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Searching for the woman of substance...

The countdown to the annual Sunsilk Femina Miss India Beauty Pageant-2003 has begun with judges including former crowned queens Yukta Mookhey and Nafisa Joseph in Delhi this past week for contestant appraisal. SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY speaks to the panellists about the norms of beauty... .

Ready to scan the beauties... all the five judges for the Sunsilk Femina Miss India 2003.

COME JANUARY 31, the Indian glamour world will have yet another set of three beauty queens. However, the countdown to the annual Femina do to be held early next year has begun with all the five judges in Delhi this past week to evaluate the contestants.

"In Delhi, we assessed 43 competitors on the criteria ranging from intelligence to talent and beauty. Nothing more can be shared with the media at present as we are bound by the contest norms", says A.P. Paragi, one of the judges and Managing Director of the Times Infotainment and Media Limited. Taking over the mantle from the event veterans like Pradeep Guha recently, he gives all the credit for "the successful conduct" of the programme over the years to his predecessors but informs that to "provide greater transparency to the selection process", global auditing firm Ernst & Young as been hired as the official notary and tabulators to the Sunsilk Femina Miss India contest 2003.

Apart from Paragi and his colleague Reshmi Ghosh, the organisers have enrolled former Miss World Yukta Mookhey, former Miss India and MTV veejay Nafisa Joseph and well-known fashion photographer and theatre personality Boman Irani as judges of the popular occasion.

All of them would be landing up in the software capital of the country, Bangalore, for the January 24 semi-finals and then in Mumbai for the January 31 finals. "Prior to that, about 35 candidates would be short-listed. All of them would undergo 30 to 45 days of training wherein the girls would get a chance to develop the talent bestowed in them," says Paragi.

Talking about the ever-lengthening list of contestants, Paragi, puts the 37-year-old Bennet & Coleman Group hosted pageant as "the event which triggers the landscape of opportunity" and hence the attraction.

Yukta prefers to call the mass magnetism of the show as "an aura that the wannabes aspire for". Nafisa concurs and adds that she would be "looking beyond a pretty face".

"The Miss India of today has not only to have brains and confidence but should be able to emanate the essence of Indianness with finesse," opines the former beauty queen.

Boman too speaks on similar lines, adding that his theatre background would help him in looking for "the artistry in the candidates to be crowned".

Well, all said and said well, the result would be before us on January 31 night, to be beamed straight into our houses by the Sony Entertainment Television.

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