By the time I write this, four episodes of Bigg Boss are over. That’s four days of the husband reiterating, “I don’t know how you can watch this stuff.”
It’s possibly because, with the Rs100 crore-plus advertising revenues it attracts, Bigg Boss is India’s biggest TV show. Because where else in India can you get ringside seats to watch a bona-fide dacoit from the notorious Chambal ravines interact with a Mumbai model while Pakistan’s most famous cross-dresser and the sacked lawyer of the only surviving terrorist of Mumbai’s 26/11 attacks look on? Because of the build-up. The names of people you are likely to see on Bigg Boss “leak” a couple of months before the show airs and range from Pamela Anderson to Zeenat Aman. Because the format of the show is such that even though it’s a reality show, viewers expect it to have the drama of a fiction show. So far, reality has always delivered for Bigg Boss.
Already, in the first four episodes of this show, the Shiv Sena has protested, Delhi’s best known thief—immortalized by director Dibakar Banerjee in the 2008 film Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!—has made a dramatic exit, three people have sobbed on camera, one is known for the heels she never gets out of and, clearly, a romance is brewing. There are at least two women who say they were abused by the men they dated, two men with above average biceps, at least two women who have dated bad boy cricketers, two people previously involved in an MMS scandal and God knows how many who have been chastized by the law.
There’s also one Bhojpuri actor who has a Dutch stamp named after him—although a website later reported that the stamp was actually placed on order at postal operator TNT Post, where you can upload a photo and get multiple stamps home-delivered.
Of course, by the time we’ve spent 11 hours with these crazies and criminals in the glamorous new house, Amitabh Bachchan will be ready to go head-to-head with Kaun Banega Crorepati (Monday to Thursday on Sony, from 11 October). The Rs5 crore prize is the highest ever on Indian television. Five days later, on 16 October, Akshay Kumar will jump in to host Masterchef India, every Saturday and Sunday on Star. Like on Bigg Boss, the winner of Masterchef will get Rs50 lakh; the latter will also offer the winner a chance to host a food show on national television. The only day Bigg Boss won’t have competition in the 9pm slot will be on Fridays. You’ll see high-energy host Salman Khan, whose inaugural episode ratings at least were better than his predecessors, twice every week on Fridays and Saturdays.
Bigg Boss: Housemates Ali (left) and Patel.
Khan was all nicely pleased and puffed up from the success of his last release Dabangg. In the first episode, in the midst of introducing the contestants and the house, he flung himself on the dining table, kissed the camera, did stomach crunches on stage, made jail jokes, flirted with the women and took one of them for a staged spin on a sponsored Suzuki bike.
The sponsers are everywhere this season. All the red and white you see on the coffee mugs and bean bags are courtesy Vodafone (there’s even a lifesize Zoozoo in the activity area; the common loo is stacked with Garnier Men products; and all the white goods in the house are courtesy LG).
This year, says Ashvini Yardi, programming head at Colors, the channel worked to make the show younger. Yardi says she sees more than one love story unfolding in the house. Ask her why anyone would want to spend three months locked up with a dozen strangers and she says people participate for various reasons. “They come on to clear their name, for money, for fame, or purely to understand themselves better.” She likes to liken it to a kind of postmodern Vipassana where an urbanite must survive without a phone, a book, pen or paper. Whether you and me stick with crime and Vipassana over food and big-ticket quizzing will only be clear in the weeks ahead.
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