India's Big, Fat Reality-TV Engagement

Rakhi Sawant Courts Controversy and a Husband in Popular Program

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Mythili Chandrasekar
Mythili Chandrasekar
"Swaymanvar" is a concept from Indian mythology and history, where ancient princesses chose their grooms from a lineup of princes, often only after they complete a slew of tasks that measures their royal capabilities. In a modern-day version, controversial Bollywood girl Rakhi Sawant has been on NDTV Imagine in a program titled "Rakhi Sawant's Swayamvar." Weeks of controversy, avid viewership, divided opinion and news-hour debates came to an end yesterday when she chose her groom, an Indian settled in Canada.

According to reports, when the show was announced, it drew more than 12,000 applicants, and 16 were shortlisted to participate. Over many weeks the prospective grooms bent steel rods, walked on hot coal, danced and went through many tests including Rakhi visiting their homes and meeting their families.

Rakhi's childhood struggles, her life as an "item girl" (dancer) in Bollywood films, her troubles with her family, her frank admissions, her participation in earlier reality shows, all make her great media material.

Was it the "Cinderella" quality of the story? Was it the cynicism and disbelief that surrounded the program? Was it the fact that this is a society where men get to choose their brides rather than the other way around? Whatever it was, a big fat Indian engagement (the pair decided to get to know each other better before actually getting married) has drawn to a close. How real is reality TV? The debate continues.

Mythili Chandrasekar is senior VP-executive planning director at JWT India.

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