India Uncut

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bigg Boss and human nature

Here's Alan Ball on broadcast television in the USA:
The name of the game is whatever gets the largest number of people to watch. What is that? It's a car wreck. It's Fear Factor. It's getting Playboy playmates to eat sheep's eyeballs. They're proud of that! "Look at the numbers we got! Supermodels puked on each other and people tuned in!"
The quote is from Mavericks at Work, by William C Taylor and Polly LaBarre, and readers in India would surely emit a sigh of familiarity on reading it: our examples may be different, but "supermodels puked on each other" is quite what gets the eyeballs in here as well.

And surely you've seen Bigg Boss by now.

I watch it every night.

Reports say that it's not doing too well, but once you watch it for a few minutes, and get a sense of the storylines, it's compulsive viewing. Yes, all reality shows have a veneer of artifice about them, but even that reveals something real, and it isn't pretty.

The bitching and the plotting that goes on in Bigg Boss is quite unbelievable -- even the ToI office, despite its legendary politics, can't be worse -- and the hang-ups the participants have are amazing. Most of them are B-grade celebrities, either has-beens or strugglers, and yet, in their own eyes, they're superstars. Some snippets from last night's episode (I reproduce and translate from memory):

Aryan Vaid tells Kashmera Shah (aka 'Kash'), after she complains that Amit Sadh seems not to like her: Kashmera, I think you're forgetting who you are. You're Kashmera Shah. And who is this Amit Sadh? A TV struggler.

And then Vaid goes on to bitch about Sadh, and how "paka hua" he is, and full of himself. (Regular viewers would no doubt note the unintended irony in that.)

Later, Rakhi Sawant tells Kashmera, as Kashmera is making tea: At least one good thing happened to you here, you learnt how to make tea.

Kashmera replies: Arre, I always knew how to make tea. But for whom? You put Salman Khan here, you see what superb tea I give him, what great biriyani I make. But why should I make tea for Rahul Roy, that one-hit wonder?

And so on. Kashmera, playing the venal schemer to perfection, starts telling her group that Roopali Ganguly is having a scene with Ravi Kishen. Later, Rakhi Sawant tells Roopali that people have this impression of her. The poor girl is naturally distraught, and, in naeka-Bong mode, starts babbling about how all the men in the house are like brothers to her. "I call Ravi's wife 'bhabhi,'" she says. "What does that make Ravi to me?"

"If a man does not belong to his wife," says Rakhi dramatically, "he belongs to no one."

Later Rakhi tells Kashmera of how Roopali said that Ravi was like her brother. Kashmera snorts: She says bhaiyya but actually it's saiyya.

Then there's Aryan Vaid trying to patao Anupama Verma, getting all touchy-feely with her. And there's Deepak Tijori lumbering around, no doubt amused by the action around him. There's Rahul Roy, only his nose visible through his lustrous locks, languidly spouting words of wisdom such as "jo hoga so hoga, yaar."

It's a madhouse, and all these people, behaving weirdly, playing petty games, baring their self-delusion, are real people. This is no Balaji serial, and however much these chaps are aware of the camera, this is still, ultimately, real behaviour. It makes for great viewing (every weeknight at 10pm, on Sony), but I can't help but wonder what it reveals about me that I choose to watch it so religiously. Huh?

Update (November 24): Sakshi Juneja explains why she watches Bigg Boss and is rooting for Rakhi Sawant.
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