Marriage on your mind? Head to the nearest television, or better still, the studio

It was not going to be easy. Looking her best every day, interacting with total strangers… and figuring out which one of the men she was going to be spending the rest of her life with! Life is certainly not easy for modern-day Draupadis, especially if she is a certain Rakhi Sawant.

When the bold Rakhi Sawant announced her ‘Swayamwar' on television, the initial reaction of the Indian audiences was shock. Disbelief had, however, turned to amusement by the time the firebrand starlet announced her shortlist of ‘princes'. And soon enough, everyone wanted to be part of the first TV-orchestrated Indian wedding. It is irrelevant now that the actor never got married to her beau Elesh Parujanwala, even though she did briefly experience “family life” with the Canadian citizen on NDTV Imagine's similarly voyeuristic Pati, Patni aur Woh.

Sensing the soaring TRPs, Imagine unleashed Rahul Mahajan's quest for his dulhaniya.

What followed was a bewildering display of desperation as wannabe actresses wooed the infamous Mahajan. The one who did end up being Mrs. Mahajan, Dimpy Ganguly, found herself, not surprisingly, in violent marital discord. That has been the only wedding to have played out on Indian TV.

That did not deter the same channel from releasing its third instalment of the Swayamwar series. This time, Ratan Rajput, more famously known as Laali from a Zee TV show is out to find her ‘rishta'. Ratan's entry shatters the myth that only the audacious Rakhi and Mahajan can take the plunge into extreme reality TV. Ratan justified her decision in an interview saying she wanted to take the burden of matchmaking off her parents' shoulders. Not surprisingly, some contestants (yes, that is what the suitors are called) who vied for Rakhi's hand later confessed that they did it only because they wanted to appear on TV.

On the other side

Surprisingly, the Swayamwar fever was preceded on foreign shores by The Bachelor series whose 14th instalment was recently aired in India.

The success rate of the hopefuls overseas has not been great. The last episode ended with the bachelors/bachelorettes (more often than not millionaires) not picking anyone. But the format seems to be addictive, with some contestants such as Jen Schefft reappearing in successive episodes.

But like all reality TV, scripted or not, these shows manage to grab eyeballs. “It is entertaining and fun. Who cares what happens after the show?” says student S. Niveditha. “I don't understand the debate about these shows. If you don't like it, just don't watch it,” says another viewer, Arpitha Shetty.

So if you have reached the ‘marriageable age' and don't want to go through the ordeal of serving tea to prospective grooms/brides, head straight to the TV.

Who knows? Once Indian channels exhaust adventurous ‘celebrities', the Swayamwar arena could open up to ordinary people like you and me.

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CultureJanuary 13, 2011