My Own Private Bigg Boss: What Charms Does Bigg Boss 14 Hold When Life Has Become a Reality Show?

Pop Culture

My Own Private Bigg Boss: What Charms Does Bigg Boss 14 Hold When Life Has Become a Reality Show?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Like it or not, no one can deny that this new decade has kicked off with a bang. Empires rise as presidents fall, forests burn and cities flood, farmers are plagued by locusts and reform bills, and our soundtrack is Arnab Goswami shrieking over the chaos like some kind of sideburn-sporting banshee. And yet, even in the midst of this apocalypse buffet, some things are simply unstoppable – like the new season of Bigg Boss, entering into its 14th iteration, premiering on October 3. “2020 ki har problem ko chaknachoor karne aa gaya hai!” promises the series promo, underscored by the bulging biceps of the Bigg Boss himself, Salman Khan.

After Roadies, Bigg Boss is the quintessential Indian reality show, and it’s tempting to believe that its familiar embrace will heal a nation divided. After all, what could be more desi than creating a cheaper version of a popular product from abroad, ginned up with a hefty dose of masala? Bigg Boss has gifted us with countless memes and moments over the years, and somehow keeps managing to up its game.

Last year, a migraine-inducing series of love triangles and the notoriety of winner Sidharth Shukla, who had beef with practically every woman in the house, kept things interesting. Shukla will be returning this season, and diehard fans of #SidNaaz — the friendship between him and housemate Shehnaaz Gill — celebrated one year of their on-screen OTP yesterday. Long after Bigg Boss goes off the air and its housemates move on, the show’s cultural appeal endures through the intimacy it creates with viewers.

Now, Bigg Boss claims it will rescue us from our dreary reality with even more power-packed entertainment. The house is functioning under special Covid-19 rules that allow privileges to contestants such as going out to the movies or shopping. But will this be enough to make Bigg Boss 14 a novelty when we’ve all been living in our own version of a reality show fishbowl?

What could be more desi than creating a cheaper version of a popular product from abroad, ginned up with a hefty dose of masala?

At home… watching people at home

Stuck in our homes with a bunch of people who are not necessarily of our choosing; isolated from the outside world; forced to do chores and housework that sorely try our ability to get along with each other; fighting over eggs. No longer is this the preserve of trashy TV. It’s just another week in this neverending lockdown, where frustrations and grievances are constantly threatening to bubble over into disasters. For those of us who have shown superhuman restraint in not chucking hot cups of chai on anyone, I’m ready to start a petition asking Bhai to declare us all Bigg Boss winners, complete with a 50 lakh cash prize.

But since we’re all honorary contestants now, maybe it’s time for our Bigg Boss outlook to change. In years past, the show has been a popcorn-worthy foray into the bizarre behaviour of minor celebrities who are tasked with surviving each other – all while vying for the attention of the cameras. Every screaming match, brawl, fake relationship, and petty eviction we watched came with a thrill of schadenfreude and the comfortable conviction that we would never commit such senseless acts. This is the voyeuristic, almost anthropological experience of all good reality TV; we even got to see the species Biggbossus vulgaris throwing their own pee on each other, presumably in a misguided attempt to scent-mark their territory. Really, all we’re missing is a David Attenborough narration to make Bigg Boss feel like an episode of Planet Earth.

Covid-19, however, has swept away these degrees of separation and knocked us off our high horses. The combined monotony and despair of being under indefinite house arrest is a potent cocktail, one that suddenly makes survival, both mental and physical, feel a lot more important than decency and dignity. Being sandwiched within four walls really narrows your perspective, but perhaps it also broadens the mind. Because suddenly, the most egregious Bigg Boss antics have been placed in a context that we can all understand.

Us = Bigg Boss contestants

After five months of doing jhadoo-pocha, who among us hasn’t felt like kicking over the dustbin, breaking her broom in half, and yelling at everyone to get off her back à la Pooja “What is this behaviour” Misrra? After half a year spent seeing the same faces day in and day out, surely we all have a lot more sympathy for an exasperated KRK hurling bottles at Rohit Verma. Sure, it might have gotten him thrown out of the Bigg Boss house, but at least he got to go outside again.

Suddenly, the most egregious Bigg Boss antics have been placed in a context that we can all understand.

It’s hard to blame the housemates for losing their minds stuck in the four walls of their house. In quarantine as in Bigg Boss, everything is scarce except for time: privacy, space, mental stimulation, social interactions, even certain foods. Isn’t that enough to drive anyone crazy, let alone the high-strung housemates on Bigg Boss? No wonder my mother does the bartans just to emotionally blackmail the rest of the household, and marking my territory by pissing my pants is starting to sound like an okay idea.

By the grace of god or Bhai, I haven’t done anything that might put me in league with a depressed orangutan at the zoo yet. But the truth is, in our new reality, Bigg Boss contestants are only as crazy as we desperately wish we could be.

Hopefully none of us will descend to the levels of purloining chicken from the mouths of our own family members, voting to turn them out into the streets, or having a nervous breakdown over our special coffee mug being used to grind lasan. Unlike the housemates of Bigg Boss, we normies know how to roll with the punches so they don’t escalate into an actual fistfight.

But it’s certainly cathartic to see a load of people who have thrown off any pretence of taking the high road, and are currently wrestling in the mud. If that’s a challenge on Bigg Boss 14, I’ll definitely be tuning in – from my lockdown house to the locked down Bigg Boss mansion.