He has been the most popular film star in the country for three years now. Salman Khan’s power and charisma has been evident both at the box-office and in the media. Many stars have been critics-proof, but Salman is perhaps the first star to achieve the ultimate pinnacle of stardom: Today, he is content-proof too!
But there’s another component to true, unqualified stardom – television success. With the sixth season of Bigg Boss, Salman has achieved that too. As Sanjiv Sharma, chairman of reputed production house Optimystix, summarized aptly in a tweet earlier this week: “A TV host achieves excellence when it seems like he has created the format. That’s what Salman Khan is achieving with Bigg Boss 6.”
Bigg Boss didn’t have an “anchor” in the real sense of the word over the first few seasons. It only had hosts who played musical chairs every year. It started with Arshad Warsi, moved on to Shilpa Shetty and Pooja Bedi, then to the Big B, before Salman stepped in for the fourth season. The fifth season, however, saw Salman making only a guest appearance in four episodes, being largely unavailable because of the overseas schedules of Ek Tha Tiger. Sanjay Dutt stepped in, and didn’t do too badly, given the Herculean task of filling Salman Khan’s shoes.
But finally, the anchor has arrived. Salman Khan has a full season to himself this year, where he’s hosting not one but two episodes every week. These episodes have been even named after him – Jumme Ki Raat Salman Ke Saath & Super Saturday With Salman.
But unlike several other celebrated TV hosts, Salman’s real contribution to Bigg Boss goes way beyond his name. Evidently, he has immersed himself in the show, almost unconditionally. Now that’s something one would expect more from the hard-working variety of stars, such as Amitabh Bachchan or Aamir Khan. One expects Salman to arrive on the sets and just go with the flow, without much preparation or rehearsals.
In all probability, he arrives on the sets and goes with the flow anyway. Barring a crucial difference. It is very clear that he actually watches the show during the week. And that he has a take on what he watches. He takes positions on issues. And these positions are his personal positions, not of the channel or the format.
So he can pull up the commoner in the house (Kashif) even denying him the right to be a Salman Khan fan, because Kashif’s behaviour in the house didn’t qualify him for it. He can initiate an awkward conversation around a separated couple, and yet make it come across as casual and comfortable. He can applaud Sidhu for being the face of the new Bigg Boss that Salman wants to create – a cleaner, family-friendly version.
But the real victory lies in doing all of this with immense fun and entertainment. The two hours every week (Fri-Sat) are packed with so much ‘masti’ and humour, you will be willing to play a theatre’s ticket price for it. Almost the entire content in these episodes comes across as unscripted and improvised. From giving nicknames to the inmates, to mimicking them, to even asking the most interesting questions, he does it all. Not to mention the sheer effortlessness of the way he handles co-stars who come on the Saturday show to promote their forthcoming films.
Bigg Boss is no KBC or DID. It doesn’t carry the burden of inspiring its viewers and making a change in their lives. It is designed for pure entertainment, of the voyeuristic and glamorized variety. It is a show that begs not to be taken seriously. And Salman Khan seems understood this better than anyone else.
When I see cricket experts analyzing statistics at the end of T20 matches (like the Champions League), I often wonder if they are at the wrong match. If the T20 viewer is interested in slam-bang action, why bother him with wagon wheels, strike rates and dot ball percentages? The fit between the image of the show and the hosting style is the key. Shahrukh Khan struggled with it in KBC 3, where he tried to make a purposeful show frivolous. Amitabh Bachchan struggled with it in Bigg Boss 3, where he tried to make a fun show purposeful.
I know it is almost blasphemous to compare any host in India to what Amitabh Bachchan has achieved on KBC. And I wrote about it in this column very recently too. But if Salman Khan were to make himself available for another season or two of Bigg Boss, he may just achieve the same. There I said it!
This post first appeared on mxmindia.com, on my weekly column ‘TV Trail’