Human beings can be quite ruthless and if money is involved, things can get pretty terrifying. So would you turn on your teammates for $4.56 million? Well, you don’t need to guess too long amid all the drama unfolding on The Squid Game Challenge. It is a reality show which adapts the blockbuster success of the South Korean dystopian drama Squid Games–where children’s games are turned into a bloody and violent fare. Though the show cuts out the lethal element, it has been hyper-competitive, having its own set of heroes and villains. (Also read: Squid Game: The Challenge Finale: Release date, where to watch and more)
A surgeon by profession who is no stranger to blood or broken limbs, Indian-born UK-based plastic surgeon 32-year-old Dr Ankur Khajuria made it to the top 30 out of the 456 contestants on the show.
In a chat with the Hindustan Times from London, he says he was a fan of the series and was curious to see how could he challenge himself in this battle of mental and physical endurance.
“I enjoyed the original series and just the games minus killing. But, I’m not really competitive and I like challenges and sports and I’m a surgeon as well. So I’m used to kind of being under pressure and you know, having to kind of deal with, you know, making difficult decisions, etc. This show was more about people and competitors, wanting to prove to themselves that they are mentally and physically tough and that anything that is thrown at them, we can combat it. I can say this is the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life, you know, both mentally and physically to do it for that period and yet, nothing comes close to that. If you can survive this you honestly can combat anything,” says Ankur who is better known as contestant No. 090.
Revealing that for him it was not about the cash prize of 4:5 million dollars,” My entire strategy was to win the games and challenges. Yes, there were people in the show who were loud and controversial, and trying to gain camera time. I was deep into the competition and wanted to win. Making it to the top 30 was a boost. We were out for eight hours, working in minus 4 degrees, people were giving up on their people, we just couldn’t take it. But in my head, I was like this is non-negotiable, I have to get through this.”
The show, since it aired on November 22, has ranked No1 in 76 countries, with viewers deeply invested in the contestants, Contestant No. 278 Ashley Tolbert was called out post the Glass Bridge Challenge for being the most selfish player, facing social media backlash as well.
However there have been a few contestants who have been alleging that the games were rigged, how they had to battle inhuman conditions and were harmed, Ankur begs to differ “Many have been complaining for several reasons, but most of them were eliminated during the red light Green Light challenge, and felt bitter that they didn’t make it through, but we knew this would be tough. This is Squid Game with a huge cash prize which won’t simply be handed over. It was the survival of the fittest. No one was forcing you to do anything, they could have quit.”
Revealing that many people were eliminated by the time of the Red Light Green Light and only 200 people made it to the dormitories. With a series of games similar to the original series, the Dalgona challenge also saw several eliminations, and though the participants prepped for the Tug of War, the battleship challenge took many by surprise. The contestants also had their own set of challenges within the dormitory. “I learnt to keep a low profile, be a friendly face and not get too familiar. I didn’t want real time footage but to go for the final win.”
So is he going through Stockholm Syndrome? “Well, you can say that. I lost a lot of weight, nearly 8 kilos while I was there. The food situation there was not pleasant, meals were basic and we were having less than 1000 calories. It was like a prison, we had no contact with the outside world, and we were out for eight hours working in minus 4 degrees. All we had was our tracksuits, toothbrush and paste. We had no personal belongings. Though I have ticked a box on my bucket list, it was an incredible experience. I made friends for life and thought some backstabbed us too. I may do it again, but for now, I have already done this,” he concludes.
The December 6 finale is much awaited as the three finalists Sam, Mai and Phil compete one last time for the coveted cash prize. So is there likely to be a second Season 2? In all probability, yes.