When I was 15 years old, Indian television had introduced me to a brand new reality show titled Bigg Boss. A bunch of celebs from various fields like cinema, politics, sports et all, were locked up with each other in one house and together, this bunch entertained us like never before! They dished out a platter of drama accompanied with dollops of laughter and romance, sprinkled with some controversies and cuss words here and there. I distinctly remember how these two Cs had freaked my mom out and therefore, she had refrained me from watching this show in 2006. But that never stopped me from getting constant updates from my friends.
As years passed, the host of Bigg Boss season 1, Arshad Warsi was replaced in the next one by Shilpa Shetty, who was later replaced by Amitabh Bachchan and then came in Salman Khan during the fourth season. The TRPs of the show skyrocketed that year and have remained almost constant ever since.
As years passed, my mom not only started allowing me to watch it but also sat next to me and witnessed the drama unfold. In fact, Bigg Boss became our staple show during dinner time and it continues to be so till date.
Naturally, I was thrilled to bits when I was told by the Colors PR team that I had to go for an experiential in the Bigg Boss 9 house! I was picked up from my house at 6 am and we reached the sets of the show in Lonavala around 8:35 am. I had just commenced introducing myself to the fellow journalists, who were going to be my inmates for the next six hours when we were all rushed to the ‘Training Center’.
All 13 of us were frisked by a couple of hawk-eyed members from the production team and then we were asked to get rid of our phones, chargers, medicines, money etc. Basically, they had taken everything from me apart from my pair of glasses and a lipstick (thank God for His small mercies).
Going by the theme of this season, ‘Double Trouble’, we were sent to the Bigg Boss house in pairs after being blindfolded. I entered with my partner, Durga Chakravarty from IANS, Delhi. Our Bong connection had helped us form an instant bond and we were quite comfy in each other’s company right from the start. But little did we know that someone will later nominate us for #groupism!
Anyway, so as soon as I stepped into the house and soaked in its fairytale-ish beauty, it dawned upon me what a momentous occasion it marked for me. I was standing inside the house that is going to be home for several celebrities for the next three months and will be watched by thousands of spectators across the country and beyond.
While 4 of us, who were already in (Nanda Das from PTI, Abira Dhar from The Quint, Durga and myself), checked out the gorgeous pad, 9 other journos (from Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi) made their way in. As we wondered what’s next in this ‘experiential’, I secretly hoped to hear the baritone voice of Bigg Boss at least once during my 6-hour long lockdown in the house.
There were 80 cameras surrounding us and we all carried a sling pouch with a microphone. The knowledge of being watched and heard constantly was slightly uncanny for me. But I wasn’t going to let that dampen my excitement.
And boy, my excitement level peaked to an altogether different high when I heard “Bigg Boss aap sabhi ka hardik swagat karte hai” from the numerous speakers in the house. He told us to collect our breakfast from the store room in his incredible voice and we did.
Once we bid adieu to our hunger pangs, we said hello to Bigg Boss personally in the confession room during the nominations. Each of us had to give two names for the ‘ghar se beghar hone ki prakriya‘ along with valid reasons. It wasn’t an easy thing to do as we knew we were being filmed and will be later seen by everyone. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the real contestant.
We also played charades in the bedroom, a random prank with a co-contestant and performed two fun tasks during our memorable stay. All in all – it was a helluva experience!
We waved at the cameras together and then I left the house with a grin plastered on my face and a realization of how we are still capable of living and making friends without technology and social media.
Nayandeep Rakshit from DNA Online was my only friend while entering the Bigg Boss 9 house. But when I stepped out, I had five more friends – Durga, Abira, Nanda, Priyanka Roy from The Telegraph and Namita Joshi from Navbharat Times and some acquaintances.
PS: Stay tuned for the video!