Watching Bigg Boss is like entering an alternate dimension or universe. Viewers are subjected to (sometimes lame) controversies, bitch fights, covert hostility, and all the melodrama of washed-up celebrities looking for fame again. Also let’s not forget the frankly uneasy tasks and punishments meted out, such as making Bigg Boss 9 contestant Kishwer act like a dog and humiliating her in the process; there is a deep undercurrent of sadism on the show. And to top it all off, this year, Bigg Boss stars one Swami Omji Maharaj, who has already set tongues wagging.
Deepika Padukone on Bigg Boss 10
When Deepika Padukone made an appearance on the show to promote her latest movie, XXX: Return of Zander Cage, Swami made an oblique comment about her outfit. Where Salman Khan complimented Padukone on her looks that night, Swami Omji recounted a story to Padukone about how the late Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor visited him in India. Swami claimed that Taylor’s outfit angered him as it was “revealing and transparent” so he kicked her on the waist. Swami also claimed that he “cured” Taylor of her chronic backache with his kick.
Deepika’s face was a study in self-control. She was probably itching to do a little bit of kicking herself. But what is appalling is the proud, matter-of-fact manner in which Swami boasted about assaulting a woman, and it’s obvious from his confidant manner that he believed nobody was going to take any action against him whatsoever.
This isn’t the first instance where Swami has exhibited violence against women either. In 2015, Swami slapped Deepa Sharma, an astrologer, on screen during a live TV debate even as he made some pretty off-colour remarks about her private life. This violence against women is, of course, in addition to his threats to slap Rahul Gandhi, death threats to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and a ‘proud’ proclamation of how ‘his organisation’, the Hindu Mahasabha, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
But what is most appalling – outrageous, actually – is that this man, with a known history of violence and misogyny, was brought on Bigg Boss and actually given air time and screen space in the hope that he would generate controversy and sky-rocket TRP ratings. But Swami isn’t your average potty-mouthed controversy generator who enters the Bigg Boss house each season. Besides, making dhongi babas with a roving hand stay in close proximity to a bunch of women, thus rendering them unsafe, isn’t a controversy. It’s horror! Controversy, in fact, is when Justin Bieber gets a Nobel peace prize for his lyrics. Bringing Swami on the show is akin to letting a monster on rampage on national television.
Well before he boasted about his assault, he was seen treating the other women on the show with a creepy, leering courtesy, assigning a different devi moniker to each of them. In fact, Swami Omji makes the antics of wannabe film critic Kamaal R Khan look like those of a boisterous kid working off his pent-up energy. KRK, if you remember, is a former Bigg Boss contestant who trolls women online and leers at them offline. He’s known to pass crude remarks, especially about actresses in his film reviews, he cusses a lot and generally tends to pick up a fight every half hour.
So how do these men, who proudly boast of their assaults and behaviour towards women still walk free? Why does the television industry still give them their 15 minutes of fame? Has sexual harassment and assault become a source of gossip and entertainment for the broadcast media? Or is that the only value placed on women’s rights? This is also the kind of drivel that channels market as family entertainment, conditioning children to view women the same way too.
And this isn’t happening in India alone. American presidential candidate Donald Trump has been doing it for years now. Last week, video tapes of Trump from a 2005 Access Hollywood video turned up, where he was seen proudly braging about grabbing women by their genitals without their consent. This wasn’t mere lewd talk; Trump was boasting about sexual assault.
After this video, some women came out in the open with multiple reports of unwanted kissing, touching and groping from the Republican nominee. And yet Trump casually fends off these allegations by calling them liars and belittling their appearances with remarks like, “That woman is not my type”.
And this is the man who may soon become the President of the United States. What’s more, political pundits say that Trump maybe bragging just to further his brand of sexism, which seems to be one of his electoral platforms.
It´s chilling the way a woman´s distress and traumatic experience is so casually and unapologetically used as entertainment for the masses. Never mind porn, sexual abuse on reality TV is the new form of sextertainment today! Can you still wonder that these men are boasting about it instead of cowering in shame?
As Cersei Lannister says in Game of Thrones: “Shame….Shame….Shame…Shame…”
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