Did Bigg Boss Season 13 Take the Thrill of Voyeurism Too Far?

Pop Culture

Did Bigg Boss Season 13 Take the Thrill of Voyeurism Too Far?

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Have you ever noticed how whenever there are two road-raging motorists fighting on the street, a crowd of spectators quickly gathers to enjoy the show? It’s the same when you hear the neighbours having a shouting match and start cupping your ear to the walls to eavesdrop on what’s happening. Even watching two celebs have beef on Twitter provides the same thrill — the thrill of watching others fling mud at each other while you remain spotless. That’s why Bigg Boss is such a popular show; it allows us to satisfy that voyeuristic urge with legitimacy.

Watching people scream, agitate, or stay calm no matter what when put in a house for a long duration is not just entertaining but cathartic for some, knowing they aren’t alone with their fallacies. But this season of the hit show brought in more personal masala than ever. Here are some truth bombs the show’s host Salman Khan casually dropped.

“Rashami, do you know Arhaan has a child from his previous marriage? Arhaan, tell her, man.”

“Paras, so who buys you perfumes, shoes?  We have found out it’s not your mother.”

“Hey Asim, someone has been tweeting about you being in a relationship with them, and here you are, romancing Himanshi. If I find this claim to be true, I will kick your ass!”

Not so shockingly, Bigg Boss crossed another line this year. Season 13 might be the most invasive of all, earning its notoriety for deeds done not just inside the Bigg Boss house but outside it as well, by weaving in the personal issues of participants into the show. People got to sit with a bag of popcorn and watch lives and relationships disintegrate with every passing weekend.

Bigg Boss has never needed any help from the outside world to bring out the worst in people before this season.

Sample this: Television actors Sidharth Shukla and Rashami Desai were brought in as housemates because producers knew the two had a strange love-hate relationship. The audience got to see sheer television magic as their hatred expressed itself as Desai threw tea at Shukla while the latter tore her boyfriend Arhaan’s shirt. The two kept spilling the beans on each other’s lives on the outside, with Desai calling him a “ganjeri” and Shukla spitting out that he didn’t have time for girls ‘like her’.

Desai had another, much bigger, more personal rock thrown at her on national TV. Khan decided to pull the carpet from under Desai by revealing the truth about her boyfriend and housemate Arhaan Khan: He had a child from a previous marriage, two things Desai was completely in the dark about. If one wondered how ethical it was to call out a man for his dubious relationships in front of millions, it was forgotten for the sake of great TV. Khan may have realized he went a little too far in rebuking Arhaan and made quick amends by entering the Bigg Boss house to console the distraught couple. “I did it for you, Rashami,” he told the contestant he admits to have known for a long time.

Then it was the turn of the bratty Splitsvilla graduate Paras Chhabra to face the music. On yet another “Weekend ka Vaar” episode, Khan blasted the ungrateful millennial for taking financial advantage of his girlfriend Akanksha Puri. He exposed how Chhabra wore shoes, clothes, and perfumes sent to the house by his long-term girlfriend, and yet romanced actor Mahira Sharma inside the house. Chhabra got upset and kept claiming the relationship with Puri was already over. But the damage was done as the popularity of these lovebirds waned in the final few weeks of the show.

Bigg Boss has never needed any help from the outside world to bring out the worst in people before this season. On previous seasons, the misogynistic and dubiously credentialled godman Swami Om threw urine at his housemates, hotheads like actors Armaan Kohli and Akashdeep Saigal started meaningless but violent fights, Rakhi Sawant and Dolly Bindra picked on others with the choicest gaalis, and cringey critic Kamaal Rashid Khan boasted about his riches; why would they need more masala from outside the house? Season 13 has steered so far away from the set format that it seems like a completely different show.

Reality television is about seeing people stripped bare of their performing masks.

Reality television is about seeing people stripped bare of their performing masks. It is about finding the uncouth in the most refined of men, the softie in the brute, the shrew in the beauty. And 13 seasons of Bigg Boss has given us plenty of those revelations. However, all such moments have brewed and been concocted well within the house. Never has the show required such a deep scrutiny of the personal lives of celebrities.

The dawn of social media like Twitter and Instagram are partly responsible for the invasive nature this show has now developed. When a girlfriend, brother, or an ousted contestant tweets their displeasure about someone still inside the house, the producers and showrunners can either make the storm either go away or further fan it — and with most tasks getting nulled this season, they chose to do the latter.

A lot of celebs and relatives also went in and out of the house, making outside news and views widely available to the participants, another twist from the usual fare. It made for compelling television. Knowing a father has disowned his son or that a boyfriend has systematically duped women in the past are some very ugly truths that caused pain to the specific people, but made for great reality TV.

As the show comes to a close, C-list celebs have been raised to star status and famous names have had their images shattered. The show has succeeded yet again but it is safe to declare that here on, the personal lives of people will also catch up with them inside the house and they will have nowhere to hide. I for one will keep coming back for more because I believe in what the survival fantasy Lord of the Flies has succinctly said; and what Bigg Boss portrays increasingly well every year: “Maybe there is a beast… Maybe it’s only us.”