Salman Khan is Bollywood’s uncontested bad boy. Stormy relationships with women, court cases, stints in jail, a propensity for violent behaviour — is there anything he hasn’t been accused of? (Oh yes, he’s also guilty of speaking English in a strange accent — or maybe that’s the way everyone in Bandra speaks). So when I tuned into Dus Ka Dum (Sony), I was prepared to see Salman in his latest avatar as a brash and aggressive TV host. But here’s the surprise. Bollywood’s wildest star comes across as a really nice guy on the show. He’s warm, endearing; he even blushes when the women contestants get overly flirtatious. Either he’s a superb actor (of which we have had no evidence so far) or maybe that’s the real Salman.
The show itself is a zinger, with a great deal of noisy banter and laughter. The channel has been lucky in that the contestants seem to be quite a lively bunch (at least in the couple of episodes that I caught). That adds to the general air of fun and merriment, frankly the only way a show of this sort should be. I mean, can anyone in their right mind get serious about questions concerning the number of men who have holes in their underwear, or the number of men who would allow their wives to participate in a beauty pageant? Actually, Sony should invite viewers to send in questions for the next survey; I’m sure everyone will be only too happy to oblige. (Here are a couple of my own: What percentage of Indian men and women feel homicidal when they see the words ‘Breaking News’ on TV, specially when the news is about Kareena Kapoor losing 10 grams of weight? Or what percentage of Indian men and women believe that Roadies participants have even one grey cell in their heads?)
How Dus Ka Dum fares in the ratings game, of course, remains to be seen. If it doesn’t do well, there’s always a Plan B: Salman can invite all his former girlfriends as contestants.
The other big show that launched last week was the music contest, Junoon Kuch Kar Dikhane Ka (NDTV Imagine). I enjoyed it, mainly because — as it happens so often with music shows — the singing is of a high order. Hrithik Roshan is the ‘goodwill ambassador’ (whatever that means) but I’m not sure if his presence adds anything to the show. In the opening episode, it was clear that his portions had been shot separately on the sets. So there was no interaction with the participants, which is what makes a star’s participation in a TV show interesting. Just seeing Hrithik talk to the camera about how much he likes music, or whatever, is not particularly riveting.
The latest edition of Laughter Challenge (Star One) has Shatrughan Sinha as one of the judges, along with old faithful Navjot Singh Sidhu. The latter still laughs uproariously at each and every joke — just like Archana Puran Singh does on Comedy Circus (Sony). In fact, one of the comedians on Comedy Circus (someone called Rajiv who was dressed as a cheerleader) even joked about how she opens her mouth so wide when she laughs. After which Archana spent the rest of the episode with her hand over her mouth.
And finally. I eventually caught up with Sony’s extreme makeover show, Naya Roop Nayi Zindagi, hosted by Mona Singh. Here, people who have a physical birth defect or who have been disfigured because of something that happened to them, are treated by plastic surgeons. They emerge at the end of the episode with their 'new' faces - a life-changing moment for most of them. I found the episode I saw quite moving in parts. For once, a reality TV show is doing something genuinely worthwhile.