Bigg Boss season 11: From favourites for finalists to fake antics, former contestants weigh in
Bigg Boss season 11 has completed a month. How have the contestants fared so far?
Bigg Boss season 10 had seen an interesting clash between celebrities and regular contestants, thanks to a new format. The same concept was carried forward to the current 11th season of the reality show as well. But right from day one, the lines between the two — celebrity and non-celebrity contenders — have been blurred. This is in contrast to the previous season, where we saw a clear-cut distinction between the Celebrities and Indiawale teams.
"It’s a good thing," says Priya Malik, Bigg Boss Season 9 contestant and Big Brother Australia 2014 finalist. "The reality show is about human beings and not about celebrities or 'commoners'. It’s mainly to do with human psychology; the status of participants doesn’t really matter."
This season has certainly seen a good mix of contestants, with television celebrities like Hiten Tejwani, Hina Khan, Shilpa Shinde, Vikas Gupta, Priyank Sharma and Benafsha Soonawalla pitted against people from different walks of life. These include Bandgi Kalra, an engineering student-turned-model from Delhi; Sapna Chaudhary, a noted Haryanvi singer-dancer; Akash Dadlani, a rapper; Arshi Khan, a 'seduction queen' (whatever that means), and Puneesh Sharma, a Delhi-based investor in a chain of night clubs.
Whether or not the contestants have provided enough entertainment is debatable; what is evident, however is that it's the women who're owning this season of the show. If Hina is the centre of attention for her leadership qualities, Shilpa is unanimously considered the most entertaining (a view endorsed by host Salman Khan on the Weekend Ka Vaar episode). Arshi's eccentricities have got her attention wile Sapna is being noticed for her honesty and bluntness. The women have taken over the spotlight to the extent that even the most popular of the male contenders — Hiten and Priyank — aren't very visible. If Vikas gets some screen space, it's because of his arguments with Shilpa.
What's interesting about this season is that so much has happened in its first month alone. This is probably due to the variety of contestants and their changing equations with each other. Priya, who anchors a Bigg Boss spin-off on Voot with Sahil Khattar says, "It’s dramatic! Contestants are open to being who they are; they are much more vocal — and that is a good, refreshing change. But a lot has already happened in just one month and I hope there isn't a lull later."
Lopamudra Raut, Bigg Boss 10's second runner-up, feels the behaviour displayed by contestants in this season has been inappropriate. “I find (the contestants) very aggressive and at times, I’m shocked by their reactions. From the audience perspective, last season was most enjoyable. People in the Bigg Boss house can be more entertaining but the whole focus this season is to put each other down. There are no friendships at all. Last season we saw Manu (Punjabi), Manveer (Gurjar) and Mona Lisa bonding so beautifully. I was also friendly with all three. Then, Rahul (Dev), Rohan (Mehra) and I shared a great relationship; Gaurav and Bani shared a great equation,” Lopamudra pointed out. "You obviously cannot expect the same kind of people, but contestants in the present season could do better."
Actress Kamya Punjabi,who was part of Bigg Boss season 7, has also noted the lack of warmth among the participants of season 11. “Celebrities this season might be interesting but they are certainly not entertaining, and neither are the commoners. Through the last season. I used to laugh, cry, and discuss the show with people. I loved Manu and Manveer’s banter, their one liners, their friendship...” says Kamya.
Some of the show's avid viewers feel the contestants are going overboard with their antics in the current season. They've even labelled the 'romance' between Puneesh and Bandgi as fake. “The Indiawale are being domineering, trying to make their presence felt over that of the celebrities'. Arshi, Akash and Puneesh were earlier seen targeting Hina all the time," says Rasika Deodhar, a home-maker.
Manu Punjabi, last season's contestant, says: "What Puneesh and Bandgi are doing doesn't look good to viewers. It is so fake. Puneesh comes across as immature. It's so evident that many of these contestants had decided the route they will be taking before they entered the house."
But is there anything wrong with having an agenda as a participant on a reality show? Isn't that — some would say — the point?
"It depends on the person. Some want to project a certain image, some want to resolve certain differences, as we can see that Shilpa (Shinde) has an agenda of bringing forth her professional conflict with Vikas through the show. The makers can’t stop the contestants from doing that on any reality show. But not coming with any agenda or prior baggage is the best,” says Priya.
So far, Hina, Shilpa, Hiten, Vikas and Arshi are the top choices for the finalists, with many rooting for Vikas. “Shilpa has tortured him mentally, but Vikas has maintained his dignity. He’s willing to give an explanation about what went wrong in their professional space," says Kamya. Vikas is a favourite for Priya and Manu as well. “Vikas comes across as very real and genuine. He is dealing well with Shilpa who is hell-bent on making his life miserable,” says Priya, while Manu adds: “Vikas is playing well. He is so patient."
While Hina may be an extremely popular face on television, her Bigg Boss stint has seen her viewed more as a leader than an entertainer. She's also seen by some as being too politically correct and also manipulative. Arshi, by contrast, is seen as 'being herself' — good, bad or ugly. "It appears as though Hina's gotten trapped inside," says Manu. "At times, her state of mind seems confused. Some days, she's good but on others, she loses her cool. Still, she remains a strong contestant with a huge fan following."
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