Bigg Boss 4: Reality bites

Published: December 15, 2010
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Veena Malik’s appearance in “Big Boss 4” is causing a stir in Pakistan and India- but can reality TV ever really take off in the land of the pure?

Veena Malik’s appearance in “Big Boss 4” is causing a stir in Pakistan and India- but can reality TV ever really take off in the land of the pure?

Veena Malik’s appearance in “Big Boss 4” is causing a stir in Pakistan and India- but can reality TV ever really take off in the land of the pure? Veena Malik’s appearance in “Big Boss 4” is causing a stir in Pakistan and India- but can reality TV ever really take off in the land of the pure?

Despite several efforts by local television networks, reality television shows have never really taken off in Pakistan. Whether it was a look at a singer trying to stage a comeback (MTV Pakistan’s “MTV Komal”) or a hunt for a news anchor (Samaa’s “The Anchor”), the feverish excitement that usually surrounds reality television shows has been largely absent in Pakistan.

Enter “Bigg Boss 4”, the fourth season of the controversial Indian spinoff of “Celebrity Big Brother” that has mostly featured B-list celebrities. The current season became the first show to feature two Pakistani stars that were only known in India for their ‘scandal’ value — actor and host Veena Malik and cross-dressing talk show host Ali Saleem. News of the show spread by word-of-mouth, given that Indian channels have been pulled off air in Pakistan, many just didn’t have access to it.

But those who did reported back nuggets that were both riveting and satisfied everyone’s innate need for gossip: Saleem had to do his own make-up on the show; Malik shared sordid details of her relationship with cricketer Mohammad Asif and was flirting with fellow contestant and actor Ashmit Patel. The details, reported both in the Indian and Pakistani press, also fuelled Shiv Sena protests against the inclusion of the two Pakistani personalities.

Now that ARY TV is broadcasting the show (albeit with a two-week delay) ¸”Bigg Boss 4” is being streamed into houses across Pakistan. Aaj TV’s popular “The 4 Man Show” featured a spoof of “Bigg Boss 4” in a recent episode and Malik is the focal point of daily show recaps in the Indian press.

While Saleem was eliminated early on in the season, Veena Malik, by far, has proved to be a huge draw for audiences in India and Pakistan. She is already a household name in Pakistan, courtesy the Asif controversy and her work on two popular TV shows — Geo TV’s “Hum Sab Umeed Se Hain” and Dunya TV’s “Miss Dunya”.  There are hundreds of comments about her on YouTube and other news websites, by people both raving about her and raging against her, putting her down  for being “frustrated”, “disgusting” and doing this as a “cheap publicity stunt”.

In defence of Veena Malik, blogger Kala Kawa wrote on his blog (kalakawa.wordpress.com), “In a global discourse where the Pakistani woman is seen as a submissive creature with no independence, I’m delighted to have someone like Veena crushing those stereotypes. While always wearing five inch heels […] I (somewhat ashamedly) watch far too much reality television. In many ways, Veena ranks among the most interesting and engaging characters I’ve come across. As far as achieving her goal goes, I’d say she’s done pretty well. You’ve got to be somewhat smart to accomplish that.”

Surprisingly, while stronger contestants such as Sameer Soni have been eliminated from “Bigg Boss 4”, Malik has managed to stay in the competition.

She walks around the house in high heels, smart ensembles and full make up while her housemates lounge around in slippers and nightclothes, their star personas diminished as they try to do household chores. Malik has built a solid relationship with most of the housemates, establishing herself as confidante, helper and a relationship prospect — after Patel; she also started a flirtation with another contestant, model Hrishant Goswami.

She has proved to be a smooth operator on a show that is full of petty fights about food, name-calling and power struggles — a show that really is about ‘the survival of the fittest’ and getting television ratings. The channel airing “Bigg Boss 4”– Colors TV — reportedly paid INR25 million to former “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson to appear on the show for three days (who Malik taught the art of making rotis). It also brought in ‘visitors’ such as Bollywood A-list actors Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Imran Khan and Deepika Padukone to interact with contestants on the set.

The show itself is hosted by Salman Khan; with former hosts including actors Arshad Warsi, Shilpa Shetty and Amitabh Bachchan.

But does Malik’s success — and the interest in the show in Pakistan — mean that this could be a format Pakistani entertainment channels could replicate? Housing a group of mixed genders without raising hackles would be one. Also, production values in both countries differ immensely. The unfortunate death of a contestant in an adventure/reality show which was being shot in Thailand became a huge talking point in Pakistan and underscored the dangers of producing reality television shows.

There are a few success stories though, of productions such as Hum TV’s “Maachis”, which followed a format similar to “The Jerry Springer Show”, the shift over the past decade to new concepts (in Pakistan) such as soap operas, talent hunts and morning talk shows may help reality television kick off in a big way. While it may not be soon, the reality television phenomenon is coming and the five-inch-heel clad Malik may be paving the way.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Ashutosh
    Dec 15, 2010 - 3:33PM

    Malik is not alone in Pakistan. If such an opportunity becomes available in Pakistan, the contestants will flock to the show automatically. And regarding mingling of sexes and showing tolerance is concerned, I am sure, onces the contestants are locked up, they might surprise every one. With the viewer-ship of BB4, the success of such show is guaranteed (well almost).

    If you see carefully, Veena Malik had survived despite the fact that it is mostly Indians who are voting & supporting her. Though I am sure those Indians who vote Veena are probably not the onces who write blogs here!

    Lets not underestimate Pakistan.Recommend

  • Adi
    Dec 15, 2010 - 3:48PM

    Saba…why do you just mention the controvential reality shows like big brother and jerry springer…i think you should look into the huge failure of menaingful reality shows like Who wants to be a millionaire and survivor. Millionaire in perticular could have clicked well had the franchisee ARY Digital been a bit more generous in distributing money among participants and not asking questions for Rs. 10,000 which should be asked for Rs 1 crore.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Dec 15, 2010 - 4:33PM

    Veena Mailik in BB4 is what happens when you move from a closed and conservative society/environment to an open one.Recommend

  • Rana Amjad
    Dec 15, 2010 - 4:33PM

    Veena Malik we love you! You are doing a fantastic job. Good luck & praying that you win. Also hoping that you get some good offers from Indian movie directors. Recommend

  • Peeonu
    Dec 15, 2010 - 4:37PM

    Doing what Veena Malik has done and is doing reflects the strength and determination of the Pakistani females. They dare to challenge others in their home grounds.
    Saba Imtiaz has missed out one thing – show Veena wearing those legendary five-inch-heels. Otherwise a smashing good write upRecommend

  • lovePak
    Dec 15, 2010 - 4:48PM

    Best of luck veena.

    We need to change the talibanized image of pakistan. Pakistan isn’t the land of narrow minded ppl. we rock.

    long live indo-pak :)Recommend

  • G.Khan
    Dec 15, 2010 - 5:42PM

    @Anoop
    Open Society?LOL
    Where have you seen that the Leader of the second largest party lead a mob os Zealots and climb on the doom of the Babri Mosque and help demolishing centuries old historic Building under the religious false pretext. And then the court comes and legalize it the act. Give me an example where it happened in an OPEN SOCIETY in the last 100 years?Recommend

  • Anoop
    Dec 15, 2010 - 6:17PM

    @G.Khan,

    Correction. Relatively much Open Society. In US a Pastor said he will burn Koran and Race Riots were happening not too long ago.

    In UK, Pakistanis are called.. well you know what; and there are racial discrimination happening with non-White folks. Riots also take place.

    These are countries with much lesser population than India and they are called Open Societies.
    Why not India?

    In India you can practice any Religion you want or opt to being a non-believer, nobody can hurt you. You can have your own sexual preference and nobody can jail you for being a homosexual, which you can only dream of in Pakistan.

    A.R.Rahman, the Oscar winner, and immensely popular in India is a convert from Hinduism to Islam. Compare him with Abdus Salam who was ridiculed and not given due respect just because he happened to be an Ahmadi. If one were to convert from Islam to other Religion in Pakistan he would be promptly killed. Nobody has raised even a little protest against A.R.Rahman, for example.

    Compared to Pakistan, India is a much open society. Even comparison is an insult, I think.Recommend

  • Sunny Solomon
    Dec 15, 2010 - 6:24PM

    i think Veena is boring..She was OK in the beginning, but she is NOT…epic fail…Recommend

  • dolly
    Dec 15, 2010 - 6:51PM

    After reading such article it has made me think of role of women in societies such as india and pakistaan. no difference anywhere. women like Shweta Tiwari and Veena Malik. are constructing new world for and making there own individuality & existence in the conservative society. Shweta who is single mother and doing fantastic job and Veena who is single and coming out as strong and independent woman. so i really have to salute both of them. and they are becoming my favourite contestent. and i hope they come in finale. but it is also sad to see that them two don’t get along well. Recommend

  • Wiki
    Dec 15, 2010 - 7:12PM

    @Gkhan,

    Please do not drag things that are not relevant here. There can be a lot of discussion on what you are saying. The question is can Pak host a similar show and a successful one? while answering this be honest.
    What Anoop is saying is Veena has found herself in a new environment than the one that she is normally used to and that is what is helping her to open up.Recommend

  • swapnil patel
    Dec 15, 2010 - 7:23PM

    I don’t know about pakistan but majority of indian public doesn’t like the show.
    And @ G. khan – I am waiting Anoop’s answer for your out of the context question. i am sure it will be fun to read as always.Recommend

  • Dec 15, 2010 - 8:21PM

    Whatever people may say, her gimmicks/tricks have earned her a movie with pooja bhatt.
    She is technically now a international star.
    I guess she is the ultimate winner of the show.Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Dec 15, 2010 - 8:30PM

    Reality TV is the cheapest and most degrading form of entertainment no matter what country its originating fromRecommend

  • Pramod S
    Dec 15, 2010 - 8:51PM

    @Swapnil.. if you don’t watch the show doesn’t mean majority ppl in India don’t.

    BB4 is a rocking show in India and always being in top 2 reality show since the time it went on air.

    Well, I really like Veena on the show, she is tough from out but very emotional and sensitive.

    Thanks guys.Recommend

  • mishaal
    Dec 15, 2010 - 9:13PM

    veena has survived 11 week without any fans in india..that is her achievement..although being her fan sometime i reaaly became disaapointed wid her acts but she is succesful in her own game..i really want veena to win dat showRecommend

  • pakistani
    Dec 16, 2010 - 12:30AM

    & how funny people who can not do referendun in KASHMIR talk about AN OPEN SOCIETY:pRecommend

  • pakistani
    Dec 16, 2010 - 12:44AM

    those talking about veena coming from a narrow minded to a so-called open society may watch her pics & films in PAKISTAN… & obligatory to mention i do respect india & indians for many things but some people like YOU-KNOW-WHO always need some treatment:pRecommend

  • swapnil patel
    Dec 16, 2010 - 11:36AM

    @pramod
    India’s top 10 shows are all from DD network not from some creepy private channels. You don’t know that because majority of indians live in villages and most of them can only afford DD network. East or west DD is the best.Recommend

  • Hina Ali
    Dec 16, 2010 - 11:42AM

    Go go Veena win that game…indians like you cuz your hot but not much talented so to speak cuz sometimes you act silly! Love you and come back with a win.

    i support Veena malikRecommend

  • khater al baraday
    Dec 16, 2010 - 7:15PM

    She is Dilphaink hahahaRecommend

  • indian
    Dec 17, 2010 - 12:11AM

    @hina ali
    i beg ur pardon? hot? n veena malik? there is huge difference between hot looks” and cheap erotic expression to entice guys. her case falls in cheap expression and behavior category not hotness.

    as far as votes are concerned indian people dislike her vulgar things she does but are forgiveful because she has good qualities to balance her one bad flaw. she is bubbly,cheerful,helpful and has caring nature. so people including me would like to ignore her cheap stunts she puts off. and see good in her.

    one more reason is, she is from Pakistan. the fact is after 26/11,2001parliamentary attack,Kargil type instance, people in india think pakistanis only wish how and when to kill indians … thereful a girl from that place who is helful,caring,generous is assuring and soothing to them that there are good people like her too in our neighbourhood who is not like those evil ones who conspire or recruit them to kill.Recommend

  • curious
    Dec 17, 2010 - 12:29AM

    @ pakistani
    being open society and referendum is two different thing
    u are mixing politics with human behavior

    india is open because people are free to do whatever they want to in terms of changing religion or practicing religion ,speech, behavior etc because our constitution has secular law.
    ahemdya Muslim community are also muslims under indian constitution no bias against them under indian constitution unlike pakistan who consider them non muslim.
    homo sexual too have rights in india … people are free to behave act in way they want untill they insult any sentiment regarding “any” gender,religion,caste,creed,etc.unlike
    blasphemy law in india mentions “against any religion ”
    unlike pakistan’s which only uses blasphemy law for islam and too sentence death penalty.

    now about referendum, for referendum under UN charter both india and pakistan have to vacate kashmir and let voting happen on both ends. now tell me has pakistan vacated pakistan occupied kashmir? then why should india?
    pakistan has infact sold part of kashmir to china making it china occupied kashmir then how do ask for referendum on kashmir when u clearly violate the rules and still have not vacated Pakistan occupied Kashmir for referendum?Recommend

  • Nawaz
    Dec 17, 2010 - 5:35AM

    @Anoop Veena malik and likes of her do whatever they want in pakistan and no one pays any attention. Have you seen her provocative dances in b-grade lollywood movies? This is an issue only because she is on screen in India and not because she would get in trouble doing that in pakistan. And your favorite line, ‘comparing india to pakistan is an insult’ is getting old and irritating. Can you be a little more courteous with us if you must comment here? Being south indian and having no interest in Pakistan is not an excuse to be rude as you literally spend a considerable time of your day on ET.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Dec 17, 2010 - 12:15PM

    @Nawaz,

    I apologize if you were offended.That was not my intention.Recommend

  • Husna Ali
    Dec 17, 2010 - 1:48PM

    @Nawaz, 100% agreed!
    @Anoop, Time to change ur rotten dialogues now. We as Pakistanis are not permitted to comment on ur online stuff but here ET always uploads …wow “open society”. Enough said.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Dec 17, 2010 - 2:21PM

    @Husna Ali,

    You are going to judge how Open or otherwise a society is based on the websites of that country? How immature. I cant stop you, so go right ahead.Recommend

  • truth
    Dec 17, 2010 - 4:54PM

    well i don’t see that Veena survival in BIG BOSS 4 is a matter for discussion…
    guys…wake up. look for SOME REALITY.Recommend

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