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When Kamal Haasan announced he got Corona, Bigg Boss viewers were among the most concerned. Kamal had provided a certain intellectual veneer, even gravitas, to the reality show. They were wondering what would happen to it without him.

The show’s main attraction may be the voyeuristic pleasure it gives to viewers. Yet, Kamal with his book suggestions and philosophical musings had created an impression among the viewers that he was driven by social concerns. The show also brought forth Kamal’s artistic and literary pursuits. Kamal’s helming of the show was crucial to its four-season success. Bigg Boss 5 had a similar run for more than 50 days until news broke on his infection.

Kamal with his book suggestions and philosophical musings had created an impression among the viewers that he was driven by social concerns

Several names were doing the rounds on possible replacements for Kamal: His daughter, Shruti, actors Simbu, Arjun and Vijay Sethupathy. But Kamal’s shoes were too big to fill. So when it was announced that actor Ramya Krishnan would replace Kamal, it came as a surprise choice to many. But those who know Vijay TV were not too surprised.

Ramya Krishnan herself said she was surprised that she was asked to replace Kamal. She said it was a Himalayan task and was quick to portray herself as an understudy to a Guru-like Kamal. Viewers too wondered if she can match up to Kamal and give the show its edge.

Ramya Krishnan is certainly a fine actor and has built an image for herself as a strong woman who lives life by her standards. Her Neelambari in Padaiyappa is one of the unforgettable characters of Tamil cinema where typically actors, not the roles they play, leave a mark. Her turn as the Rajamata in Bahubali was equally unforgettable. She has prior experience doing a reality show on Sun TV. She steered the Bigg Boss Telugu ship when Nagarjuna was away in America. This likely made her a logical choice for Bigg Boss Tamil.

But her appearance has not been met with a rapturous welcome. Social media chatter has been rather muted. She is compared with Kamal every step. Is this just about Ramya Krishnan or about a woman playing the Bigg Boss?

Social media chatter has been rather muted. She is compared with Kamal every step

Not too many women have made a mark in Tamil cinema and left their imprint on the basis of their talent, personality and individuality. So is there a film celebrity out there who can be the woman Bigg Boss?

Since the woman Bigg Boss needs to come from Kamal’s circle, who could possibly fit the role, then?  Sripriya comes to mind. But Sripriya has ruled herself out by intervening against Lakshmi Ramakrishnan’s confessional reality show where the voyeur quotient was even bigger than in Bigg Boss.

Khushbu anchored the Jackpot show. She is seen to have the gravitas to come on national news television panel discussions. But while she can express strong views, she is not known to be nuanced and considerate of alternative viewpoints.

Suhasini? As Kamal’s niece she will be appropriate, except her prattle does not give her the necessary authority.

Radhika comes close. She is among the few women who have made a mark in Tamil celebritydom as an independent woman on television. But viewers have known her for roles on television and movies that are not of the Bigg Boss persona.

A new face, then? A relatively unknown person who doesn’t have the baggage of past appearances in movies and television will help. Viewers will not pre-judge her.

The Bigg Boss needs to have a certain screen presence and charm, as well as an understanding of broader social, political, cultural and interpersonal issues. He or she needs to appear to be in-charge, a wise big dad, the super ego, the objective mediator, the witness consciousness that is the almighty himself. But such a description itself may be unfair to women. These are typically male roles just as God himself, from a psychology perspective, is a male idea.

A woman Bigg Boss will be different. She may not be the one who takes everyone along and dispenses wise justice with fairness. Strong views and exaggerated demonstrations of power are intrinsic to women power. She would be trigger happy in ruthlessly and visibly cutting men to size, just to convincingly prove a point. Will that make good television?

A woman Bigg Boss will be different. She may not be the one who takes everyone along and dispenses wise justice with fairness

It certainly made good politics. Think Jayalalithaa!

Until such a Bigg Boss is thinkable and commercially viable, Kamal will have no replacement.


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