"Nishkashit!" Bobby Darling recounts her eviction from the first edition of Bigg Boss in 2006. She says, "That time people didn’t know what the word means. Bigg Boss used to say, 'Aap vote kar ke nishkashit karein,’ and my friends voted for me thinking they were doing it to support me. I told them later, ‘Bewakoofon you voted me out!’"

Friends turn foe as soon as they enter the house. Foes take turns to backstab like mercenaries at war. The Bigg Boss house becomes a hotbed for gossip, betrayal and deceit. This season of Bigg Boss features 14 contestants who will form a team of two for the theme of Double Trouble.

Omung Kumar's set is done up with so many kitsch elements that it looks like a cross between a dollhouse and an aquarium, or a dollhouse sinking inside one – shimmering with sequins, chandeliers, gold enamelled wall-to-ceiling paintings, twinkling with fairy lights and neon colours that could please an elf in a Disney Elysian field.

He says, “The idea was to have a more vibrant house, slightly towards Mediterranean feel which is why we have used a splash of colours. Every room has its own character. We have given a lot of characteristics and spaces to the house.”

Contestants enter the house goggle-eyed at the prettiness of the décor, wondering what it would be like to live in a surreal setting such as this. But that feeling quickly fades when the booming voice of Bigg Boss (Atul Kumar) lords over the contestants.

With no access to the outside world, living on a rationed supply of food, competing with fellow contestants for survival, celebrities on the show find it working as a detox programme of sorts. But an environment of vulnerability provides fodder for a bloodthirsty audience. Add to this Salman Khan ad-libbing as the host, and you can almost cut the pressure with a knife.

Deepak Dhar, Managing Director and CEO at Endemol India, which produces the show for Colors TV, explains the phenomenon, "When we got Sunny Leone in the house for season five, my mom stopped going for her evening walks." That settles it.

The show, apparently, is emotions over auditions – a mantra that entertainment television guru Sameer Nair taught him. Playing with it has given the show a huge following in 49 countries. And, of course, in India.

Unlike Big Brother, the international reality show on which Bigg Boss is based where anything goes, the Indian version draws its popularity by keeping things clean for a pan-Indian audience. In 2013 the producers received a show cause notice from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for "unsuitable content"

Since then they have tried to keep the show "parivarik" – suitable for ages 7 to 70. However, for season 9, the time-slot has been changed to 10:30pm for an adult audience. Salman Khan tweeted "nine is mine" – perhaps an allusion to the show’s risqué content this time around.

Is this likely? "Yes," says Darling. "It’s a strange place, unpredictable and full of surprises. If you know how to play the game and create controversy, give them masala, then you can rock it.’

The Bigg Boss franchise seems to hold a spell on most contestants who are evicted. Kamaal R Khan, and Imam A Siddique are two previous contestants whom Dhar wishes he could lock up again.

"What about Bobby Darling?" Dhar chose not to comment.

Darling quips, ‘They were unfair to me. They are devils in that house. They don’t want normal people.’

Editor’s Note: The writer was invited to the Bigg Boss house for a day. Inside, fellow contestants asked him why he wasn't as boisterous as they were. "Only in the first episode," he said. He is the first person to be evicted from the house in this season. He feels completely normal now.