The real story

Anusha Subramanian        Print Edition: Jan 23, 2011

On a nippy December morning, this writer along with photojournalist colleague Umesh Goswami visited the sets of reality show Bigg Boss 4 in the hill station of Lonavala, 100-odd kilometres off Mumbai.

The objective: Tour the sets - which include the Bigg Boss 4 "house", a live studio and the backstage areas - and come back with a story on what goes into the making of a grandiose television show that thrives on unscripted drama.

The house is an imposing 12,000 sq. ft. structure, in which 14 "housemates" compete to avoid being evicted. It took Shyam Bhatia, a Mumbai-based architect, close to eight months to build this temporary residence at a cost of Rs 2 crore. The house, in which the housemates have to spend 85 days together with 40 cameras tracking them round the clock, has no TV connection, no phones, no Internet connection - not even a clock, or a pen or paper.

From left to right: Host Salman Khan with Bollywood stars Akshaye Khanna and Anil Kapoor inside the live studio of Bigg Boss 4
From left to right: Host Salman Khan with Bollywood stars Akshaye Khanna and Anil Kapoor inside the live studio of Bigg Boss 4
Adjacent to the house is a 1,400 sq. ft. chalet that is home to Bollywood star Salman Khan, host of the show; Khan stays there every weekend when he visits to shoot. The entire set, which also includes the area where a live audience sits, and technical control rooms, is situated in an industrial shed spread over an area of two acres. For close to three months, some 200 crew members have been working on three shifts of eight hours daily.

Of the 200, 50 are staffers from Endemol, the Netherlands-headquartered TV production company that created the original format; the rest have been hired for three months on a project basis for Bigg Boss 4. The nerve centre of the set is the Master Control Room, which has a panel of over 20 monitors that displays what every camera in the house captures. Two story editors alternate on four-hour shifts round the clock with their eyes glued to the monitors; their job is to weave stories around daily happenings inside the house. At any given point in time, a story editor follows two stories.

 Behind the scenes of Bigg Boss 4

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It cost Rs 150 crore to put together 96 episodes of Bigg Boss 4.
There could be more than two conversations happening but it is the decision of the story editors to follow what he or she thinks viewers will find captivating. There are two daily producers on the show who work in shifts.

The daily producer, who has the overall vision for the day's episode, works from eight a.m. in the morning and is on duty till the next day when the show is up-linked and telecast. The daily producer is updated by each story editor on their respective stories and then it is his job to assimilate these stories and create a daily episode.

From eight a.m. till midnight, the daily producer has the task of going through 50 different stories, selecting the best ones, and crunching them into a 50-minute episode. The edited episode is sent to Deepak Dhar, Country Head of Endemol India, and Ashvini Yardi, Head of Programming for Colors. Only after their approval does an episode go on air.

"It is the channel's call to edit or mute the video of housemates using abusive language," says Aritra Mukherjee, Creative Director of the show. A team of six has the job of researching various tasks that can be given to the housemates. Tasks are generally thrown in when the story editor finds that not much is happening amongst the housemates.

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