Bollywood in Bat Yam?

Indian reality stars shoot show for MTV originally created by Israelis.

Chat House contestants 311 (photo credit: Erik Sahlin)
Chat House contestants 311
(photo credit: Erik Sahlin)
Erik Sahlin writes for NoCamels.
If you are walking around Bat Yam, you might be confused into thinking you have been transported to a Bollywood film production. That’s because for the past few weeks, the city has been hosting over 40 Indian reality TV stars, producers and film directors for a famous MTV India reality show that was invented in Israel.
The show, Chat House, is an original format created by Gili Golan and Harel Josefson from Israeli Tanin Productions. Chat House has seen over one million people tuning in after only a few episodes and sees the contestants compete for a million rupee (NIS 70,000). The show blurs the lines between the real and online world where the objective is to get as many members as possible to your chat room.
Chat House blends a traditional reality show with second life-type avatars. In the beginning of the show, the contestants only know each other as online avatars. Later they are introduced to each other in real life.
Creators Gili Golan and Harel Josefson with co-producer Shashwat Singh (Erik Sahlin)
Creators Gili Golan and Harel Josefson with co-producer Shashwat Singh (Erik Sahlin)
As opposed to other reality TV shows like Big Brother with grueling eliminations, in Chat House the contestants never get eliminated. The winner is simply the person who has amassed the largest number of friends.
“'If you don’t have friends, you have nothing.' That’s the tagline of the show,” says Josefson.
“The first time I heard about the concept, I realized it was the next big thing,” says Shashwat Singh from Rocket Productions PLC who is co-producing the show together with Tanin Productions. “The most groundbreaking thing with this reality show format is that it has no eliminations,” he tells NoCamels.
The production team decided to shoot the show in Israel because of the “top-notch infrastructure” in Bat Yam’s TV studios and also because the avatar technology used in the show is an Israeli innovation.
One of the contestants in the Chat House (Erik Sahlin)
One of the contestants in the Chat House (Erik Sahlin)
“I had never been to Israel before so I didn’t know how the country worked, but when I got here I realized that this place is a lot like India [in its culture and set of complex problems],” says Shashwat Singh.
The format of the show was marketed for the first time during MIPTV in Cannes earlier this year. MIPTV is the world’s biggest market for television formats that brings buyers from all over the world. It immediately attracted the interest of MTV India.
“They loved the avatar idea, because second life is very popular in India and this is the only show that involves something like Second Life in a television show,” says Gili Golan.
So far the show has been a hit in India, with a Facebook page that has over one million fans and is growing by 50,000 new fans every day.
But it’s not only Indian TV stars you might spot in the beach city of Bat Yam. Chat House has so far also been sold to Russian, French and German Channels.
“I think Israeli formats are very popular because they are smart and particularly cost effective,” Golan tells NoCamels. “With the [current] economic situation, many television companies look for shows that are cost effective.”
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