Salman Khan’s outing as the Bigg Boss host has turned out to be a two-way process of benefit. The superstar has succeeded in drawing the pan-Indian family audience to the controversial show, giving the producers a scope to push it back to prime time in its sixth season from where it was briefly yanked out. The show on the other hand has been a big reason why Salman has managed to reach out to the general public and rectify his Bad Boy image of yore, with his sense of humour and engaging approach.
Indeed, Bigg Boss over the past three seasons has helped Bollywood’s erstwhile brat cleanse his image. He still maintains a bit of that Bad Boy charm, but he does it with harmless mischief. In the process, Salman has emerged as the Good Bad Boy of Bollywood, an image that has only endeared him to the audiences all over.
Connecting well with the audience of the show, Salman has added to his fan following. His connect with the masses has also helped boost his larger-than-life big-screen persona, which in turn has worked in the favour of his super successful films.
Just like Amitabh Bachchan, who bounced back with Kaun Banega Crorepati in 2000 when many felt his film career was over, Salman’s television stint has fetched him cool benefits and helped him move beyond his image as nothing but a star of the masses.
Television happened to Salman at a time when he was battling to survive Bollywood. Between 2006 and 2008, he had a string of over half a dozen flops – notably Salaam-e-Ishq, Yuvvraaj, Veer and Main Aurr Mrs Khanna. Many wrote him off.
On the personal front too, stories of his ugly fights, his brushes with the law, break-up with Aishwarya Rai and spats with colleagues including Shah Rukh Khan and Vivek Oberoi were not helping him win new fans. His arrests in a drunken driving case after doing breath analyzer test and the black buck shooting case, in particular, caused dent in his image. One allegation he faced was that he broke breathalyzers laws and didn’t show respect for the laws of the country. An affable avatar as Bigg Boss host has indeed helped change all that.
The template for the formula was perhaps set in Dus Ka Dum, the first show Salman hosted a while back. When Siddharth Basu announced Salman as the anchor of Dus Ka Dum, many felt the star would be a misfit on TV. Soon, however, people noticed his witty screen presence and ability to connect with studio audiences and contestants. The two seasons the show ran – in 2008 and 2009 – saw viewers realise Salman was more than the moody and brash superstar he was made out to be. Notably, Prabhu Deva’s Wanted – the 2009 Eid blockbuster that turned Salman’s Bollywood fortunes – happened immediately after that.
“Salman’s TV persona has definitely helped him in building up the positive image. Before he appeared on the small screen, he dealt with an image that presented him as a brat.
His TV outing presented the real side of the man, as a sharp-witted and genuine person. It helped him connect with the masses,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh. Insiders claim that Salman along with his manager and publicist have carefully worked at the ‘imagerectifying’ activity all along. His newfound image is reported to be carefully controlled by his team.
HOST WITH A TWIST
Salman took over the controversial reality show as an authoritarian warden. His comic timing combined with the ability to exercise strict control on the housemates has helped maintain order in the house, and also made him a likeable anchor. If Big B has added a dimension to his game show KBC over the seasons with his distinct image, connecting with smalltown contestants with patience and concern, Salman has kept the audience engaged on Bigg Boss by getting involved with the contestants. The resultant drama has directly boosted ratings of the show.
He plays out his status as a host in control by alternately ribbing, admonishing and showing concern for the contestants. If he is normally funny, errant contestants such as Dolly Bindra, Pooja Missra, Sapna Bhavnani and Akashdeep Saigal have had to publically taste bitter pills, too.
In a recent episode, celebrity hairdresser Sapna Bhavnani had to pay for her unruly behaviour in the house when Salman openly chided her.
The rumour is Sapna later sulked, calling Salman a ‘serial woman beater’ on the show but that particular dialogue was edited for obvious reasons.
The mutual benefit lies in the fact that Salman has helped position Bigg Boss as a show that is suitable for the family audience. He has had a track record of working in films that cater to the entire family. The actor who holds the record of never even having kissed on screen seemed perfect for the channel to give their show a universal makeover.
It is working. According to an MEC survey, the opening TVR of the show was a healthy 3.9 and the viewership this season is 30 per cent more than what it was last season.
Moving back to primetime this season, the show is low on the cheap fireworks that had become a Bigg Boss staple. Instead of only having wannabe celebrities, the show has included activists who tried to bring in variety.
FUNNY SIDE UP
The channel has maximised Salman’s comic swagger, the factor that has made him a darling of the middle class. The star is always trying to elevate the fun quotient by cracking jokes, dancing and singing. According to sources, most of the jokes and tongue-in-cheek comments are Salman’s impromptu expressions. Before shooting his Jumme Ki Raat Salman Ke Saath episode, he merely sits down with scriptwriter Kiran for a while to put in those extra punches.
He comes up with creative inputs, too. It was reportedly Salman’s idea to add variety by including activist-cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in the show this year.