India Insight

Swami Agnivesh turns to Bigg Boss in publicity quest

By Annie Banerji

India, touted as a land of mysticism and spirituality, boasts a large number of TV channels devoted to religion and faith. But for self-avowed Hindu reformist Swami Agnivesh, a former member of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare’s core team, the limelight of primetime reality TV was just too tempting.

Agnivesh sees it as an important medium to fight against exploitation, violence against women and the killing of unborn baby girls. But some have scorned a perceived publicity stunt gone too far.

Agnivesh, who controversially split from Hazare’s cadre of anti-graft warriors that mobilised millions against India’s corruption-smeared government, will on Tuesday appear on reality show Bigg Boss, India’s version of primetime hit Big Brother, in which contestants are under house arrest for three months with round-the-clock camera surveillance.

“People fight on the show but no worse than how MPs sometimes behave. It’s possible to bring about change with Bigg Boss. I’ve fought for forty-five years against exploitation in society, dowry, bride-burning, casteism, female foeticide,” the saffron-clad social activist said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“It’s been a mission of my life to strive for gender equality, I think I can teach these youngsters a thing or two,” the 72-year-old said, also denying that his participation in the show, which has a reputation of being crass and voyeuristic, will mar his virtuous image.

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.