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Last Updated: Friday, 3 November 2006, 15:35 GMT
'Big Brother' comes to India
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Bigg Boss
A promotional photo of the show with host Arshad Warsi
The Indian version of hit reality show Big Brother is making its debut on Indian television on Friday.

Called Bigg (sic) Boss, the programme format is the same as its inspiration and will be hosted by Bollywood actor, Arshad Warsi.

Thirteen celebrities have been chosen to spend three months locked up in a house near Mumbai (Bombay).

Shows featuring celebrities have caught the fancy of Indian audiences in a major way.

In the show, the contestants all live together in a house. They have no access to books, phones, television, music systems or computers and they are not allowed to go out.


They are given different tasks to do daily and weekly through which they earn their weekly budgets.

The contestants use this budget to buy food and other necessities.

They will only be asked to leave if they are evicted through a public vote.

Host of the show, Arshad Warsi, says, "When I saw Big Brother in America I thought this programme can never be made or aired in India because we are not so open-minded in our thinking.

Big Brother logo
Big Brother is shown in about 70 countries worldwide

"But when this concept was almost finalised, I thought it was very adventurous and if it works out the way it should then it would definitely be a very entertaining and watchable show. So I thought it would be nice to be a part of it. This programme is certainly one I would love to see," he says.

However, concessions have been made to avoid offending conservative sensibilities among viewers.

"We have been true to format except we don't have cameras in the bathrooms and shower rooms and of course the sexuality aspect in the programme has been curtailed and controlled keeping the Indian audiences in mind," the programmes Chief Creative Director Sandiip Sikcand told the BBC News website.

"Even Indian celebrities are also very concerned about their reputation and do not like to talk about sex openly.

"Also, when there are so many cameras focussed on them sex is honestly the last thing that comes to their mind."

Executive vice president and business head of Sony Entertainment television, Albert Almeida told the BBC that they had chosen known faces from different fields such as the television and modelling industry because Indian audiences have an "insatiable craving to know about their celebrities".

"We all have a voyeuristic streak in us. If you look at the kind of tabloid space our celebrities get, whether it is TV stars or socialites, really, it is an appetite tough to satiate," he says.

In the past few years, celebrity-based shows have become hugely popular in India.

Programmes such as Jhalak Dikhla Jaa (Just Show a Glimpse), based on the BBC hit show Strictly Come Dancing, Indian Idol based on American Idol, as well as Nach Baliye (Dance baby) - a dance show where star couples compete - are watched religiously across the country.

'Everyone is excited'

Mr Almeida says the initial response of the advertisers to the show has been "phenomenal".

"The combination of a global format that has done well abroad and celebrities being featured in the Indian version has got everyone excited about the programme and we expect it to do very well here," he says.

Manish Porwal, an expert in media advertising, says it is true that "Indians are fascinated by their stars and want to know what's going on in their lives".

But, he says, the success of Bigg Boss will depend on several factors.

"Audiences will certainly judge the show on its production quality and script. One also needs to see the kind of celebrities they have on the show, whether they are really celebrities, big or small and how these people perform on the programme.

"Not all celebrities do well when asked to just be themselves and one has to see how the viewers react to their stars being only human after all," says Mr Porwal.

Big Brother was created in the Netherlands in 1999 and has since been marketed in dozens of countries throughout the world.

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