At some point in time, after reality shows started airing on television & especially after they took over the "saas-bahu" soaps of late, we have all wondered what they must be actually like, meaning, how much of what we see on television is real and how much is scripted. Even the news for that matter! "The 6pm Slot" by Naomi Datta pretty much answers all our queries through a story of an entertainment channel, and its goof-ups with a new show that they come up with to raise their ratings in the 6pm slot.
The story begins at an office in YTV (Youth TV), an entertainment channel, with Rahul- the PPT obsessed managing director of YTV breaking his head with Harish- his ass licking deputy, to find a way of increasing viewership on the almost dead 6pm slot. Together, they come up with an idea of starting a Love show at 6pm with a sexy, scantily clad model as the host assuming a lot of Indian men would atleast tune in to lech. Meanwhile, the protagonist Tania Shah is having a tough time taking appointments from pets for her celebrity pet show. She heaves a sigh of relief when she is assigned this new Love show by Rahul instead and is made the supervising producer. This is a big break in her career of two years and she decides to give it her all. A show called Love Calls is finally born with upcoming model Vrushali Salve as the anchor. She's portrayed to be the ideal sex goddess for the Indian males owing to her "thunder thighs". The show is about solving love problems from callers all over India. This actually took me back to those MTV Love-Line days with Malaika Arora as the host. Along with the callers and the advice she would dish out to them, the increased viewership was also largely due to her long legs. Anyway, so, with Vrushali's funny grammar, a Maharashtrian accent and the need to include "yeah" wherever punctuations are required, Tania has a tough time with her on the show.
A few blocks away, Rajneesh Tiwari, managing editor & primetime anchor of YNN, a top English news channel is nervous & all heated up because he can't find an exciting story. He throws paroxysms of rage at his "thinking tank" asking them to come up with something that would drive the ratings of the news channel.
At YTV, the calls start coming in on Love Calls, the TRPs increase and the channel's greed for better ratings leads them to air one call that Tania repeatedly disapproves of. It's that of a dying girl called Jassi, who calls on the show from Chandigarh saying she has cancer & two months to live. So here's Jassi with dead parents, cancer and an ex boyfriend who leaves her to marry her first cousin in a month's time. Vrushali goofs up with this call by handling it in a rather insensitive and dumb manner. Rajneesh Tiwari accidentally views this call and jumps with joy at having found his story! He starts a segment on his show called "Justice for Jassi", which plays at the end of every newscast as a bulletin.
What follows later is a havoc at YTV, a search for Jassi by YNN in all of Chandigarh, verbal blows by YNN at YTV for their "negligence & insensitivity" for Jassi, a candlelight march for Jassi at Delhi and a third magazine "Conscience Calls" intervening to put both the channels to shame!
Naomi Datta has very well portrayed the things entertainment channels do for their ratings, and the things that news channels do for a story!
'Welcome to the world of television, where nothing is ever what it appears.'
For her debut novel, I must say Naomi has aced it! This book is so gripping you will have a hard time laying it down until you've reached the end. It has the right amount of humor, twists and detail. She has etched each character well, and the surprise elements in this book (especially towards the climax) make it all the more interesting to read. The only downside of the book (not sure if I'd call it a downside) is that it contains a lot of "Indianisms" and Hindi words/expletives that restricts it to an Indian readership alone. But considering it has been written against the backdrop of Indian television & viewers, it is a job done very well. It was worth the time and I'd definitely recommend it.
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