Match made on television

Match made on television

TELLY TALK

PLAYING COY: Rakhi Sawant on television show ' Rakhi ka swayamvar.'

Indian television, now desperately seeking attention quite like a wannabe bride, is giving shaadi a second chance.

After Madhuri Dixit’s failed attempts to bring jodis together onscreen some years ago, TV pundits had quite abandoned the shaadi route to TRP heaven. But now, Star Plus, in a joint venture with veteran marriage fixers shaadi.com, has taken the plunge with Star Vivaah and Rakhi Sawant has kickstarted her grandiose Rakhi ka Swayamvar on NDTV Imagine. Expect the next wave of reality shows to be all tied up in knots. All puns, incidentally, are intended.

But there are thin lines that separate jokes and puns from blind reality in Star Vivaah. In a brilliant tribute to Sooraj Barjatya’s casting genius, the show’s hosted by Barjatya movies’ dependable bhai, Mohnish Behl. He is not only terribly sweet but is also deadpan serious. He nods his head in real earnest even when a contestant says (again, with deadpan seriousness) that she is looking for a husband who has to be “rich and must look like Shahid Kapur.” And yes, I am quoting.

Having seen this last week, I was really looking forward to how Rakhi would top this embarrassing display of vapidness. In this department, has Rakhi ever disappointed anybody? Nah.

I caught the inaugural episode at a point when a tall man in an off-white and pink sherwani got out of a huge vintage car in front of the Fateh Garh palace (er.. the venue for the swayamvar) and immediately broke into a bhangra jig. The crowds lined up on both sides were cheering like they had just seen Shahrukh Khan. Our man then went inside the palace where Rakhi was waiting for him in full bridal splendour. Rakhi’s intense effort to be coy and demure (she even had lowered her voice to just above a whisper) and whatever else she thinks a bride should be was making me embarrassed for her. But my chafing for the show, for the people taking part in it and for Rakhi herself reached it’s zenith when a wannabe groom spewed some shayari, knelt down, kissed her hand and gave her a marble Taj Mahal, which she held up to the camera and cooed over. Aaargh.

This spectacle of wannabe grooms walking in with a swagger and giving Rakhi a gift continued for a while. Gifts ranged from the aforementioned Taj Mahal to a huge pink teddy bear to collages of Rakhi’s photographs. Oh yes! There was also Ram Kapoor (better known as Jai Walia from Kasam Se) flitting in and out, supposedly hosting the show, escorting Rakhi here and there and shooting admiring glances at just about everything.

The second part of the show was an ‘evening party’ where the grooms were expressly instructed to ‘impress’ Rakhi. The contenders, mostly from the Hindi heartland, except for a Toronto-based NRI, first shuffled around the set and stole nervous glances at the camera. Most of them appeared to be suffering from a case of stage fear coupled with an intense desire to impress not just Rakhi but everybody else. The attempts to impress ranged from cringeworthy chivalry to generous compliments to the bride-to-be to showing off dancing skills.

My breaking point came when Rakhi gave a ‘pyar ka nazrana’ badge to a contestant who had impressed her most that evening. He wore it most proudly and strutted around like the stud he wasn’t. That was it. The other contenders were looking at him with a mixture of consternation and jealousy, Rakhi was still smiling demurely and Ram Kapoor was waddling around when I finally found the remote.

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