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All-seeing eye in the sky

BOLE TO... Arshad Warsi is part of Bigg Boss

BOLE TO... Arshad Warsi is part of Bigg Boss  

Days after the Abhishek-Aishwarya engagement was splashed all over the media, the Celebrity Big Brother saga in the U.K., which features our own Shilpa Shetty, offers some interesting perspectives, writes ANAND SANKAR

"Oh brother!" summed up a friend in the U.K. when I asked her about the "hottest television reality show" there right now. The fifth edition of Celebrity Big Brother (CBB) is well underway and many here must be familiar with it because it includes some oomph factor from Bollywood, Shilpa Shetty."The show quite sums up the media scene here sometimes. You have to really see the amount of coverage it gets in the media to believe it," the friend added.Any publicity is good publicity it is said, and though CBB gets full pages it still managed to attract about seven million viewers on its first day. CBB is the celebrity version of the show Big Brother envisaged by John De Mol in the Netherlands. As the name states, in CBB the participants are "celebrities" and the final prize money is given off to charity.One of the biggest criticisms that CBB has had to face is the fact that the celebrities are just not big enough. Does Shetty figure in the A-list of Bollywood? And her inclusion is accused of being an attempt to to get viewers from a specific ethnic group. Other participants have been written off as "nobodies" and "wrinklies". The "D-list" includes Jermaine Jackson, Michael Jackson's older brother who was once part of Jackson 5, a former Miss Great Britain, Danielle Lloyd, who lost her title after posing for Playboy and a tabloid journalist Carol Malone famous for flip-flopping views on reality shows.The media critic of the Left-leaning newspaper The Independent said: "CBB has transcended the tacky, downmarket, smutty, unthinking, self-serving, exploitative celebration of unjustified vanity that it is to become an interesting social and media phenomenon." And summed it up: "It is unlikely that any paper, apart from The Financial Times, will ignore CBB completely."Notwithstanding, CBB has already been touted the most successful programme ever made and is said to have scored a first by using a variety of media to generate revenue text messaging, podcasts, streaming on the Internet and of course usual direct advertising. It is interesting that the show's website offers "top credit card deals" to visitors. Critics of the show have been called "pseudo-intellectuals" and it is claimed people who enter the house are said to represent a cross section of British culture.Sudha Sitaram, a Sociologist at the Government College of Arts and Sciences says that it is not new that people have always wanted to know about the lives of celebrities and people have always cashed in on it."There is the morbid curiosity to know about personal lives of others especially if they are celebrities." She adds that it is not a new practice that people have been confined to a space but the surveillance is the clincher with this show. "Being together in a space does not mean that they have to react differently but the fact that they are being watched can alter behaviour."There have been cases of bizarre behaviour in this series all right. Donny Tourette, punk musician escaped the Big Brother house by scaling the garden fence, after just 48 hours. He refused to be servant to fellow contestant Jade Goody. Ken Russell, 79, a film director left saying some surprises were a little too much to take. One of the reasons for pop star Leo Sayers departure was the lack of clean underpants.Shetty curiously has managed to stay off the headlines but it looks like it is her turn now. She has been labelled "bossy and fake" by the other women participants while being a big "hit" with the men. There seems to quite some difficulty in pronouncing her name and she has ended up being called "the Indian" or "princess". And now the British broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, is investigating whether this constitutes racism after receiving some 200 complaints. The British Psychological Society (BPS) is another one that has expressed concern. It believes individuals are "deliberately stressed" in the show by creating "tension and conflict". This was precipitated by the actions of Shahbaz Chauhdry in an earlier series when he threatened to kill himself.A version of Big Brother made its debut in India last year. Called Bigg Boss by Sony Entertainment Television, it's catchline reads: "Are you tired of watching fake emotions, exaggerated drama, contrived storylines and typical plots in your daily soaps?" CBB timelineBig Brother made its debut on British television in 2000 and the first run of the celebrity edition was in 2001. One of the first celebrities to take part said the show was "ridiculously intense" and "unnerving".Series Two was in 2002 after a gap of three years Series Three was back in 2005. In it feminist Germaine Greer branded Big Brother a bully and said her fellow contestants were taking part for the publicity.Series Four in 2006 saw a woman who was pretending to be a star becoming more popular than the "real" celebrities. For a backgrounder on the concept of Big Brother read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Brother_(TV_series)
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