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Reality TV's not so 'bigg' slog

All of reality TV is voyeuristic and thrives on encouraging contestants to fight and flirt, writes Poonam Saxena.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2006 15:09 IST

So, is Bigg Boss, modelled on Endemol’s Big Brother, going to end up as a Bigg Bore? Or is it going to be the Bigg Bonanza of the year for Sony? Internationally, Big Brother has usually chosen ordinary people for the reality show, but in India, the Sony version has opted for celebrities.

The channel should have at least gone for B-list celebs; instead, it has zeroed in on members from the D-list. Not surprising actually. Who, in their right minds, would agree to being cooped up in a house full of strangers for three months, with no access to the outside world?

All the losers and exhibitionists of the world, keen to make a little money, and equally keen to become a little more famous than they are currently?

Even so. I am sure Rakhi Sawant can probably make as much, if not more, money dancing in Kolhapur or Sholapur. Surely Carol Gracias, of the wardrobe malfunction fame, has some modelling offers, even if they are for scotch tape or glue. But then, what about contestants like Rahul Roy? It is highly unlikely that filmmakers are beating down his door, trying to get him to sign their films.

Bigg Boss has also clearly been edited to suit Indian sensibilities. Abroad, Big Brother has cameras even in the loos (why, why would anyone want to see anyone in the loo?) But in Bigg Boss, there are no loo shots and there is no sexy footage. (Mahila activists would have seizures while filing their PILs).

Here, viewers have to content themselves with watching Roopali Ganguly call Anupama Varma a chudail and an outraged Anupama call Roopali a sadu.

Clearly some of the contestants are having a tough imprisonment. Bobby Darling is very sad, Deepak Parasher is very unpopular. Ravi Kisshen hates being away from his children, Ragini hates being a mole… But some of them are not doing too badly. Aryan Vaid is so willing to extend a comforting hand to the ladies, he might soon run out of hands. Rakhi Sawant, who may be under the misapprehension that she is in Kolhapur or Sholapur, is busy doing item numbers here too.

All of reality TV is intensely voyeuristic and thrives on encouraging contestants to fight, flirt, and bitch about each other. That’s when it becomes drawing room gossip — the lifeblood of such shows. If the international format is the template for success, Bigg Boss will work when there is conflict and cattiness. If everyone turns into Saint Sawant and Saint Gracias, sorry no go. Also, as the show unfolds, many of these D-list celebrities are sure to end up as B-list stars. And in the process, Sony itself may finally get a show with ratings that are A-list.

TV news channels refuse to draw a veil over the veil controversy. After Barkha Dutt’s We The People, Pankaj Pachauri of NDTV India did an episode on the veil in Hum Log. From Srinagar, he had a representative of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, who was so heavily veiled that all we could see on screen was an indeterminate black shape.

But there were many other less heavily veiled and even more vocal women in the audience — like Sadia Dehlvi who spoke about sharm and hayaa being an Indian woman’s ornaments (speak for yourself, Ms Dehlvi, Rakhi Sawant or Mallika Sherawat certainly wouldn’t agree with you and they are as Indian as anyone else). A couple of learned Muslim gentleman argued so fiercely about whether the Quran says women should cover their faces or not, you felt like covering their mouths. Pankaj Pachauri kept saying that there were more vital issues before the Muslim community apart from the veil (like illiteracy, poverty, unemployment etc), and tried to deflect the discussion towards these subjects, but without any success.

And finally, did the Australian cricket team push poor Sharad Pawar away or not? Even before that particular clip was repeated on all the news channels ad nauseum, I had watched the end of the match (this is what happens when you have a cricket-crazy spouse), and it was very clear — they did give him a bit of a push, so desperately keen were they for the photo-op. But push came to shove, and we are left wondering – are the Aussies real champions?