Baazi Mehmaan Nawazi Ki, is not a patch on the original

If you’ve been missing BBC Entertainment’s demise in India and its shows like Come Dine With Me – as I have – here’s something to make you pine for BBC Entertainment just a little more. Life OK!, yes that’s Star One’s new name, has launched a new programme called Welcome – Baazi Mehmaan Nawazi Ki. It’s seemingly quite a direct take-off on BBC Entertainment’s Come Dine With Me. I didn’t notice any mention of it being a syndicated show, but maybe it is, or maybe it’s been “inspired”. Although I think I did read somewhere that Life OK! had announced that it would be launching the Indian version of the BBC show. Either way, good decision to follow the British, they always know best.

So, the original Come Dine With Me would begin each week by introducing four strangers who would host dinner at each of their homes for all the others. The others would then grade them at the end of the evening on food and entertainment and the winner would win a thousand pounds at the end of the week.

This is of course the Indian version of the Celebrity Come Dine With Me-leg of the Brit show. The Brit version lends itself well to Indian reality TV because Come Dine With Me has always been less about the food and more about the drama. The show was also known for its brilliant voiceover by Dave Lamb, who is as snotty as anyone can be.

Now the first week of the cooking reality show, which I’m surprised took so long to remake in India given how easily we are inspired, stars some familiar faces and some unknowns – at least for me. There’s someone called Sanaya Irani who acts in Star Plus’ Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon. Who actually seems to be the most well-mannered of the lot.

Screengrab from YouTube Promo

Screengrab from YouTube Promo for the show.

Then there’s Gauhar Khan’s lesser known sister, Nigaar Khan who was last seen in the Keeping Up With The Kardashians rip-off Khan Sisters, and seems to have a face so mobile that she could be an inspiration for Kathakali dancers. The third contestant is Govinda’s niece and TV host, Ragini Khanna. The fourth is Bhojpuri star, Manoj Tiwari. And the fifth is ex-Channel V veejay Andy.

The show is hosted by Ram Kapoor of Bade Acche Lagte Hain fame. His portly size makes him quite the perfect fit for the role of host of a cooking show. This is pretty much the only departure from the original, which has no host. The Indian version has even kept to having a male voiceover commenting on the participants – although unlike the Brit version which tells you what they’re cooking and how, this voiceover focuses on adding some masala to the programme.

What would have made it interesting would have been if they had managed to get together a real pot-boiler of guests. Like a dinner with Amitabh Bachan, Rekha, Anil Ambani and Nira Radia. Or maybe Sonia Gandhi, Tavleen Singh, Manmohan Singh and Mamata Banerjee. Or if they want to be really smarmy –Mika, Rakhi Sawant, KRK and Poonam Pandey. Aah, if only.

The actual line-up of “celebrities” is okay, which is in keeping with the channel name. The Celebrity Come Dine With Me I had watched had David Gest – Liza Minelli’s ex-husband and Jacko’s best man – as a guest, and another one had Jimmy Osmond. The celebs are usually loud, outlandish and seemingly borderline basket cases. Which makes for very good television. The underlining character of the show has always been how snarky everyone is to each other. But the finesse in the snide comments passed by guests or in the voiceover is missing in the Indian version. When the contestants in the Indian version are indulging in cat fights with each other, it looks a little too staged and just makes them come across as ill-mannered and badly brought up. A little too much Bigg Boss and too little Masterchef.

But is it fun? Well, the food everyone other than Andy cooked seemed just horrible. One of them cut her finger and bled onto the ingredients and also didn’t manage to freeze her ice cream, and for some reason they all serve the most unimaginative vegetarian food possible – and keep cooking mushrooms despite Manoj Tiwari being allergic to them (the mushrooms, not the participants) . I kept expecting him to bite into one stray piece of mushroom and keeling over and dying on camera. Sadly this didn’t happen. Also, Ram Kapoor has yet not made an appearance other than in the promos. The line-up of celebs to appear on future episodes of the show doesn’t look too good, but then look at the slim pickings the producers have to choose from in India. So there are reality TV experts like Vindu Dara Singh and Debina Choudhary and Sara Khan who’ll be making an appearance.

Would I watch it again? Yes. Just to remind me of the good ol’ days of BBC Entertainment. And in the hopes that India might have finally managed to pull off one more food reality show.

Welcome– Baazi Mehmaan Nawazi Ki is telecast Mon to Fri at 10pm on Life OK!

Disclaimer: Firstpost is owned by Network 18 Group which also owns entertainment channels such as Colors that compete with Life OK!