Lonavala used to be a favourite monsoon tourist destination, its main tourist attractions being the lush hilly terrain, caves, forts, parks and lakes. However from this year; Lonvala has yet another new tourist attraction. With the monsoon rains bidding adieu, many tourists who flock to Lonavala leave the popular tourist destination too. However with Bigg Boss being launched at the fag end of the monsoons and the onset of autumn; a brand new tourist hub of Lonavala is none other than the Bigg Boss house. Colors, India's leading Hindi GEC has announced a first ever initiative that connects its flagship property Bigg Boss 6 to the common man. For the three months Bigg Boss is telecast; tourists will be taken on a day's tour to the Bigg Boss house to view the live action directly from the house, experience the reality and magnitude of the production and the complex set up besides other attractions associated with the format.
On October 12th, the press was taken for a unique tour to the Bigg Boss Season 6 house. We were instructed to wear dark clothes so as to avoid being visible on the camera. The clothing colours permissible were dark blue and black. We assembled at Bandra Talao opposite the Jari Mandir in the morning. Around 10am, the 45 seater Mercedes air-conditioned bus took off. The baritone Bigg Boss voice welcomed us to the tour.
Gradually the landscape began to change. The concrete jungle gradually gave way to a breathtaking lush green hilly terrain. Indeed the view outside was quite breath-taking. However instead of looking out of the window the eyes of the viewers were transfixed on the plasma TV of the bus. A video in which the best of the previous Bigg Boss seasons were compiled was holding the rapt attention of the viewers. Though most of the journalists were well acquainted with the all the previous seasons they all watched the video almost in pin drop silence. We were all feeling nostalgic while watching the memorable moments of the Bigg Boss house- the cat fights, antics of the contestants, the moments of laughter and tears, notable evictions and winners lifting the Bigg Boss trophy.
The tour guide Sanntosh Bhat informed us, "This is the Bigg Boss Tour conceptualized to give the average viewer of Bigg Boss an idea as to how this entire show is shot and edited, and how the inmates stay and feel there." If visitors wish to they may take a half day tour too in which case the tourists need to arrive on their own to the Bigg Boss house. However only eight cars are allowed to arrive on their own every day and there will be no more than two tourist buses leaving from Mumbai daily. This tour is managed by Bollywood Toursim for Colors and has been introduced to satiate the curiosity around Bigg Boss. This tour may be availed of throughout the week till the show ends except for Thursday. Kids below 12 aren't allowed to go on this trip.
We reached the Bigg Boss house at lunch time. We were taken into the air-conditioned cafeteria where we were treated to a sumptuous lunch. Tourists who take this tour will also be entitled to this lunch for which there is no extra charge.
We were then led to the Bigg Boss Hall of Fame where there were books in which all the rules and regulations to be followed by the inmates of the Bigg Boss house were all spelt out explicitly. Photographs from the previous seasons adorned the walls too. A photographer was clicking our photos against a Bigg Boss themed background. We got the photos instantly in a Bigg Boss themed frame. In the Merchandising Room were very pretty artefacts with the Bigg Boss theme imprinted on them. There were cute cups, water bottles, mouse pads, shirts etc.
We were then led to the Control Room in groups of five after very stringent security checks. Abhisekh Mukherjee from Endemol was explaining to us very well about the production activities of the show. We were led to the sound room, the hub where each and every sound of the spacious house was captured. In the story room were numerous TV sets displaying what was going on in each and every nook and corner of the house. We heard there were 72 cameras capturing the activities of the house 24 X 7.
There are 400 people working diligently in three shifts round the clock on this show. Nearby hotel rooms have been booked for three months to accommodate them. The venue is actually teeming with poisonous snakes, so a snake catcher who catches more than three dozen snakes on a daily basis has been appointed.
After viewing the Control Room, we were taken on the most exciting part of the tour. We were told to maintain pin drop silence while visiting the black curtained glass gallery from which we were to view the Bigg Boss inmates live. That was because the inmates weren't supposed to get the slightest clue that tourists were flocking to the house to view them. The reason as to why we were to use dark coloured clothes is so that we fell on the blind spot of the 72 cameras which were roving all over the house.
We could see the inmates of the house lazing around the swimming pool in the open courtyard around the swimming pool post lunch under the autumnal sky. Rajeev Paul was pacing up and down gloomily. It seemed from his expression and body language that he was crestfallen that he wasn't being able to win back his dear ex-wife Delnaz Irani. Delnaz wasn't facing him at all. In fact she was at the opposite end of the pool with her face turned completely away from him. We could identify Aseem Trivedi by his glasses and long hair (shorter though after a haircut) though he was looking away from us too. Also hairdresser Sapna Bhavani was quite discernible by her close cropped white hair. We could easily make out that Dinesh Yadav wasn't there; therefore it was clear to us that he had been evicted.
The tour also includes a visit to the room where the evicted inmates come out and are interviewed by Salman Khan, the Confession Room- a room for the viewers to get a chance to play Bigg Boss housemate and Salman's Chalet- a place where host Salman unwinds during the shoot. Salman usually comes to the sets with his three pet dogs and works out in the chalet's gym. Salman Khan then arrived in a car to flag off the tour. On getting out of the car, many women journalists were star struck on seeing their hero. A mesmerized fan said, "See, Salman is wearing a shirt with an orange collar, how cool, will any other star be bold enough to do that?" The actor and host Salman likened the Bigg Boss house to a zoo and the inmates as animals imprisoned in it.
We then met Raj Nayak, CEO of Colors, Deepak Dhar, Managing Director of Endemol India and Manoj Gursahani, Managing Director of Bollywood Tourism. Raj Nayak told us, "The purpose of this tour is to prove to the viewers that this show isn't scripted at all. Our tickets are quite nominally priced, so this isn't a profit making venture for us at all. Our aim is to take the viewers to the epicentre of the show where content is being created without tampering with the sanctity of the show's format. Colors is changing history with this tour. Later we may come up with more such tours for our reality shows. I do feel that other channels on seeing us will also organize tours like these." Raj also insisted that he was initially quite clueless that Rajeev and Delnaz were married. He insisted that he got to know of it much later after reading the newspaper.
Deepak Dhar added, "We are excited to extend the Bigg Boss experience to audiences with the Bigg Boss Tour. With this feature, we are looking at delivering the excitement and unpredictable aspects that come with every episode of Bigg Boss to the viewers through these tours. This gives the viewers a chance to get as close as possible to the world of Bigg Boss thereby giving them a first-hand perspective on the show. This element definitely adds an innovative aspect to the realm of reality television in India."
Manoj Gursahani, Managing Director of Bollywood Tourism concluded, "We at Bollywood Tourism are excited to manage this venture for Colors and make India's most celebrated address the Bigg Boss House into one of the country's most visited destinations in the next three months. This is a path breaking move and game changer and we are positive that just like the show, the house tours will create a phenomenal buzz and excitement. The concept of the show itself is so intriguing that we are sure every viewer would love to have a glimpse of the Bigg Boss life. Our well planned tours covering the Bigg Boss house will help to showcase the scale of production and the nature of reality television. We at Bollywood Toursim are geared to handle over 100 visitors catch the drama unfold live every day making this property even bigger."
Journalists came back after enjoying a very different tour at Lonavala. From October 13th this tour will be open to the general public. Booking the Bigg Boss tour is simply a mouse click away:
Log on to colorstv.in.com/biggbosstour to register or call on (022)43438134 or (022)43438123. Full Day Tour (starts from Mumbai, includes transport)- Monday to Wednesday- Rs 1799 per person, Friday- Rs 3299 per person (view Salman Khan eviction episode), Saturday – Sunday- Rs 1799 per person. Inclusive of insurance, service tax and transaction fee- booking starts on October 15th, 2012.
- Author and Reporter: Pallavi Bhattacharya