It was, by all accounts, an engaging debut for Veena Malik and Ali Saleem aka Begum Nawazish Ali on the fourth season of “Bigg Boss”.
Saleem, who hosts a popular television show in Pakistan and has worked in India as well, was a surprise addition to the show. Saleem’s initial claim to fame in Pakistan was his impersonation of the late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
The season premiere of the show, which aired on Colors TV on Sunday night, was overshadowed by the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games taking place at the same time.
When Salman Khan asked a black sari-clad Saleem about cross-dressing, he said, “Variety is the spice of life … In Pakistan and India people love this ‘buy one, get one free’ offer.”
Saleem added, “I will pray for Pakistan and Insha Allah I pray that the situation will improve quickly.”
On the other hand, Veena Malik performed a dance number and greeted viewers with “Assalaamulaikum Hindustan.” Clad in a glittery outfit, she addressed Salman Khan with, “Aap jaise dabangg ke saaamne saanson ko aur dharkanon ko theek hone mai time lage ga.” (It will take time for me to regain my composure in front of such a fearless person.” Malik’s answer was also a way to allude to Khan’s recent film Dabangg.
The two Pakistani contestants greeted each other exuberantly once they met in the “Bigg Boss” house. This is the first time two Pakistanis have participated on an Indian reality television show. However, the casting move may attract more controversy as the Shiv Sena has reportedly registered a protest against the inclusion of Pakistani actors.
NDTV reported Shiv Sena MNS chief Raj Thackeray as saying, “Great singers like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle were never allowed in Pakistan then why do we need Pakistani people on the show?”
An interesting element to the show is the inclusion of controversial figures. Ajmal Kasab’s former lawyer Abbas Kazmi (who introduced himself to contestants as “Kasab’s lawyer ... you must have seen me on TV”), reformed bandit Seema Parihar and ex-robber Devendar Singh are also competing in the show. Other contestants include actors Ashmit Patel, Sameer Soni and Shweta Tiwari. According to the Times of India, Singh has been asked to leave the show following unruly behaviour.
The show opened with Salman Khan giving viewers a tour of the “Bigg Boss” house, which includes a common bedroom, a change from previous years where the house had separate sleeping arrangements for men and women.
Indian shows featuring Pakistanis have become a huge hit on both sides of the border. The inclusion of Pakistani comedians such as Shakeel Siddiqui on “Comedy Circus” paved the way for more Pakistani stars. Musician Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is part of the judges’ panel for “Chhote Ustaad”, a musical talent hunt show that is currently on air. Contestants include children from Pakistan and India who have been paired up together.
Twitter users on the ‘Bigg Boss’ premiere
Kaalakawa: After having seen the complete “Big Boss” premiere I can safely say that Veena Malik is the most charismatic character in there.
YusraSAskari: So does Ali Saleem’s make-up artist have to spend three months in the “Big Boss” house as well?
Bijli: Shiv Sena protests inclusion of Pak actors in “Bigg Boss”. Didn’t know Shiv Sena has started worrying about Pakistan’s image!
Snehalwankhedel: The fourth season of “Bigg Boss” may have Salman Khan, but the final list of contestants has turned out to be quite dull.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2010.