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Reel vs Real ‘Saas’: All The World's Bigg Boss’ Stage & We're Merely Players

I'm sure you've been watching Ankita Lokhande's mother-in-law's interviews almost as much 'Bigg Boss' episodes.

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(If I had to add tone indicators to this piece it'd probably be /hj, /s)

It wasn’t enough that there have been more than ten seasons of Bigg Boss – a show that is essentially the equivalent of watching people threaten each other’s lives in a Mumbai local. Now, we’ve decided to let the show seep so deep into our consciousness that a contestant’s family member has become a meme (or internet celebrity? I’m losing track of all the social media lingo). 

‘Top 10 Bigg Boss fights’ makes it to my YouTube watch history more often than I’d like to admit, so I’m really on no sort of a high horse. But I almost miss the days when people would yell “woman card” on national TV to excuse their rampant misogyny (they’re never actually going to address it, are they?) and have fights bordering on violence over omelets. 

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I can’t help but think about one of the contestant’s (Abhishek, if I remember right) mother saying recently, “Bahaar ki cheeze ghar mai mat leke aao,” but then where’s the fun in that? Instead, I scroll through reel after reel of contestant Ankita Lokhande’s mother-in-law being compared to daily soap saases (or is saas a plural word?)

A deeper dive into how this ended up happening resulted in me going down a rabbit hole of interviews. Like the one where she said (to ABP News), “Sympathy jata rahi hai lagta hai, apne liye. Sushant Singh Rajput ko kya pada, woh toh chala hi gaya. Woh tha tabhi bator ke le gaya, kitne acche acche kaam kiye usne (I think she is trying to gain sympathy for herself. What does Sushant care about now? He's gone. He got all the love when he was alive and did all the great things).”

Or, her statement to Pinkvilla, 

“Hum log toh support mein the nahi. Ab woh nibhaane tyaar hai, hum ko kuch lena dena nahi hai. Itna sab dekh rahe hai but hum log usko kuch nhi kehrae hain. Woh aaega, khud apna grihasti sudhaarega. Bigaada usi ne hai toh woh khud sudhaarega. Aur hume vishwas hai ki Vicky sab kuch kar lega (We were never in support of it. Now he is ready to follow through with this relationship and we don't have anything to do with it. We are seeing all these things but saying nothing. He'll come back and work on his marriage. We are sure he will work it out)."
Vicky Jain's mother to Pinkvilla

If you ever wondered if daily soap operas were Bigg Boss’ biggest competitors, you can rest easy because now we somehow have both genres playing out at once. It’s also a great insight into why media training is such a big thing in the entertainment industry. The (rather annoying) ‘charm’ of Bigg Boss, if we can call it that, is the fact that the show pushes the contestants to their limits – often making them act out or fight each other. If you find similarities between the show and Hunger Games, that’s on you. You said it, not me.

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Anything that happened inside the house, including exes from the outside world entering the house or people leaving the house in new relationships, was limited to what we saw inside the house. In one of the show’s staple segments, the showrunners try to see how far you can truly push a human being by asking them to freeze while family members they haven’t seen in a while come and interact with them. But that’s where it ended – the onus of creating a mountain out of a mole hill was then completely on the contestants. It’s like an unspoken pact between them and the viewers. 

But family members interacting with the media or even the media showing up to their homes is a new addition. One that apparently we couldn’t live without. Another Bigg Boss staple is netizens commenting about the happenings in the house, picking sides and teams, finding personal stakes in the lives of strangers trapped in a house.

The parasocial relationship gets even more complicated than it logically needs to be.

What is truly interesting is that we’re all complicit – we asked for this. Almost every (“EXPLOSIVE”) interview with Lokhande’s husband Vicky Jain’s mother has close to a million views. It isn’t enough that an entire marriage is on display (and this really isn’t the first time) but we now have people from their families making the situation all the more worse. 

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Understandably, netizens were (rightfully) upset about how things have been turning out. If we look on the positive – we’re really all putting the institution of marriage under a lens. Patriarchy has rarely been dissected like this in the Bigg Boss fanbase (I’ve been on the Reddit and X threads, this is almost unprecedented) – guess every cloud does have a silver lining. 

I'm sure you've been watching Ankita Lokhande's mother-in-law's interviews almost as much 'Bigg Boss' episodes.
I'm sure you've been watching Ankita Lokhande's mother-in-law's interviews almost as much 'Bigg Boss' episodes.
I'm sure you've been watching Ankita Lokhande's mother-in-law's interviews almost as much 'Bigg Boss' episodes.
I'm sure you've been watching Ankita Lokhande's mother-in-law's interviews almost as much 'Bigg Boss' episodes.

We will criticise the way women are viewed in marriages while calling out the way the two contestants act towards each other inside the house. We will think about why a mother-in-law makes such statements, especially in the public eye. We will wonder about why physical violence is commonplace in shows like this.

We will wonder why it’s necessary to interview family members of reality show contestants. And we will do this all while doom scrolling on reels of these interviews, cut into bite-sized clips or memes that we can laugh at. 

We are all entertained, aren’t we? And isn’t that what matters? In the world of the iconic film Dirty Picture, ‘Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment’? will we ask ourselves why we’re so entertained by people fighting each other and why there are tasks that just involve contestants ‘torturing’ each other? Of course not.

This is not the time for introspection. At least we’re talking about where we should draw a line when it comes to how far reality TV should merge with reality but we’re going to tune in to every evicted contestant’s interview. I’ll probably do a live blog (or X thread) about the finale because I know it works. 

I'm sure you've been watching Ankita Lokhande's mother-in-law's interviews almost as much 'Bigg Boss' episodes.
I'm sure you've been watching Ankita Lokhande's mother-in-law's interviews almost as much 'Bigg Boss' episodes.

If you've watched reality TV, you've probably asked yourself multiple times -- how far will someone go to win a show? We've seen people get kicked out of the house for violence, slut-shame women, drag people's personal lives into the mix...all for the Bigg Boss prize.

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A Radar magazine article (‘Rewriting Reality’) stated, “Reality television is as close to mundane ‘reality’ as McNuggets are to chicken,” and maybe that’s why this phenomenon is so bothersome. We were always aware of the ‘chicken nugget-ness’ of reality TV – for years we have speculated whether shows are scripted or not. The speculation was part of the fun but now, the bubble is broken (maybe it’s a good thing?) and we’ll need to start viewing reality TV more seriously. 

Or maybe it's still all an act and the fairytale wedding we saw on social media was the real truth? But what is 'real' on social media? Maybe this is why we avoid introspection when it comes to reality TV. The spiral is not worth it.

At the end of the day though, a new season of Bigg Boss will come – new fights will emerge and maybe even more family members will find themselves in news headlines. And I will still tune in, maybe to escape reality but now there will always be a nagging thought at the back of my head – what am I buying into? 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Bigg Boss   Ankita Lokhande   Bigg Boss 17 

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