In The House of Big Boss

Be­hind the scenes of In­dian tele­vi­sion’s big­gest re­al­ity show.

India Today - - INSIDE - By Suhani Singh

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

SHIVANGI KU­LAKARNI

THE PRO­JEC­TION CON­TROL ROOM IS THE DEN FROM WHERE ALL THE DE­VEL­OP­MENTS IN THE HOUSE ARE TRACKED BY A VIG­I­LANT TEAM

SHIVANGI KU­LAKARNI

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