Vaid, Bobby Darling, Karishma Tanna and Sanjit Bedi are part of the show.
"The audience was getting used to our single episode format; so this time we brought a whole story for 16 episodes, involving a bunch of known faces to grab eyeballs. The show 'Maut Ka Khel' is actually fictional, but the story is set in a reality show," explained producer B.P. Singh of Fireworks Productions.
"The story traces how these celebrities enter a reality show where they have to live in a 200-year-old haunted haveli, and survive through spooky attacks by spirits. The fact that the celebrities play themselves, and have not been given any fictional names, is what adds to the drama," Singh added.
The popularity of fictional horror content on TV went up with shows like "Shubh Kadam", "Shree" and "Shhh...Phir Koi Hai", "Black" and "Koi Aane Ko Hai" last year.
Wonder if horror reality content will be able to repeat the same success.