Why Bigg Boss Marathi Reminds Me of My Life in a Chawl

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Why Bigg Boss Marathi Reminds Me of My Life in a Chawl

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

It’s not a Marathi neighbourhood, if your day doesn’t start with an argument with a fellow manoos over who will use the sandaas first, or if you don’t wake up to the noise of two kakus quarrelling near the community tap at 4 am over “konacha number pahila hota (who was in line first).”

Living in a chawl in many ways is like being in a reality TV show – fights are a way of life, gossip, a form of entertainment. I realised the truth in this only when I watched Bigg Boss Marathi, which is technically set up just like a chawl – a bunch of Maharashtrians stuffed in one single dwelling with a common bathroom and kitchen. It is safe to say that the contestants in Bigg Boss resemble those I encounter in the chawl every day.

The Ray-Byan-wearing Kaka: For starters, we have Mahesh Manjrekar who fits the bill of your quintessential kaka from another shakha with a bhagwa teeka, dressed in a crisp-as-a-shankarpali white khadi shirt, black trousers, and Ray-Byan-cha goggle. Whether it’s the local Ganapati visarjan or the neighbour’s funeral, this type of kaka is always barking orders; his life goal is to make it to a political party hoarding.

Aai Don’t Care: Usha Nadkarni makes for the perfect matriarch – in chawl parlance, aai. Like every aai, expect her to be pretty blunt, have some chaha (tea) as the clock strikes saha (six), and indulge in some gappa-goshti (gossip). Her domineering aai avatar is probably the reason why the Bigg Boss Marathi fam doesn’t seem to want good old Usha around. But aai don’t care. Nadkarni is on top of her gossip game, judging like a typical mother the “glamorous girls” in the House. But to see true shades of her inner aai, just wait for a task that involves filling shiny, stainless steel pots with water.

The Adarsh Dada: After aai, next in the line of power in every Marathi household is the motha bhau (big brother). Playing dada in the Bigg Boss House is none other than actor Rajesh Shringarpure. And like most dadas, Rajesh is an adarsh balak, the boy who always played Peshwa Bajirao in every school play until he hit puberty and realised he’d make a better Shivaji instead. Rajesh dada has been teaching the housemates yoga with “adarsh-er than thou” elan that often comes with the territory of being an older sibling.

The Marathi Dude Bro: “Chocolate Boy” Pushkar Jog makes for the perfect chhota bhau. He’s the local ladies man whose swag isn’t big enough to fit his 10×10 kholi (room). Decked in jeans tight enough to cut off circulation to his feet, designer v-neck tees and shades, this desi dude bro is making the mulgis in the House swoon.

The “Chaavat” Mulgis: Megha Dhade and Smita Gondkar, the mulgis swooning over tight abs, are like the neighbour’s daughters, who’ve been labelled “fast” by all the aais, mais, and tais after they shook their desi derrières to “Chikni Chameli” at the last Diwali community gathering. They drew lusty looks from the men and crusty stares from the women. Thanks to their non-traditional dressing sense, which involves zero sarees and fewer nighties, the less-evolved inhabitants of the chawls – mostly the kakas – worry about their chances of finding a nice Marathi mulga, often labelling the girls as “chaavat” (naughty), but only when they are out of earshot, because hell hath no fury like a bai scorned.

The Homely Tai: Resham Tipnis is perhaps the only mulgi who is immune to Chocolate Boy’s charms. She’s the homely tai who loves to cook, the kind who’ll remember just how much sugar you like in your chaha. Her clawing sweetness drives the Marathi male wild; her thalipeeth brings all the boys to the yard. Watch your step in the proverbial yard though because you’re bound to step in some shit, or kitty litter from one of her 18 cats. After Bigg Boss, she’d probably star in Manzar Mulgi, Catwoman’s desi counterpart.

The Nalayak Kaka: No family drama in a Marathi household is complete without that jobless, unmarried kaka, who lives in the village but drops in without invitation. The kaka in Bigg Boss Marathi is Anil Thatte, a former journalist who wrote about “scoops, scandals, and some vulgar jokes”, and is now a spiritual guru. He’s no different from your useless kaka who lounges around in shorts and a vest, giving you fukat (free) gyaan on everything from Elon Musk to Indo-Russian ties to your love life. Thatte Kaka is a man of great wisdom too, often seen in the outer rungs of discussions, talking to anyone who cares to listen about how he gets his jewellry from the US and his quirky fashion sense. The only thing that sets him apart, is his red-blonde hair and psychedelic dressing style, which begs the question, if a kaka drops acid in the forests of Lonavala and wanders close enough to the Bigg Boss House, does he automatically get a spot? The answer is a resounding yes.

With kaka, tai, dada, and aai all packed into one house, Bigg Boss has all the accoutrement of a real-life Marathi family drama. If you thought Vikas Gupta’s attempts to escape from the House or Dolly Bindra yelling, “Baap pe mat jaana” set what passes for the cast of Bigg Boss, just wait until you see the angry Marathi manoos in action.