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Big Brother China in India: Eating chappatis with chopsticks

MUMBAI: Having shot eight seasons of ‘Bigg Boss’ in the quaint hill station of Lonavla, Endemol Shine India recently completed producing the first season of Big Brother China called ‘Housemates, Let’s Stay Together’.

TVP brings to its readers the similarities and differences between the two versions of the reality show.

Set

While the set was the same as the one used for ‘Bigg Boss’, the team remodelled the house making several internal changes as per the needs of the Chinese team. The changes reflected the culture and the way Chinese audiences look at their content.

Big Brother China set pic 1Having a conservative culture, Endemol China, which co-produced the show, requested the team for two bedrooms, as compared to the single-big dormitory in the Indian version.

Speaking about the Chinese version, Endemol Shine India MD and CEO Deepak Dhar says, “We made internal changes in line with their cultural ethos. Everything was made for them, but since we had the experience and the infrastructure in place, we took the chance and thought of outsourcing it from India to China.”

Content

Interestingly, for the initial seasons, ‘Bigg Boss’ too had two different bedrooms for the male and female contestants. But as the show progressed and the content got edgier, the design too changed with one large bedroom accommodating the male and female participants.

“We still push the envelope every now and then, but since it was their first season, they obviously wanted to go a little slower and didn’t want to push things in the first season,” Dhar states.

In an earlier interaction, Dhar had highlighted how ‘Big Brother’ in other countries is a lot edgier than in India. For instance, in many international versions, there is a camera even in the shower area and there is an on-air shower hour.

While there could be several censorship issues on television, ‘Housemates, Let’s Stay Together’ is the first among all the adaptations of the format that will be available solely on the digital platform. The Chinese version will be beamed exclusively on digital platform Youku Tudou to garner maximum eyeballs.

Even as the team in India concentrates its energies on the one-hour primetime viewing, the Chinese version had different demands.

Mr. Deepak Dhar - Endemol Shine India“The way they sample the content is quite different from how we would because it’s on an OTT platform there and not on a broadcast network. Here our energies are concentrated on that one-hour primetime viewing; for them it is going to be 10–15-minute update stories through the day,” Dhar explains.

Selection of housemates

As a result, the choice of contestants was very different from what it is in India. For the Chinese version, the team did not rope in several celebrities from the TV or film fraternity, which is the case in India. They looked at celebrities from their online world, and two were the soap superstar equivalents.

“The contestants were Chinese celebrities so it was quite a culture shock for them straight out of Beijing to Lonavla. In the last eight Hindi seasons and three regional seasons, we have seen all kinds of content so we weren’t too surprised. Working on the Chinese version was a fun and engaging experience for us. The way the tasks were designed was different, but obviously at the end of the day, it was within the ‘Big Brother’ umbrella,” he adds.

In India, the typical housemate pattern features a politically acclaimed person, a reality show alumni, an LGBT person, a pageant winner, an item girl, an international star, someone on the wrong side of law, model, soap stars, singer, sportsperson, film star and comedian.

Production

Helping them in this task were a team of 10 from Endemol China including executive producer Rebecca De Young, who has been a producer on the UK version for over a decade.

“They were ensuring that when we were delivering the content, it was what they wanted and how they would like their content. It was quite an experience—I saw people eating chappatis with chopsticks.

“The Chinese one was difficult. Now we can definitely do the Indonesian or Malaysian one. India can become a hotspot for South East Asia. Indonesia culture and Malaysian culture are very similar to ours. And I have tasted blood now so let me see how it goes about,” he sums up.