The concept behind Bigg Boss is simple, and the title is borrowed from the George Orwell novel 1984. A group of random (mostly) savarna celebrities inhabit a house for a short and fixed period of time, wherein they are expected to interact with each other, follow certain rules and perform “tasks”.
At the end of the stipulated time period, one individual becomes the winner and is gifted a certain amount of money.
The show has been extremely popular among viewers for the often hilarious and controversial moments that ensue, when two celebrities do not get along with each other. What is especially interesting to watch from a sociological point of view is how the many contestants, belonging to the cream of Indian public life conduct themselves and react to the “challenges” that are put before them by the show’s creators. Although it is emotionally draining, it gives the viewer a glimpse into the daily lives of those people who are always exceedingly privileged in some way or another.
Keeping in context the fact that these are adults who voluntarily agree to undergo this experience of having their day-to-day lives being filmed 24×7, what does it say about how a certain section of people living in a third world country choose to behave?
The viewer’s illusions about beliefs such as these begin to shatter after watching just a single episode of Bigg Boss. What transpires is that the contestants may be rich but they are definitely not cultured, or if cultured, definitely not educated. There might be a separate study on the issue of how modern education— the practice of getting a degree from a reputed institution — itself is a chimera, but we could revisit that later.
The point here is that the savarna group on Bigg Boss seems out of touch with the world at large. Somehow, it appears as if they do not understand basic humane ways of existing.
There is a clip from the most recent season of the show where a celebrity who is a Punjabi apparently bullies another person from Bihar because the latter has a career in singing Bhojpuri songs. Granted that all of us are imperfect human beings at the end of the day, how wrong would the audience be if it expects people to conduct themselves (with the show being available for everyone on the internet) in a way that shows kindness towards seeming strangers even if for the sake of appearance? There has been a virtual war in the recent past on themes of racism and provincialism but the individuals here are quite cut off from what is happening outside of their own bubble. Long-time fans of the show would also relate to how numerous fights have broken out among contestants for the silliest of reasons.
Do those who deem themselves culturally superior realize how ridiculous they appear when behaving in the way they do? The empty lives of those from the savarna population is put on display in the most innocuous manner through this show. This wouldn’t be a problem if the savarna intellectual class was better than the celebrities we view on Bigg Boss. But we do know that this isn’t so. Who we call intellectuals in India are no better than these participants. They are as devoid of good sense and logic as these celebrities. If one could picture the nation as one big endlessly repetitive episode of Bigg Boss, then it would give us an example of what it means to survive here. Constant bickering, name-calling, ego problems, nonsensical comments, all of this forms the recipe for the dish that is called India. As we see in the TV media channels every day,the people of this country deserve a better class of intellectuals. And a general good quality of celebrities too.
Chanchal Kumar is from Jharkhand and currently lives in Delhi, India. His poems have previously appeared and awarded in The Sunflower Collective, Hamilton Stone Review, Welter Journal, Name and None, Young Poets Network, UK including others. Recently, his poems were translated to Bengali by Harakiri Journal. He is pursuing M.Phil at University of Delhi.