Patna/Mumbai: It's just another busy day on the streets of Patna. But as the city gets ready to switch off for the night, 29-year-old Manoj Kumar or Manoj Pager as friends and clients call him, has other plans
"I watch Filmfare awards for style and inspiration. I also watch Shah Rukh Khan. Aaj ke zamaane mein, bina matlab aur swarth ke koi kaam nahi karta. Zameen ke aadmi ko TV channel star banate hai. Log jinko pehchane lkagte hai wo dekho manoj jar raha hai. Nahi jeeto to bhi theek hai (If the channel shows you on screen, you become a star. People recognise and talk about you. Even if you don't win, you become famous)," Manoj says.
"If audition don't dates clash, I will participate in both Indian Idol and Voice of India. We all live on hope," he says.
Manoj lost his parents early in life but his dream of being famous lives on. His passion for singing saw him start off young with performances in local orchestras in Patna and three years ago, when an unknown young orchestra singer like him called Abhijeet Sawant became an idol overnight, Manoj's dream got a shot in the arm.
Reality TV in India runs on the Great Indian Hope Trick and Manoj is just one amongst millions across the country who pin their hopes on the next big Reality TV show for a shot at fame, money and life in the big city's fast lane.
It's a format that's been grabbing eyeballs, topping TRP charts and ruling the mind space.
It's given the average couch potato the power to turn a small town wannabe into the next superstar in a few weeks like Indian reality television's first poster boy - Abhijeet Sawant.
Abhijeet was a middle class boy who started his career singing at weddings and 2005 saw him become the country's first Indian Idol. Now three years later, life has changed.
"When I sat on the sofa at the sets, I know I wanted to buy it. I felt like royalty when I first sat down. We never thought we would be able to afford a place like this in a posh locality. It feels great. We never thought we could afford it," Abhijeet says about his days before he became Indian Idol.
"It was strange to have the camera following you all the time. I used to run away from it. You are eating, crying and the camera is following you. Now the newer lot knows what to do, what to expect. We didn't," he says
The genre has also given small time celebrities a platform to resurrect their careers.
Rakhi Sawant says, "I love reality shows. I can be myself. If it wasn't for reality shows, I would have not got item songs for Krazzy 4"
She began with a reality show Big Boss and soon became the toast of Reality TV. And the show goes on with yet another reality talent show
Life for Rakhi has turned into a reality show 24x7. She knows what people want and delivers.
Reality shows invite people to lay their talents, their emotions and their life bare in front of the camera. That is what makes their stories arresting for the millions of viewers to stop and watch and stay hooked.
Viewers like Amita Luv and her friends meet, watch and talk reality TV.
"We voted for Abhijeet Sawant, the first Indian Idol," Amita proudly says.
"Some of them were not working, jobless. They needed the money. Earlier I was known only in Bihar and UP. But now people across the country were watching me, finding me entertaining. This is what I was doing all my life. I would cry when I missed my children. I even got attracted. It tests human nature" Bhojpuri film actor and another participant of Big Boss Ravi Kishen says.
While 80 per cent of an entertainment channel's programming still comes from saas bahu sagas, the slice of Reality TV has gone up to a 20 per cent.
Their popularity and rage is such that even the mighty Bollywood can't ignore it.
The biggest names in Bollywood - musicians, singers, actors, directors, entire star cast of films, out of work starlets - they are all here cashing in.
Ready to come on as judges, guests, contestants; shake a leg at the drop of a hat, these shows have everything to piggyback on the success of reality genre.
Stars apart Reality TV is essentially about regular people with no sugar daddies, who will go to any lengths for their share of stardom.
And why wouldn't they for their 15 seconds of fame.
"The reason why they work is because we as humans love negativity. We are cynical, look at the soaps. How many women are crying in them? They die, they get reborn but people still watch. We love seeing jealousy, hatred, piss off, that's what we want. That's our idea of entertainment. I don't get actors to do this. If I can get the same reactions out of real people, nothing like it. Reality comes from a real reaction of a real person, as opposed to an actor to a situation," Raghu Ram, Senior Supervising Producer, MTV, explains.