In The House of Big Boss
Behind the scenes of Indian television’s biggest reality show.
On October 12, when television actor Ratan Rajpoot, 22, was evicted from the Bigg Boss house and headed straight for the vanity van to get ready for her interview with Salman Khan, she was relieved but also anxious. After 27 days in the house, Rajpoot was convinced that even the mirror in the van had cameras concealed behind it, monitoring each and every move. The crew had to assure her that the ordeal was over. She was indeed free.
You would understand Rajpoot’s apprehension if you take a walk through the camera galli, a closely guarded long, winding dark alley where 147 windows allow producers to see all sections of the Bigg Boss house. Designed by Omung Kumar, the 10,500 sq ft house is only five minutes away from the hustle-bustle of the Lonavala market. There are 80 cameras—robotic, night vision and studio—in the house. Barring the lapel microphones placed in the satchel which the contestants wear all the time, there are 58 boundary and 12 boom microphones which ensure that they are always heard. Even when contestants develop a sign language, like rumoured lovebirds Gauahar Khan, 30, and Kushal Tandon, 28, did, the crew in the projection control room, which includes eight people tracking ten 42-inch screens, spot it. Nothing is invisible to the Bigg Boss’s eye. As if the Big Boss himself wasn’t enough, this time he has the assistance of a ‘warden’ who too will keep a close watch on the inmates.
With an overall budget of Rs 115 crore, Bigg Boss is the most expensive reality show on Indian TV. The compound in which the house is built is owned by ABC Bearing
Limited and is guarded like a fort. Only if your name is on the list approved by the show’s production head, Sarvesh Singh, will you be allowed through the heavy metal gates. Deepak Dhar, managing director of Endemol India, the production house behind the show, refers to the compound as the headquarters of the Ku Klux-like community. Inside, two rules apply: No honking and talking only in whispers.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Since nothing on the show is scripted, the crew members wait patiently for that priceless moment which will probably make or break the episode. In its seventh season, the daily show’s TRPs range from 2.3 to 2.7, making it one of the most popular shows on TV. But patience is not the only quality common to the 500 people behind the scenes who make the show happen. Hard work and endurance are also mandatory given that this year’s edition will last 104 days as opposed to last season’s 97. Bigg Boss season seven will require the team to work non-stop for four months. “We never give a perspective. We just document what happens in the house,” says Malaya Pradhan, editor-in-chief, who is responsible for the daily episodes.
In the projection control room, the story editor sits with his team. The story editor, who works on a four-hour shift, is the leader of the pack. He or she controls a switchboard, which has access to all the doors in the house and other key facilities such as the geyser and motor of the swimming pool. There’s a notebook in which he or she notes the most interesting developments of the day. The short-listed material is presented for approval to the daily producer, who discusses it further with the editors in one of the 15 editing rooms.
Pradhan, 40, approves the final 44-minute cut that is aired on TV. It is then dispatched to the channel via high-speed broadband Internet, in most cases three hours before its scheduled screening time of 9 p.m.
Neighbouring hotels are almost entirely occupied by employees of Endemol India. “It is a big human resource exercise,” says Dhar. “You need to love being away from home for four-five months.” Apart from the six hotels, there are two residential buildings in the ABC compound for the cooks, spot boys, light crew and security guards. Bungalows are leased and rooms in Lonavala’s sole five-star hotel Fariyas are booked when big executives from Colors or other VIP guests drop by.
AHOUSE FOR SALMAN AND HIS DOGS TOO
The biggest of them all, host Salman Khan, stays in a chalet in the ABC compound which is a two-minute walk from the set where his episodes are shot. The chalet has its own gym area, walls with two giant portraits of Salman and a 55-inch TV. A kennel has also been built for Salman’s three dogs who sometimes accompany him to the set.
As Salman walks about without a worry, the crew is on their feet as Saturday implies shooting two episodes back-to-back. It’s a busy day even for Awadh Hospitality Service, the show’s caterers for four seasons now, who serve tea round-the-clock and prepare four meals a day, which are not only served in the complex but also distrib-
uted to the hotels where the employees stay. With the hospitality boom Bigg Boss has created in Lonavala, Dhar says it is a common joke that if he were to contest for municipal elections, he’d definitely win.
Lonavala is an ideal location for Bigg Boss, which is shooting its fifth Hindi season here. Technical head Donagh Sequeira, 52, says the environment is relaxed. In terms of entertainment, the crew has little other than two cinemas—Cinebliss Neelkamal and Trios—a KFC and McDonald’s. Then there are popular attractions like Tiger Point and Bhushi Dam. While most staff members prefer to sleep in their free time, some have found their own ways of having fun—turning an empty patch of land into a cricket pitch, a badminton court, and installing PlayStation consoles in their rooms. Married employees are given day-long breaks every two weeks and encouraged to bring their family down for the weekend.
DRAMAQUEENS AND KINGS
As the crew adjusts to this life, inside the house the contestants keep themselves busy with household chores, tasks assigned by Big Boss or brushing up on their language skills. Sangram is learning how to speak English, thanks to Andy, who has already taught him lyrics to Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’. Elli, the sole foreigner, is trying to improve her Hindi. Fading stars Tanishaa, 35, and Armaan, 41, are keeping audiences guessing with their on-off romance. But there’s also drama with back-biting, verbal wars and confrontations.
But this is all that makes it to the 44-minute slot. What doesn’t is Kamya, 35, complaining about how much hair she is losing. Pratyusha’s unhappiness with the size of the suitcases which limit the clothes she could carry. Wrestler Sangram Singh, 28, wants a monthly supply of Chyawanprash. Tanishaa asking the crew to contact Manish Malhotra or her management agency to get her a Diwali outfit. Armaan wants his special sherwanis brought in for the festivalheavy months. These are some of the moments that unfold in the 24 hours which can often border on boring. But for the crew, each and every moment is relevant. Even at 4 a.m., they keep their eyes and ears open, hoping to catch a late-night rendezvous. It’s the thrill of monitoring and controlling the lives of others that makes it so entertaining for us.
CONTESTANTS WAKE UP TO BLARING MUSIC EVERY
DAY; (RIGHT) OUTSIDE THE HOUSE, HOST SALMAN KHAN IS OFTEN SEEN SHAKING A LEG TO
HIT BOLLYWOOD SONGS
THE PROJECTION CONTROL ROOM IS THE DEN FROM WHERE ALL THE DEVELOPMENTS IN THE HOUSE ARE TRACKED BY A VIGILANT TEAM