Oddly Obsessed with Bigg Boss: Decoding Why the Chaotic Televised Circus Clicks

17 Min Read

Turning chaos into an art form, Bigg Boss has managed to unite millions of viewers every day in front of the television, for 17 years now. Each season is bigger and grander than the previous. New celebrities (and wannabes) become household names and sudden social media sensations. The set is different each time, with new themes and design elements. The ongoing season 17 boasts a whopping 110 cameras, the highest ever. The only constant since season 4, who’s become synonymous with the show, the host with the most, Salman Khan.

Bigg Boss has managed to rake up the biggest scandals, create stars, grab eyeballs and remain relevant. It’s cringe, and yet, rakes up the highest TRPs almost every season.

But what makes this televised circus such a hit? We spoke to ex-contestants, reality show producers and die-hard fans to get perspective on what makes this show tick, season after season.

This is our series,Oddly Obsessed, where we try to decode whacky Internet trends, sensations, and pop culture phenomena that the world can’t seem to get enough of.

The Celebrity Cocktail

From forgotten soap opera stars to controversial cricketers, the show boasts a delightful mix of has-beens, wannabes, and who-are-they’s. The chosen few of the show are picked to charm, shock, and surprise at every turn.

“A vivid variety of contestants are all put together. Their personalities differ and they all come from different directions,” said Bebika Dhurve, a dentist and actress, who participated in Bigg Boss OTT 2. “The unexpected reactions and situations inside the house make the show very interesting for viewers.”

It’s the show where Rakhi Sawant first shot to fame, then introduced her husband publicly on the show in a subsequent season and then expressed interest in Rubina Dilaik’s husband openly on television. Swami Om, a self-proclaimed godman on the show caused quite a stir with his sexist comments about women, and then later by throwing urine on two fellow contestants. Rahul Mahajan in season 2 tried to escape over the walls.

“The fights, antics and camaraderie are great fun to watch,” says Smita Jain, a hardcore Bigg Boss fan who has watched all seasons ardently. The 32-year-old can recall anecdotes from many years ago, and her eyes light up with glee or shock while she narrates them. “I started watching it as a dinner-time accompaniment, but eventually got quite engrossed in it. I’ve later gone on to follow Sambhavna Seth and other creators’ journeys on their YouTube pages too. Bigg Boss was the first glimpse into celebrities’ private lives, something that now has become quite popular in vlogs.”

Sambhavna Seth, a Bhojpuri item song dancer, had appeared on Bigg Boss season two, and now is a full-time YouTuber with over 3.55 million followers.

What grabs most eyeballs are the fights. Imam Siddique was evicted after he started stripping a skin-coloured body suit after a fight. There’s been pushing, shoving, slapping and bottle-throwing. The fight between Bani J and Lopamudra Raut in season 10 took a violent turn with Bani trying to strangle Lopamudra.

The most famous fight, though, was the viral ‘Pooja, what is this behaviour?’. It went viral enough for people to use “You’re asking for it! You’re dying for it” to anyone’s slightly annoying behaviour.

Often, there’s been speculation about how ‘real’ the reality show is with many suggesting that all the fights, scandals and antics are scripted. Soniya Bansal, a contestant who participated in the ongoing season 17 of the show, rubbishes this theory.

“People love Bigg Boss because they see celebrities locked inside one space, where their real sides come out. There was no script or anything given to us, so when we went inside, it took some time to even get to know people. In a family of four people, there are fights, so imagine how much more charged things are when there are 17 people locked inside a place for over three months,” she said. “People watch to see how celebrities react. Their real, organic reactions.”

Soniya was evicted on Day 13, and her only regret is to have been eliminated so soon. She feels she had a lot more of her personality to show, and a lot more strength and determination than some present participants, which would have shone through if she stayed longer in the house.

From some contestants, we wait to see an “unseen” side of celebrityhood. We wonder how they fare with regular chores, how they regulate emotions and who they are beyond the silver screen. From some others, we wait for the drama.

Read: Bigg Boss: The Reality Show That Spawned 5 Hilarious Meme Worthy Moments

Love, Sex and Dhoka

Move over, saas-bahu serials; Bigg Boss brings you prime-time entertainment with a side of pillow talk. The Bigg Boss set has seen more tears, confessions of love, and romantic antics than any scripted Bollywood film.

While on the subject of romance, Rahul Mahajan and fellow contestant Payal Rohtagi’s brewing chemistry kept viewers hooked in one of the earlier seasons. Actors Sara Khan and Ali Merchant were rumoured to have been paid Rs.50 lakh to get married on the show. A passionate liplock between Puneesh Sharma and Bandagi Kalra was quite the talking point in season 11. In the ongoing season too, there are two married couples inside the house, with rumours of one being pregnant.

“They have seen their favourite celebrities being elegant and classy but Bigg Boss gives them an opportunity to see the real side of their idols. The show reveals the real identity,” said Bebika, the ex-Bigg Boss OTT 2 contestant. “It’s a blend of relationships, fights, responsibilities, revelations, realities, personalities and everything mixed in one.”

Crowd favourites among all couples have to be the bond between actors Shehnaz Gill and Sidharth Shukla, with a whole fanbase being dedicated to SidNaaz. After Shukla’s untimely demise, their shared moments from inside the house went viral.

Romance, passion and action under the sheets make for juicy, gossip-worthy content, which can be enjoyed as a break from the quarrelling.

Host With The Most: Salman Khan

Salman Khan is ever-charismatic as the constant host and adds his touch of spice to the show.

“I believe people watch the show for the host, Salman Khan sir,” said Bebika, the ex-contestant. “His goofy side, his understanding side, his emotional side, his intellectual side, his aggression, people love to watch him the most!”

Salman is the mentor and guide, offering sanity, mediation, and humour in a show that often forgets these elements. He adds a calm, human perspective while appearing to be emotionally invested in the journey of the contestants.

“Salman Khan is already a huge star with a huge fanbase. Watching him on Bigg Boss is just a cherry on the cake,” said Shreya Roy, a 23-year-old Bigg Boss fan. “He scolds contestants when needed, consoles them during distress and doesn’t shy away from saying it like it is.”

With his witty one-liners and a penchant for giving contestants a reality check, Salman makes sure the weekend episodes, or ‘Weekend ka Vaar’, garner the highest TRPs. On these episodes, top-tier Bollywood actors come to promote their shows and films. Contestants might fear his wrath, but viewers sure can’t get enough of the “Bhai” factor.

Social Media Creates Hype

Contestants, their dialogues and antics become fodder for social media content for the rest of the year. For many, being updated from the house happens through the social media hype around it.

One may remember Shehnaaz Gill for the wildly popular remix of her dialogue “Twada kutta tommy, sadda kutta, kutta” by Yashraj Mukhate.

After this segment did the rounds for months, “Kya karu, main mar jaayoon?” also become a popular meme.

Soon after, he also made a remix of her saying “Such a boring day, such a boring people” which again became viral.

When everyone around you talk about these, out of FOMO, one keeps a tab on the show.

Bigg Boss Makes Celebrities Bigger

Many celebrities who come into the house were erstwhile only popular among a select few viewers of their TV serials, but after their stint at Bigg Boss, they become big celebrity brands. They garner millions of followers, brand deals, and acting offers after having spent time inside the house.

Rakhi Sawant managed to do it early on. But in recent times, at the forefront of this is couple Karan Kundrra and Tejasswi Prakash, both of whom went on to become paparazzi favourites after the show. The latter won season 15, and now has over 7 million Instagram followers. According to reports, before she entered the house, she had around 4 million followers. She was flooded with offers from OTT platforms, product endorsements and more. With music videos, dual role in Naagin 6 (a television serial), signing on a Marathi movie, and even being covered by Filmfare Middle East, her career trajectory saw new highs after participation in the show.

According to Bebika, her life has seen a 360-degree change since participating in Bigg Boss. She explained, “People all across the globe have loved me. My father used to get 50-60 phone calls every day, from people living abroad, praising my journey. Now, I’m also working for the Royals of UAE, as a personal doctor. I have signed on a Bollywood film and am also debuting as a singer.”

Having watched celebrities on screen for months during the show, people stay hooked to see what they do afterwards which explains the paparazzi craze.

“Whether its Karan, Tejasswi or MC Stan or even older favourites like Rakhi Sawant, the audiences connect with these stars for over 90 days,” said Pallav Paliwal, a photojournalist specialising in celebrity photography and fashion. “When Bollywood goes through a lull, these shows and these stars become the rage. People enjoy watching Salman Khan and these contestants, and then follow other film and Papparazi pages to know what they’re up to. They give content and thus enhance engagement.”

Sadistic, Voyeuristic Pleasure of Watching Reality TV

There is some sort of guilty pleasure felt in watching famous (or somewhat famous) people battle it out for more money. This is a constant with most reality TV shows, which thrives on the audience enjoying sadistic voyeurism. It’s like being handed a front-row ticket to the chaos, a ringside seat to a plethora of human emotions unfolding in unpredictable ways.

Viewers tiptoe a fine line between feeling amused, while sometimes a small voice whispers, “Is this even ethical to enjoy?” It’s hard to look away, and the makers of the show introduce tasks, twists and wild card entries to further keep audiences hooked on the unending drama.

“We watch shows to compare ourselves to TV celebrities and feel ‘special’ or ‘better’ than them. Think about how many times you’ve felt like a genius while watching reality TV stars make fools of themselves,” said Aanandita Vaghani, a mental health counsellor and founder of Unfix Your Feelings.

“In some ways, not only do we derive pleasure from seeing characters on screen go through problems – but we also feel relief when their problems are solved,” she added. “In our daily lives, it may take up to the duration of a few episodes or seasons to problem-solve, but on reality TV, problems dissipate within seconds of an episode. This provides us with a sense of fascination and relief.”

Read: Oddly Obsessed With Rakhi Sawant: Decoding Paparazzi’s & Controversy’s Favourite Child

Maybe it’s the raw human side of celebrities being put on display for all to see, that makes it so hard to turn the TV off. Exaggerated emotions, strategic alliances, and unexpected friendships become the basis on which real-life assumptions are made about the personalities of the celebrities involved. Each viewer crafts their theories about who these celebrities truly are beyond the glitz and glamour. Cringe content is so widely popular for a reason, and the popularity of Bigg Boss is a testament to that. We see former prim and proper actors fall from their pedestals and fight it out amidst clashing egos, verbal abuses and emotional rollercoasters.

Audiences, then, with their power to vote for their favourite contestants, turn into armchair critics, analyzing the psyche of contestants as they grapple with confinement, competition, and constant scrutiny. Once done with that, we sit to debate whether these shows are all scripted or not.

An Escape Into the Bizarre

The show has strategically been aired during dinner time or post-dinner, when audiences are likely to be free after a day’s hard work. For many, reality TV serves as an escape from reality.

Bigg Boss helps one switch off from the mundane, and not worry about regular stressors for a while. An article in Psychology Today explains this as “being a part of this privileged altered universe is much more fun than our daily routine of bills and laundry.” The more absurd the games get, the more hooked we are.

Additionally, it’s amusing and fascinating to perhaps witness contestants take on tasks and risks, and indulge in escapades we probably wouldn’t ever consider being part of. The unpredictability of human behaviour is at the heart of it all.

On one hand, we can’t help but revel in the theatrical disputes and passionate romances, even while being thoroughly convinced that each confrontation is carefully crafted. It could be called the Bigg Boss paradox – a show that simultaneously shocks, and entertains, while also forcing us to confront the darker corners of our brains, which are fascinated with this human spectacle. After all, when it comes to reality TV, the line between empathy and exploitation is as thin as a TV screen itself.

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