"Channels across genres are using dating shows to reach out to youth", says a report in 'The Brand Reporter, the fortnightly print magazine from agencyfaqs.com.
The report goes on to mention shows like 'Agent Love' on Channel [V], Har Dil jo love karega on Zoom, Humse Dosti Karoge on Star Gold and Hello Friend on Vijay TV.
Amar Deb, head honcho, Channel [V] is quoted as saying, "Everyone wants to copy a good idea. [V] Crush was one of our most successful shows and has led to a lot of other channels following the path."
True, there are a number of shows with the word love, dil or pyaar in them - but are they really about 'dating'? And can you honestly call them a success??
From what I remember of Crush, it was a show where lovelorn young men were assisted in tracking down some long lost "crush". They would then land up to 'surprise' the girl by landing up at her doorstep with a TV crew. Some went as far as singing besura love songs outisde the hapless girl's house.
Naturally, not all girls were overjoyed - and neither were their parents. Neither did it make for 'compelling' viewing.
Coming to 'Agent Love' - well, the idea here is for a VJ to select a random boy and girl and convince them to go on a blind date. As a bonus the couple gets a free makeover.
One young man whose friend happened to be selected as 'random boy' described the experience thus:
"We searched an entire shopping mall for some girl who would be willing to go on a blind date. No one volunteered. Finally, a young woman from the [V] PR team sat in a Barista and 'posed' as a random girl. We both got makeovers - and went on a 'date'."
This, he says, is what generally happens. While there are more than enough guys willing, girls just think it's a dumb idea/ worry what mom will say/ already have a (jealous) boyfriend.
Forget reality shows, take a look at Indian 'dating' sites. The guys registered generally outnumber girls by 10: 1.
There are girls who are into dating, but generally those girls are already spoilt for attention - and choice - in the real world.
A large number of girls on the other hand do not have the freedom to date. They know it would be against their family's wishes and hence consciously stay away from 'such things'.
Or they are too timid/ underconfident to think of attracting the opposite sex. They are intimidated by the 'hep' girls who dress and groom themselves better.
The net could offer them a chance to date, but they're neither net-savvy nor have unrestricted use of a home PC. Actually going to a cybercafe, alone, to chat with strange boys would be asking for too much courage on their part!
So, the available pool of 'date-able' girls remains restricted.
Guys on the other hand - even those from so called conservative families - are keen to date. But, they don't want to date behenjis. Ever hopeful, they register on dating sites where, unfortunately, few are able to even describe themselves cohenrently.
'Hi! I'm Jites and I want friendship with girls" is the standard opening line and as can be expected, it gets them nowhere!
The tide eventually turns, as girls do register in large numbers for matrimonial sites. But then the profile is older - average age being about 25.
Show me the honey
Getting back to the 'dating shows' enumerated, I would not even classify the others as such. The Zoom TV show, for example, is about a bunch of girls singing and dancing to impress a celebrity judge.
Delhi University Sociology lecturer Grace Nemching says in the article,"A lot of viewers watch these shows for pure entertainment. Some watch such shows believing they will help them in picking up some dating tips."
Singing and dancing to impress your potential mate? Sounds more like an arranged marriage to me!
Bottomline: Dating is still alien to 'Indian culture' because it implies mental and possibly physical contact with a series of people from the opposite sex. And most parents/ society at large is unable to accept this trial and error kind of sampling of 'love'.