Bigg Boss Tamil: Has Kamal Hassan's popularity on the small screen raised Vijay TV's TRPs?

Sujatha Narayanan

Aug,13 2017 10:03 22 IST

Growing up in the 90s in south India meant having witnessed the biggest boom there ever can be — Sun TV.

It was a time when the threat of satellite television loomed large over new film releases in cinema halls. The concept of "film promotions" was new. While veteran directors and production houses has "slots" for their shows, cinema was at best relegated to a festival day interview with the top five or six stars. Entertainment at the turn of a switch eventually made the theatre goers opt to sit in front of their television sets.

They tried imposing bans on actors giving interviews, tried to stop selling satellite rights of films to TV channels and took on the medium of instant entertainment with hammer and tongs.

Most of them joined this bandwagon, except one man, who right now is having the last laugh - and he is Kamal Haasan.

Kamal Hassan hosts Bigg Boss Tamil

Even when the entire film industry was against the new medium of satellite TV then, Kamal Haasan had predicted a reach for entertainment which would come to be consumed on a daily basis on screens smaller than the size of our palms. He embraced the new platform in all gusto and it has led him up to his latest stint as the star host of the biggest show there ever can be - Bigg Boss.

Except, this show is not on the number one Sun TV network. Bigg Boss Tamil is fast making the number two channel Star Vijay gain momentum every single day. It all began with the curiosity of us wanting to watch a matinee idol on the small screen. What will he say? How will he behave? What creative and ideological difference will Kamal Haasan make to a format which is tried and tested the world over?

The answer lies in the whopping TRPs Vijay TV has gotten over the past month and a half of the show's telecast.

The drama in the Bigg Boss household notwithstanding, the weekend episodes get maximum viewership, thanks to Kamal Haasan's candour and open chats he has with the housemates. Intelligent, witty and soulful when needed, every sentence the ace actor speaks is lapped up with utmost delight and meaning by his fans and general audience alike.

Having a celebrity host is not new to the Star network — a channel that leads the way when it comes to having the best names in Bollywood host their reality TV shows. But Vijay TV in Tamil and its Telugu counterpart Maa TV now have a range of reality shows. What makes the success of Bigg Boss stand apart is the choice of one of the hugest stars in the South.

Kamal Haasan completes 58 years of being a celluloid star as of 12 August 2017.  It is an unmatched record by any existing Indian actor and one which may be matched by a few stars in Hollywood (when Leonardo DiCaprio touches 60, he will also be a child star who continued to work well into his middle-age).

In this context, we have to consider other South superstars who have also seen enough success on their small screen stints.

While Surya, Prakashraj and Arvind Swamy brought their individual styles and fan following to Neengallum Vellalaam Oru Kodi, Nagarjuna, with his ever charming self, brought a bright spark to Telugu Television on the show Mello Evaru Kodeeshwarudu (MEK). Meanwhile, Puneet Rajkumar added his friendly demeanor to the Kannada version while Suresh Gopi earned himself a new fan following altogether with his stint as quiz master on Asianet.

Chiranjeevi was the first big star from the league of the top five actors in the south, to try his hand at hosting MEK and the result was heartwarming to say the least. To hear, see and experience a mega star in live action added to the box office charm of his 150th film Khaidi No150, and the industry welcomed him back to his throne with an uproar. Television gave him the needed visibility, reach and shot in the arm when he was not doing films. From being one of the not-so-accessible actors in the south, the best names in the business were now eager to shake hands with the right channel and right project.

Television has a wide and, at the same time, in-depth reach, something a film release may not guarantee.

Television caters to all members of the family, young and old, ailing and healthy, because it has the convenience of time, which by 'appointment viewing' one can watch a show at zero extra cost. A repeat watch is possible on your TV set, and now, thanks to the many apps, it's all available for eternity on your smartphones and iPads. The feedback thanks to social media is instant, the perceived image of a show is no longer dependent on mere TRP numbers.

Advertisers themselves can gauge the popularity of a show or a show host they wish to back, based on Twitter and Facebook updates from the audience. Unlike cinema, where what goes well on social media may not always reflect in box office collections, TV is an uniform feature in every household.

The personalised connect surely does adds to a star's popularity on TV. And if the star host is someone who is idolised the way Kamal Haasan is, television proves to be the best channel through which perceptions about him are formed or broken. In Kamal Haasan's case, the political tones to his talk on the show has added immense value to his already straightforward, honest taxpayer stature.

The Tamil version of Bigg Boss is nowhere like its Hindi counterpart, in fact it is 'Bigg-er'. Vijay TV has garnered a 10 per cent hike in their viewership thus eating into Sun TV's large market share, which has now fallen to below 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, not to be left behind is the Malayalam channel Amrita TV, which has been running teasers of a talk show with none other than Mohanlal, with lavish sets and a large audience. Titled Lal Salaam, this show will be the first of its kind for Kerala, which sees one of its two superstars make his small screen debut.

From the '90s to 2017, it has indeed been a thumping winning journey for television content.