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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

It’s all about human chemistry: why 'Bigg Boss' is so popular in India 

We look at the appeal of the ‘Big Brother’ format ahead of the twelfth season and why audiences across India still love it

Salman Khan, host of Bigg Boss arriving to the launch event of season 12 in Goa earlier this month. Colors
Salman Khan, host of Bigg Boss arriving to the launch event of season 12 in Goa earlier this month. Colors

It is that time of the year again, when even the most rational people leave all logic behind for an hour every day for 100 days and tune in to the latest ­episode of Bigg Boss. I am also one of those people. I mocked friends who were addicted, but I watched one episode of season 6 when I was home alone and bored one night, and here I am six years later, never ­having missed a single episode since.

Bigg Boss is the Indian edition of the international reality television series Big Brother, in which a group of people are locked up in a house for a few months with no access to the outside the world while cameras record every move 24/7.

And what happens when there are large egos under one roof? Drama. Lots of it. The mix of people in the house varies each year, but there is a method to the madness – a handful of drama queens, an import (previous seasons have featured Pamela Anderson and Jade Goody in the house), actor and model wannabes, a few hasbeens, a dumb jock, a few catty television actresses, and a political or religious figure. Contestants are eliminated and replacements are introduced to keep things interesting. The more drama contestants can create to manipulate the audience’s emotions, the more people tune in. There are love affairs, cliques, big fights over little things, friends and enemies – it is like watching a Bollywood film unfold in real time. Yes, it is over the top, but so are our films.

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Read more: Salman Khan the big, bad boy of Bollywood

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The format of this reality TV show indulges its viewers’ voyeurism, and makes for great gossip with friends and family. While Bigg Boss is not exactly family friendly, with all its bleeped out expletives and loud fights, it is definitely cleaner than the international versions in that no intimacy is shown on screen – it is alluded to at times – allowing families to sit together to watch the show without anyone becoming too uncomfortable.

One of the major attractions of the show is certainly Salman Khan. Despite his questionable acting skills and multiple court cases, Khan commands a huge fan following, and a lot of followers tune in especially on weekends to watch the actor deliver his brand of justice to contestants who haven’t behaved that week. And the superstar doesn’t travel alone – he occasionally brings his band of friends from Bollywood to spice things up.

People tune in on weekends to watch the camaraderie between Khan and famous friends (such as Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and many others) – who are on the show mostly to promote their films that are due out soon. They dance, crack jokes, play games and sometimes even enter the house to interact with contestants.

But what makes a season truly successful is the right mix of people – and the last couple of instalments, which were among the show’s most popular, seemed to have nailed it. Keeping fresh by introducing different themes every year, this year too, there is a new twist. For one, the location has shifted from Lonavla to sunny Goa, and this season will see people come in duos as supposed to on their own. Sounds like double the trouble.

Bigg Boss starts on Sunday, September 16, at 9pm on Colors ME

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