What 'Bigg Boss' taught me: Does India love a victim?
What are the voyeuristic Indian audiences really looking for in a winner of a reality show?
New Delhi: The reality show, where celebrities are locked inside a house for 90 days without any contact with the outer world, has come to garner a huge following among prime time television audiences. 'Bigg Boss' which began in 2006, recently concluded its sixth season. Amid much tension and excitement Urvashi Dholakia was announced the winner of 'Bigg Boss 6'.
Within a few minutes, the other three inmates who were equally desperate to win the show were eagerly quoted by channels on their experience inside the house. Butter wouldn't melt in the mouth of those who spent three months tearing at each other's throats. "Being a single mother, Urvashi deserved to win the show" was echoed by most of the contestants.
But what are the voyeuristic Indian audiences really looking for in a winner of a reality show?
If we rewind to 2006 when the first season hit the television screens, Rahul Roy, perhaps one of the show's dullest winners hit the jackpot. While Rakhi Sawant and Kashmera Shah added spice to the show with their constant drama; the calm and composed Roy set his eyes quietly on the goal - the prize money. Contestants soon figured out the key formula to stay on the show without being eliminated.
Start slow, do not let your baser instincts take over even when provoked, keep your head down, plod on through the first few weeks, lash out occasionally to remind others that you aren't dead and closer to the finale, try to gain as much footage as possible through indignant outbursts, display of fits of anger or excessive giggling.
The same technique was repeated in almost all the seasons of the reality show. Be it Ashutosh Kaushik, Vindu Dara Singh or Juhi Parmar, inmates who have played safe on the show ended up winning the prize money.
A squeaky clean image often helps. There are the occasional wrestlers, adult film stars, gay and transgender men and women on the show but so far a conservative late evening audience haven't warmed up to them in any season.
Often controversial people are approached by the makers of the reality show to provide the 'masala' to keep the TRP going. The constant bickering, the ugly spats and high-voltage drama is what keeps the audiences hooked. This season the often aggressive and mostly rambunctious Imam Siddiqui was the punching bag for the rest of the inmates, matching abuse for abuse and making sure there wasn't a dull moment. He was introduced at a crucial time in the show when audience appreciation was dipping.
Audiences, it would seem, prefer the docile people on reality shows. Yet the ugliest spats turn out to be the most watched episodes. Siddiqui's argument with actress Aashka Goradia turned out to be the high point of the show. The audiences vote to keep the radical inmates till the end of the season. Yet it must send a wrong message to help them win, if results of previous seasons are any proof.
Does India love a victim?
It definitely doesn't admire the underdog. The stray wolf, the amusing joker of the pack, the rabble rouser - they are often left to languish. The ones who control their basic urges of shouting back when being shouted at, the lacklustre candidates, the heel draggers of the pack - they are ones India hails as winners.
These are the men and women who prefer to swallow a retort, keep their heads down and suffer in silence. Why not? We all love a victim. The ones who show themselves up as the victims of injustice on the show emerge as the strong contenders.
'Bigg Boss' has always been about testing the patience of the inmates and forcing each other to co-exist under one roof. The detractors who fail to comply with the thumb rule of the show seem to rub traditional audiences the wrong way.
While the other reality shows are mostly performance-based, 'Bigg Boss' is mostly about entertainment. The audiences judge the contestants on the basis of their entertainment value. Winners like Dholakia and Parmar have steered clear of controversies - playing the mother hen.