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“Play the game like a game,” has been actor and model Kaushal Manda’s refrain from day one of Telugu Bigg Boss season two.

Most of his fellow contestants on the reality show hated him all the same and ganged up against him during the 103 days they were together. But this one-man army persisted and was crowned the winner on Sunday.

Friendless in the house, he earned the hearts of millions outside the confines of the Bigg Boss set in Hyderabad’s Annapurna Studios. His fans became a formidable force — calling themselves the Kaushal Army, week after week they punished any contestant who targeted him by voting the person out.

The more he was targeted, the more this army stood by him and their numbers grew with each passing day, equipped with their weapon — the vote. They went into overdrive on social media rooting for Kaushal.

It became quite predictable as to who would be eliminated next on the show. The one who most cornered Kaushal or tormented him with their barbs or actions was sure to go. Kaushal survived these three months to emerge the winner of Bigg Boss and thanked fans without realising there was a whole army behind him.

Receiving the trophy and the prize money of Rs5 million (Dh253,004) from Telugu actor Venkatesh and the show’s host, actor Nani, at the finale on Sunday, Kaushal announced that he would donate the money for mothers suffering from cancer, since he lost his own mother to the disease.

That was one promise he never forgot. Prior to entering the Bigg Boss house, he told the host and viewers that he would strive to play the game by the rules and donate the cash prize to cancer patients — and he fulfilled both.

Kaushal acknowledged the fact that it was like a Tom and Jerry fight with the other finalist, singer Geetha Madhuri, while congratulating her for making it to the finale. Geetha was found wanting in accepting the outcome of the show and Kaushal as the winner, though she congratulated him towards the end after all the contestants joined the celebrations.

Despite Geetha dealing him the hardest blow by condemning him to the danger zone until the end of the season, after she won a task a few weeks back, Kaushal remained his usual self, endearing himself to the audience.

He was insulted by some, rebuked by a few, called selfish, uncouth and scheming among other things. During a task, one of the contestants came to near blows with Kaushal, all because he went by the rules set by Bigg Boss and he expected others to follow, too.

Amid all this adversity, he kept his cool and persevered, which paid off in the end.

The game show in its second instalment in Telugu had a mix of celebrities and common people. While the celebrity club comprised actors Tanish Alladi, Samrat Reddy, Amit Tiwari, Pooja, Bhanushree, Nandini, Tejaswini, Kireeti, Sanjana and TV anchors Shyamala and Deepthi Nallamothu, the laity included a rapper with an unusual name Roll Rida, radio jockey Ganesh, motivational speaker Nutan Naidu, humanist Babu Gogineni and dubsmash artist Deepti Sunaina.

Bigg Boss provided an opportunity for them all to showcase their talent and improve on their interpersonal skills and survival instincts.

The Bigg Boss house was a microcosm of the real world, warts and all. With all the scheming and machinations, it reminds you of Animal Farm and with 70 prying cameras and microphones that capture every action and breath 24/7, you are reminded of the Orwellian Big Brother.

But in the end, the audience proved they are the Bigger Boss.