Monday, October 07, 2013

Finding True Love on the Idiot Box

Swayamvar, as a concept, has always intrigued me. In theory, it seems to empower women. In practice, it doesn’t.

On the surface, the practice of a Swayamvar (where swayam means the self and var means the bridegroom or the husband) seems to allow princesses and highborn women to choose their own life partners, and thereby to have some control over their own destinies. But that is not how it works.

The scrawny cultured prince who would rather paint and write poetry than wrestle or engage in a round of archery is placed at the bottom of the food chain in the lineup of the prospective husbands. The princess could pine for him as hard as she dared. The contests that would be held to select the girl’s husband, and, I suspect, provide some entertainment while that was done, would never ask candidates to write a short story in 100 words or less or sing a song or display their talent in any way. Raw, physical strength was all that mattered. Machismo.

The princess, as the prize, would be handed over to the beefy stud who performed the stunt in question.

Because history is a chronicle of wars fought and battles won or lost, of births and deaths, or ascensions to the throne and of abdications, students of history would never hear another word about the marriage. But we can hazard a guess about the state of these alliances.

The marriages that ensued out of these matches would not be what Shakespeare would have described as a marriage of true minds. Copulation with a view to reproduction, particularly of the male heir, the more the merrier, would be the goal of the alliance. And if the said princess failed to deliver the goods, her husband would get into another alliance. Or buy another wife. Or simply abduct one. Royalty didn’t have to wait for the Town Crier to inform them about a Bridegrooms Wanted vacancy.

In the last few years, India has seen three seasons of Swayamvar, a reality show that aims to help unite celebrities in marriage with their true love. Incidentally two of the past three shoppers on Swayamvar, Rakhi Sawant and Ratan Rajput, wriggled out of the marriage by getting into a long engagement instead. Which Sawant, I read somewhere, ended ages ago. And Rajput has faded into oblivion. Rahul Mahajan was the only one who married one of his three final prospective brides, Dimpy Ganguly.

I remember watching that episode, hoping he’d pick Dimpy. No, I wasn’t playing Couch Potato Cupid. I was just hoping he’d pick somebody who came closest to his level of flakiness, and I don’t mean that in a good way, and I hoped the other two sweet but misguided girls would move on. One of those two girls went on to land a role in some TV soap or the other, so maybe she wasn’t as misguided as I thought she was.

In the old days, I used to wonder why anyone would demean themselves on national television. But the reality show business is not for the squeamish. Wear your heart on your sleeve and put your emotions out on the line, in other words, make a fool of yourself and let people recognize you for the ass you are. Revealing the ‘facts’ about your deprived childhood and your backward circumstances is fodder for a good show.

Now Mallika Sherawat’s The Bachelorette is all set to air. There will be drama and melodrama. Contestants will abuse each other, swear undying love to the bachelorette and speak their pre-scripted lines.

The promos have already shown Sherawat wiping her tears daintily as she speaks of her parents. The actor says she is lonely and that she is hoping to find a real man who will offer her true love.

Whether that is true or not, there is the hope of resurrecting a dead Bollywood career. What’s more, the pretty pile of Rs 30 crore that she has been offered to do the show will ensure that whether or not the prospectives can compete for the chance to be Sherawat’s pati, she herself has already won her personal Kaun Banega Karodpati.

(This post has been written for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, October 2013.)


  1. That made a hilariously wholesome read! "Bottom of the food chain" made me roll helplessly.

    You have a decided talent for throwing caustic barbs with a will. :D

    Btw, why haven't I been reading you regularly? All your fault, I am sure. Somehow. :D

  2. This one made me smirk and barf! These kinda shows make me sick actually and I don't watch them.

  3. Thank you, Dagny, I saw Mallika S on the back of a bus this morning and realised she was asking for it. BTW, you are welcome to spend more time on my blog. I'm sorry for not posting a huge WELCOME, Trespassers Will Be Offered Life Membership sign. :D

  4. That's true, Kajal. I'm sure if it weren't for the benefits they all visualise, no sane person would willingly sign up for this crap.

  5. I enjoyed another perspective on the "Reality Television". I try my best to ignore even the commercials! Thanks for the grin.

  6. Do not watch T.V. and hence a bit outdated. But SWAYAMVAR held in ancient times was a farce. The bride never got to choose her 'var' and the macho male who 'won' her would be the 'var'. Physical strength and bravery(?) were the only criteria.

  7. Didn't know there was a Mallika show coming up. I remember the Rakhi one - though I was not fortunate enough to watch it ;-)

  8. I come to know about these shows strictly through FB updates and posts by friends. :)

  9. Imagine that! But may I say it is very funny to see these shows. I don't really watch them, but snippets of these does surprise me <3




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