Sanjeev Kotnala: Khela Hobe! Bigg Boss 15 on the right track

06 Oct,2022

Sanjeev KotnalaBy Sanjeev Kotnala

 

Many of you know I have been a huge Bigg Boss fan, and I even went for the audition in one of the seasons when the show was looking at commoners. I have attended a few weekend shoots with family and would love to do that again. This piece was written before the start of Bigg Boss on October 1 as ‘Unsolicited Advice To Big Boss’. However, after watching the first few episodes, it is clear that Bigg Boss 2022 is on the right path to rejuvenate my favourite reality show and make an impact.

To me, the concept of Bigg Boss is interesting and exciting. There were so many things to look out for. And if someone was interested in understanding human psychology, group interplay and dynamics, the basics of ‘give and take’ and the ‘expectation v/s experience’ imbalance. Bigg Boss is a deadly social game worth watching. However, the 2020 season was not something that I liked watching. While my interest levels dipped in the last two seasons, many loyalists have complained that the show no longer had the same pull.

Every show must evolve, outgrow the earlier audience, and pull in a new audience with higher lifetime value, but not at the cost of originality and the show’s basic format. Bigg Boss, for some time, has been avoiding changes. Reality shows must think about audience engagement and involvement, which may not even reflect in TRPs. In the current era of perceptions and viewpoints, social media interaction and engagement go a long way. Every year, for one or the other thing, we keep listening for boycotts and banning the show.

 

Reality Shows

Colors TV’s other big reality show, Khatron Ke Khiladi, also suffers from a ‘task repetitiveness’ syndrome. This stunt-based show is hosted by a director known for blowing cars. It is different that he only talks and never gets into the act… unlike the season, which was handled by the Khiladi star Akshay Kumar. Contestants know they will need to swim, interact with animals, and bear some amount of current. Yet, they walk in as zombies without preparation!. This year, the number of aborts in the KKK was unprecedented, and so was the number of proxies. Not something that the audience appreciated, and it did not leave a good taste.

Reality shows on Indian television are well-established in dance, singing, talent and comedy. The judges sometimes show a bias in defining talent and a specific skillset. The audience does not want dance and singing to be considered in shows like India Got Talent, but channels have other thoughts.

One of the reality shows I miss is  Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao. Additionally, Indian Idol and Roadies with Saach Ka Samana and Emotional Atyachaar have had their own followings. As aside, my friends have a concept for another exciting reality show. But, currently, the channels are not biting at this hour.

 

Back to Bigg Boss and the few factors that make the show. Or what the show should do. Thankfully, some action is already evident in the first few episodes.

 

The Format

The Bigg Boss format, an adaptation of Big Brother, keeps participants (housemates) in a controlled location (living space) without access to the outside world. Their life is controlled through tasks defined by an outsider, a proven format that has worked across countries. The participants are under 24-hour multiple-camera surveillance.

The audience, who cannot think of being in the same situation as the participant, gets voyeuristic pleasure in seeing celebrities bear it out.

There is ample space for demonstrating leadership, groupism and individuality. Participants negotiate, keep secrets and share revelations. Almost all possible human expressions and emotions are displayed, bringing variety and spice to the show. The participants know it is tough to keep the mask on under pressure, and their reality would emerge in the reality show.

However, the show needs to innovate, keeping the basic format. Bigg Boss 2022 getting into Khela mood and controlling it tightly is the right thing to do. Remember, if you keep doing the same thing, you will get the same results. For a different result, you need to do things differently. Clearly Bigg Boss’s creative and production team have understood the situation.

 

The Host

Most Indian reality shows are strongly associated with the host. KKK with Rohit Shetty. KBC with Amitabh Bachchan and Bigg Boss with host Salman Khan. In the past, Bigg Boss has been hosted by Shilpa Shetty, Arshad Warsi, Amitabh Bachchan, Farah Khan and Sanjay Dutt. But Salman has been there for the longest. What matters is how he conducts the show on weekends. Most participants have respect/fear for Salman. He is also expected to guide them and does it wonderfully well, but at times the host and the creative team’s biases are on full display. There is a definite difference in how a celebrity and a non-celebrity are addressed on the weekend.

 

The Discipline

One of the most significant factors that made Bigg Boss a hit was the unknown voice – Bigg Boss Chahatey hain. And the strict discipline. Penalty and decisions were swift.

The rules are simple. Use Hindi as a spoken language, do not tamper any electronic equipment, only sleep when lights are switched off, no physical violence, no personal attacks, don’t share any information from the outside and don’t leave the house unless evicted or there is a genuine emergency.

Celebrity participants have tested Bigg Boss’s discipline in the last few seasons. They gamed the system and were surprised how far they could go without being reprimanded or penalised. Even physical violence was treated differently depending upon the instigator. The penalty for sleeping during the day or ignoring Bigg Boss commands was minor. It seemed that the control was of the participants, and Bigg Boss was just not interested.

It is time for Bigg Boss to create an example, even if it means timely and justified eviction or jail. There must not be compromise on physical violence, personal attack and harmful gender stereotyping or racism, or class divide. This time (the 2022 edition), Bigg Boss has demonstrated that he is willing to bell the cat at the very start. That rules are rules, and they must be followed. This is good news for the show and the audience. The audinece mostly appreciated the newfound action in the recent episodes.

 

Bigg Boss 2022 promises to be different

The promos of Bigg Boss 2022 promise a definitive shift. Bigg Boss will play the game- aab Khela Hobe. Well, Bigg Boss was always playing games, but the discipline and control were missing in the last few seasons.

Whatever one may say, this promise heightens the expectation- hope the experience matches; otherwise, the show would suffer. And the ball is set rolling in the first few episodes.

 

The Participants

BiggBoss no longer looks at the general masses, and the celebrity participants are religious, regional, or political players or, at the least, a person with a decent social media following.

This season, the housemates are a volatile mix. It has an senior director, a pageant winner, a rapper, two friends from the TV industry with a huge following, a failed budding politician and a social media influencer and more. It makes for highly imbalanced interpersonal equations, which is good for the show. Polarity and skewed emotions help, and Bigg Boss has gone out of its way to nudge them into action. The new eviction format and the undefined tenure of the captain are some of the simple moves which will have a significant impact. All is good on this front.

 

The Tasks

Like KKK, the tasks in Bigg Boss for the captaincy or the weekly budget are routine and repetitive. The teams need to rekindle the interest by weaving in some innovative tasks. Salman Akahada is not something that interests the viewers. Still, the silly, playful question-answers and the penalty for wrong answering have been a hit. As is the balloon bursting of perceptions.

One has to wait and watch to see what new innovative task Bigg Boss will bring to surprise the housemates and the audience. This is something that is very much needed. In addition to the tasks given by Bigg Boss, the house tasks and their allocation among the housemates always makes for an exciting watch.

 

The Insider-Outsiders

Like any other reality show, Bigg Boss has a set of earlier winners, participants, media, and celebrities, including fortune tellers and Panditji. The show banks on them for exciting interactions. However, they are too predictable, and the excitement is missing. No, don’t think they need to change them. They are fine, but their roles, interactions and expected deliveries need to be closely monitored. And, if need be, expand the list.

 

Net-Net

See Bigg Boss as a social experiment and can get many insights into human behaviour. The trade-offs, negotiation, partnerships, trust, faith, rebellion, isolation, group dynamics, and loneliness is all on display.

The audience always questioned how the housemates lived in such a scenario and if they could survive it. The Covid-led pandemic and WFH have given audiences an insight into such an isolated situation. This may affect the way the audience interacts and consume the content. The cameras or participant-based live unedited feed could be interesting. And, if the channel works well, the Bigg Boss Camera Gully–set experience to interested viewers could be amplified.

After some seasons Bigg Boss has woken up to actively controlling the game narrative. I worried that it had become an irritating concentration camp rather than an entertaining one. However, I believe that the creative-production team will do justice to the format and the audience in 2022. Long Live Bigg Boss!

 

Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior marketing and business strategist and educator. He writes on MxMIndia on Wednesdays (and sometimes on other days as well). His views here are personal

 

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