This study explores the production practices of Tamil reality television programs and the children participating in them using frameworks of Reification
(Lukacs, 1923) and Biopolitics (Foucault, 1979) to examine the cultural and ideological aspects of institutional power and parental domination in the production sets and the attendant practices of Tamil reality television. Tamil reality television has been chosen as it caters to a huge domestic and diasporic market outside India. Reality television shows that revolve around the lives of children have become popular to audiences of all ages, which is evident in their success across diverse channels and various demographics (Palmer, 2013). With the increase in the number of reality shows and child participants arises a critical need of questioning the power of those in authority over the most powerless group, child artists, who cannot provide mature consent towards the work they do with adults. Child artists, being the glamourised and unquestioned quotient of child labour, have always escaped critical scrutiny from the society and academics. This paper rises critical questions on: (i) Prevalence of ethical production practices involving child participants (ii) Is it a safe shooting ambience for child artists? (iii) Are there any measures taken to protect the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of a child participant? The researcher being an insider in the reality television programmes, as a freelance floor director and coordinator for more than ten years now, this paper takes leverage of the same. Self-reflexive auto-ethnographic writing, supported by in-depth interviews with child artists, parents and production crew, forms the backbone of this paper. The study is part of my doctoral research in progress and covers a sample of 8 dance reality shows in five different Tamil channels with 18 child artists.
Keywords: Children, Tamil Reality Television, Production Practices, Reification, Biopolitics, Lukacs, Foucault