Star seeks groom on TV and other soaps
A new reality show in which a bunch of suitable men vie for the hand of Bollywood starlet Rakhi Sawant is an interesting twist on the prevailing custom of Indian men choosing their brides.
“Rakhi Sawant ka Swayamvar“, which harks back to the ancient tradition of princesses choosing a groom from a line-up, began airing on Monday night, pitting more than a dozen men from varied backgrounds — and with varying singing and dancing abilities — wooing Sawant, a colourful personality known more for her antics off camera.
It may be yet another publicity stunt for Sawant, who claims she will marry one of the men at the end of the series in a traditional wedding ceremony.
It may be yet another move by the channel, fighting for eyeballs and advertisers, to score high TRPs – or Television Rating Points that show how popular a programme is.
Still, it offers some respite from the female stereotyping on the Indian airwaves: from ads that show women as being incapable of any decision save the right cooking oil for the family, to shows that glorify child marriage and female foeticide under the guise of ushering in social change.
A soap featuring a child bride married at the age of eight claims it “very sensitively portrays the plight of children who are unwittingly forced into marriage, in the name of tradition”.
A brief blink-and-you-miss-it disclaimer at the end of the show says child marriage is illegal.
Competing for shock and awe value on the same channel is another soap that features a village where newborn baby girls are drowned in a pool of milk.
Not recommended viewing in a country where the gender ratio is so skewed in some states that it has set alarm bells ringing. The networks claim they are raising awareness of these “social evils”.
But that is not a primary concern; they have TRPs to deliver, viewers to satisfy and advertisers to please.
Sure, TV is capable of sparking debate and bringing about change, but for a casual viewer seeking an insight into how India treats its women, what’s on primetime telly is scarcely redeeming, is it?