As a production designer, Omung Kumar has worked on several big budget films like Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black and Saawariya, but designing the Bigg Boss house gives him a different kind of creative high.Every new season of the reality presents a fresh challenge to the National Award winning director who has helmed two biopics — Mary Kom and Sarbjit.
“The Bigg Boss house has to look like a home and yet not look like one. It is in your face. India watches it every day for almost three months. It’s a crazy house...actually it is more than a house. People living here are being watched, with the audience getting a kind of voyeuristic pleasure. Every year that I have to design the house, my fantasy comes alive,” says Omung, and laughs.
He admits that the challenge is to outdo what he's done in previous seasons, and to make the house itself visually appealing. "With so many cameras, the house has to look good from every angle. Hence the walls are painted with vibrant colours. Then it’s fully lit up all the time. While working on movies we can shift cameras, we can choose a better frame — but for Bigg Boss, every frame has to be the best. Also, in films there is scope for changing the lighting effects while here there isn't," he explains.
Omung particularly pays a lot of attention to the walls, it's his way of creating an engaging environment for the contestants. “Inside the house, there is nothing for the contestants to read so I let the walls speak. I have fun with the walls while designing and give them lots of different colours. I put up many paintings, making it look vibrant. It’s like having writing on the wall... something to talk about. It's to impart a lively, electrifying touch that exudes positive feelings and conveys to the contestants: ‘Don’t give it up, manzil door nahin hai'. This time I have also introduced an element of Indian mystique to the décor, with a lot of lanterns and earthy tones, to bring a homely appeal to the set.”
And in this Bigg Boss Season 10, which kicks off on Sunday, 16 October, at 9 pm, with both celebrities and 'commoners' participating, Omung had to keep in mind their unpredictable journey while designing the sets. “A common man hasn’t lived in a lavish home so I have made it much more palatial, aspirational. But in any case, I have to up the quotient each year. Earlier, the house used to be quite simple... (Now) It is all very gimmicky. I first design the sets and then my wife Vanita changes it by bringing in lot of properties," says Omung. Another innovation this year? A very practical store-room for the contestants. “Every season, I crib because all the contestants open up their luggage in the bedroom or on the bed itself, making a mess of the room! Giving them a separate room to keep their luggage will help keep the place clean,” he says.
This year the design theme of the Bigg Boss house is 'Morocco-meets-modern'. The selection of the decor and accessories — bedsheets, curtains, upholstery, sofas, sofa benches, crockery, furniture — all reflect the theme. Unsurprisingly, the design of the set also has to accommodate the inevitable controversies that occur in Bigg Boss every year.
“I’m given some idea about the controversies likely to happen on the show," Omung says. "For instance, to disorient the location and bring a new flavour, we have swapped the living room and the bedroom this time. A contestant can lie down on the bed and look outdoors, where they can see others in the garden area and try to gauge what they’re talking or bitching about. Similarly, we have changed the position of the dining table and there is more scope for contestants to see what others are up to while having their meals, and plot and plan... A special seven-sleeper bed space has been created for select contestants."
One of the most fascinating pieces of art is a huge clock indicating the show time — 10.30pm which has been shifted from the bedroom into the garden area. “The clock shows 10.30 pm and it’s like the time has stopped for the contestants which can be really very frustrating. They don’t get to see the real watch inside the house. Every time somebody from the bedroom or the living room looks outside the house, it gives them a different talking point when they look at the watch,” says Omung. And in the midst of the plush decor and luxuries, there is a small 'jail' section in the garden area — one of the most prominent additions to the Bigg Boss house. It has a tiny Indian-style bathroom attached to it, almost cringe-worthy in appearance. “The jail system is more upfront this season with a basic old style toilet inside appearing a bit dirty, it is painted to depict a filthy appearance," says Omung.
A Jacuzzi corner in the bathroom has been created to bring in more intimacy, along with a touch of luxury to the Bigg Boss house, says the designer. “In the previous season, the Jacuzzi was kept in the garden area near the pool. But this time there is demand for more intimacy, so we decided to shift it to the bathroom which brings in newness. Also, the bathroom doesn’t look like one, it has colourful walls and couches placed near the Jacuzzi," says Omung, who doesn’t mind living in the beautiful house created by him — but only if he has to live alone.
“I make the place for living comfortably and I don’t mind living in it but not with another person. If I had to live with people screaming and shouting at me with ‘Shut up’ and ‘Keep quiet’, I would go mad. It’s a place where they play mind games,” he says, laughing.
So has he been told about any surprise element on the show? “The common man will embark on a journey-of-a-lifetime to stand as an equal against celebrity contestants. Perhaps, they will bajao band of the rich and famous [sic],” he concludes.