We know them as the two bad, bald guys on MTV -- the ones who host reality shows Roadies and Splitsvilla, grilling the contestants and bringing excitement and controversy to the shows for viewers.
Raghu Ram has been around since the inception of Roadies, the popular reality travel show wherein contestants take a road trip across India and abroad on motorbikes and compete in various dares and challenges (they vote out the least popular contestants from amongst themselves at the end of each week). Rajeev Laxman, his twin brother, recently joined him to make this season of Roadies: Hell Down Under real hell! If you thought one was torture, two are a catastrophe waiting to happen.
However, there is more to the brothers than the lean, mean side we see on television. Insiyah Vahanvaty catches up with them to find out more.
Let's start off with the question topmost in your audience's mind -- what's with the tough attitude on Roadies?
Rajeev: Since Roadies is a reality show, we place an unbelievable premium on the cast. Because once the contestants are selected, it's them who will make the show. We need a certain kind of cast -- people who are reactive, expressive and not too introverted.
Once on the show, they are told not to interact with us at all -- to the extent that if they are walking and see us coming towards them, they're supposed to turn around and walk back. We want to keep them isolated to an extent, interacting with each other only, not bringing their problems to us.
As for the toughness, well, that's pretty much who we are. The way Raghu and I react to certain situations may seem aggressive and tough, but that's who we are. If we want our contestants to be real, it's only fair that we meet them midway, and be real ourselves. We get really pissed off if people are disrespectful towards women, or any other section of people. And I hate it when people make statements like, 'It's against the Indian culture'. Most of the problems in this country arise from prejudices like these. When faced with this stuff during the auditions, we lose it. But, contrary to popular belief, it's not a put-on for the cameras. In fact, I'd go as far as to say I'm actually tougher in real life.
We've been known for our boorish behaviour long before the show came about (laughs). We're always aggressive with people like this.
Another reason for 'uncalled-for' aggression is to test a person. To see how s/he will react under pressure. Also, many people come for the auditions trying to be who they think we want them to be. So we sometimes get aggressive to see if the nice guy act is real. We're always watching their reactions very closely to bring out their character and see if they are cast-worthy. When I say 'cast-worthy', I mean right for the show. It's in no way meant to be a stamp of approval for one's character.
Raghu: You are defining it as a tough attitude, we are not. I wouldn't say it's aggression as much as passion. But if the situation warrants it, it comes out a little aggressively, since it's not put on. If you were to pay attention to when I sound aggressive, you'd be able to point out the reason for it too.
I have strong points of view about society, culture, what is permissible and what is not, about attitudes and things that have led to many of the problems around us. Till these attitudes don't change, the problems wont go away either. These things infuriate me.
I have very close personal knowledge of bullies, bigots and hypocrites. If you're the kind of person that thinks homosexuals are retarded, then neither do you know anything about homosexuals, nor are you interested in finding out, because the topic repulses you. In that case, I think it would be useless for me to try and reason with you. A strong viewpoint has to be met with a stronger viewpoint. A loud voice has to be countered with a louder voice, according to me.
I am intolerant to intolerance, which is why I often lose my temper. Political debates that I have with my friends are also loud and aggressive. It's who I am.
On Roadies, the situations we have engineered are designed to bring out certain emotions and test certain behaviours and attitudes. Like, in the last episode a bunch of contestants ganged up on a wounded girl, so Rajeev and I got really pissed and screamed our heads off at them.
The exercise was to see if they do the obvious thing -- which is to bully people. They would have won my respect if they would have said, 'Let's not do it -- let's just stay as a team and we'll see what happens.'
Sometimes on the auditions we really like someone and just want to be sure. So we lose our tempers over a seemingly small thing to see how they react to it.
Caption: Raghu and Rajiv on the sets of Roadies.
Photographs courtesy: MTV
Also see: 'Fail fast to succeed sooner!'