He came across as arrogant flashy, unstable and repulsive on some occasions, and creative, entertaining, knowledgeable and noble on some other ones. The sixth edition of Bigg Boss will undoubtedly be remembered as Imam Siddiqui’s season. Almost half the footage in the show seemed to revolve around him, since his entry in the middle of the season. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore the fact that Siddiqui was the big idea for the show this time.
Yet, he didn’t win. Soap star Urvashi Dholakia made it a hat trick for TV heroines, after Shweta Tiwari and Juhi Parmar. Why would the “entertainer” not win the title? Why would audiences not vote in plenty for someone bringing them back to the show night after night?
As the tagline of Aamir Khan’s last release went, the answer lies within. Imam Siddiqui not winning Bigg Boss is a fair and accurate reflection of our society’s moral response to television today. To understand this, we need to start at the very beginning.
Back in the ’90s, in the nascent years of satellite television (and even before that in the DD days), edgy content was available in plenty. A lot more serials covered business settings, where malicious characters schemed to twist big deals in their favor. Women were often working in these serials, or were at least social butterflies doing the kitty party circuit. Yes, there were positive, idealist characters too. But the layered characters (like Neena Gupta playing Ketaki in Khandaan) got the audience rooting for them.
Over years, the ambitious Air Hostess (Kitu Gidwani) and the beer-guzzling Tara were replaced by Tulsi, Akshara and Priya. These are strong characters in their own right, but outright positive ones, with no shades of grey at all. During this period, the villains became even more menacing and unidimensional, scheming and plotting all the time. Television, over the last 15 years, has separated the black from the white, the way our cinema did in the ’70s and the ’80s. Only an odd “grey” character made an impact, such as Dadi Sa (Balika Vadhu) in her earlier avatar.
With such consistent segregation of the good and the bad being dished out to them over decades, the audience too got conditioned to responding to TV characters in binary forms: Good or Bad. They lost touch with the grey. At any point of time, a character had to be either 100% good or 100% bad.
This slotting today cuts across all television. Imam Siddiqui is “good to watch”, but that doesn’t make him the positive-type good. He was clearly the villain of Bigg Boss. A villain, who may display his soft side once in a while, but remained a villain nevertheless. Imam Siddiqui was “bad”. Probably 200% bad.
You can enjoy Kancha Cheena for his antics and his menacing characterization. If the director decides to kill Kancha Cheena at interval, you will be mighty upset, and if you could, vote for him to stay till the climax. But will you want Kancha Cheena to kill Vijay Dinanath Chauhan and prevail in the end?
Victory of good over evil has been a truism in our culture for centuries now. We may deny it, even contest it, but we’ll never want to obliterate it.
And hence, Imam Siddiqui will never win Bigg Boss.
This post first appeared on mxmindia.com, on my weekly column ‘TV Trail’