It had to be one of the strangest moments ever on Indian television. Sanjay Nirupam, Mumbai’s original moral policeman and once staunch defender of Bal Thackeray, a Shiv Sainik-turned-Congressman, dressed in a starched white kurta-pyjama and Nehru jacket, hands behind his back, being escorted by Rahul Mahajan, one-time alleged drug abuser and brief inmate of Tihar jail, son of the late politician Pramod Mahajan.
Shocking: Goody was diagnosed with cancer and left Bigg Boss 2 after we went to press. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe / Reuters
“This one is Indian-style, that one is Western-style. There are no cameras in the bathrooms,” said Rahul, reassuring Nirupam, who by then had met all the inadequately dressed women in the Bigg Boss 2 house and was probably calculating how many days it would take him to convince them to cover up.
I’m already hooked.
By now you know that actor Shilpa Shetty has replaced Arshad Warsi as host of the second season of India’s favourite reality show (“Hello India!” she said, to emphasize her global citizen status). So what if Warsi was cooler, he can’t carry off a Manish Malhotra sari the colour of the British flag; and he certainly can’t compete on waist-to-hip-curve ratio.
Indian women are going to closely track what (and how) Shetty wears on this show. Already, in the first episode, she tucked in her sari pallu firmly so her back was fully exposed and she tossed her freshly-streaked hair around often enough so we could notice the jewelled clasp that held her blouse together.
It didn’t bother me that Shetty repeated herself. “What is your game plan?” she asked all the participants as she introduced them. All of them, except two, said they wanted to have fun and just be themselves.
Jade Goody, Shetty’s infamous tormentor who was voted off the UK version of the same show for her racist remarks about the Indian actor, understandably, didn’t use that line. “I’ve changed for the better. The people of India have seen only a small amount of me, I want them to see there's more to me,” Goody said. “I'm a businesswoman, I'm a mother, I can't be that bad.” It’s not going to be easy for Goody — she can’t understand Hindi and there’s more chance of the participants mocking her Essex accent on this show. The organizers have ensured that Goody doesn’t get voted out in the first week as she is an “international guest” — who has been paid a lot of money to appear on this show.
Nirupam, the other contestant with a higher goal, wants to show India that politicians are normal people too.
So, in short, there’s a holier-than-thou politician, a loser/divorced son of a late politician, an item girl who the loser is rumoured to be dating, a cleanliness freak/mother hen from the saas-bahu world, a drunk/easily angered ex of another saas-bahu type, a gangster’s moll, an Englishwoman with an unpleasant track record, another (hot tempered) item girl, better known as the Helen of Bhojpuri films (because she danced to Mehbooba in the Bhojpuri version of Sholay), a (divorced/separated) television actress we had all forgotten about, a model, a comedian, a singer, a winner of MTV Roadies (here mainly because of his cooking skills, I think) and an ordinary Mumbai girl who acquired an accent when she studied in the UK. It boggles the mind to think what will happen when all these people, trapped in the same house, focus on being themselves.
They could begin by comparing criminal records, sharing notes about failed marriages and exchanging spouse-abuse stories.
The men’s bedroom (which is separated from the women’s bedroom only by a glass partition) is a especially scary indicator of the state of the Indian male. Last year, we spent hours watching bitchy men and women engage in petty fights; this year, who knows, there could be some serious violence.
I know I’m tuning in to Bigg Boss 2 at 10pm on Colors every night.
PS: Last year’s winner, Rahul Roy, said he believed the gangster’s moll would win. He said she had the ability to handle anything because “she’s already been stripped of all her dignity in life”.
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