India's raunchy TV hit delights viewers, agitates lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am

Indian lawmakers have demanded a popular TV show be banned, saying the programme, in which participants reveal their most intimate and embarrassing secrets, offends 'good taste and decency'.

The Indian version of the American reality show Moment of Truth, known as Sach Ka Samna (Face the Truth), was launched on July 15 and has shocked some Indians with the sexually explicit questions put to the participants.

Indian men have publicly admitted to adultery, lusting after relatives and visiting prostitutes, while wives have confessed to wishing that their husbands were better-endowed.

One woman admitted in a recent episode that she had tried to get her husband murdered while he looked on, sitting opposite her.

Participants have to answer increasingly intimate questions, with the cash rewards rising to a final prize of 10 million rupees (HK$1.6 million). A lie detector decides whether the answers are true or false.

MPs accused the programme of vulgarity and of 'destroying' the Indian family and culture. They demanded a ban on the Star Plus programme. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry accused the channel of offending 'good taste and decency' and sent a notice requiring Star Plus to explain by tomorrow why the programme should not be banned. Its officials are expected to argue that the timing, at 10.30pm, is late enough to keep young viewers away, the participants appear voluntarily, and that it is hugely popular.

The first episode saw the highest ratings of any new non-fiction programme in Hindi this year. Some episodes feature celebrities.

Actor Yusuf Hussain admitted to all sorts of philandering and misdeeds but paused when asked if he had been a good father to his daughter. When he replied 'yes', the lie detector said he was lying.

Vasudha Jha, vice-president of corporate communications at Star Plus, said producers were flooded by requests from people keen to appear.

'We've had calls and e-mails from more than 4,500 people since we launched,' she said.

The presenter, Rajeev Khandelwal, said he had been amazed that Indians could be so enthusiastic about answering such personal questions.

'After every episode, I get text messages from viewers in which they confess their secrets to me,' he said.

Herb Irvine, the US polygraph expert conducting the tests, said: 'It's just amazing how, no matter what our cultural differences, we're all harbouring the same kind of secrets.'

MPs were equally agitated last year when the Indian version of international hit Big Brother was broadcast. Reality shows are still fairly new to India where topics such as sex and adultery are still taboo.

'Mahatma Gandhi carried out experiments with truth, seeing how truthful he could be,' said commentator Kanika Gahlaut. 'What we need is these MPs sitting the lie detector test. Now that would be interesting.'