Some observers argue that one cannot ask moral questions of such reality shows.

The producers of Bigg Boss Kannada may just have crossed a line both with its audience, and in using Huchcha Venkat as the TV version of clickbait.

Viewers are unhappy with the channel’s decision to invite actor Huchcha Venkat who assaulted a housemate, and now the show’s star host and actor Kichcha Sudeep has refused to host the show until “justice” is done. 

In the episode that was telecast on November 15, actor Huchcha Venkat is seen assaulting actor and film director Pratham. One moment, Venkat is standing next to Pratham, who is seated at a table, egging him on. Venkat tells Pratham: “You will raise your voice against women, is it? You think you’re a man (because of this)?" Pratham is grinding something for the meal that the rest are making, and sings a song loudly as one of the participants approaches him. One of the lines of Pratham’s song goes, “How do I live with these people?” 

The next moment Venkat grabs Pratham by the neck. It was all over in a few seconds as the bouncers standing behind Venkat intervened and rescued Pratham. Watch the episode here

Viewers aren’t happy with this turn of events. Several people tweeted to both Sudeep and Colours Kannada, which airs the show, expressing their disappointment. Some scathingly pointed out that Venkat had a track record and that the whole thing was done to grab eyeballs.

In its fourth season, Bigg Boss Kannada has very high ratings, thanks in part to Sudeep, who has been the host since the show was first launched in March 2013.

With Tuesday’s turn of events, he has taken the high moral ground and said in a series of tweets, that Venkat assaulting another actor is simply unacceptable. 

How this situation will pan out remains to be seen. Sudeep’s exit could see a dip in the show’s ratings. On Saturdays he hosts the ‘Vaarada Kathe Kichchana Jothe’ show of Bigg Boss, in which he interacts with contestants and supervises the elimination. On Sundays, he holds a review of eliminated contestants. Sometimes, celebrities also drop in.

While the format of the show itself has been criticized and analysed, Bigg Boss Kannada has been especially criticized for using Huchcha Venkat for its own profitable amusement. 

Writer and journalist Gauri Lankesh has in Bangalore Mirror criticised the tendency of the Kannada film and entertainment industries to make a spectacle out of Huchcha Venkat. Last year, when Venkat was removed from Bigg Boss 3 after he assaulted Ravi Mooruru, she wrote a column about his rise to fame when he placed ads in English and Kannada newspapers announcing his intention to kidnap actor Ramya. A year that after that, he wrote, produced and directed a film titled Huchcha Venkat. The film bombed, but the interview that he gave the sole journalist who went to cover its release went viral. Venkat became an online sensation.

However, there are others, such as renowned film critic MK Raghavendra, who argue that the question of morality was not applicable to a turn of events such as the assault on Pratham by Venkat. 

“You cannot ask moral questions of this simulated reality. The whole show is designed to titillate. In the beginning of the shows there is all this talk of behaving well, etc, but there are intentional provocations, which are real. These provocations make the contenstants reveal aspects of themselves (bad behaviour) in public. The show is designed to make celebrities humble themselves, and they’re paid for it.”