For the first time, Indian TV will have a version of the reality programme The Bachelorette.
Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat is on a husband hunt - via reality television
Bollywood stars generally avoid admitting to being lonely and pining for a partner, but then the actress Mallika Sherawat has always been different. She is to star in an Indian version of the international reality show The Bachelorette, where a woman considers a pool of around 25 to 30 eligible men and eventually ends up, in theory, with a man she wants to marry.
At the press conference in Mumbai announcing the show last month, the production team were startled to find around a dozen male journalists rushing up to Sherawat, to offer themselves as husbands.
Famous for her bombshell looks, Sherawat, 36, told journalists that she took up the role because she was “lonely and looking for a companion”, a job probably made harder by the fact that she divides her time between India and Los Angeles after playing roles in Hollywood movies such as Hisss (2009) and Politics of Love (2010).
Given the importance of rituals in India, particularly in the run-up to nuptials, Ajit Thakur, the general manager of Life OK (the channel producing The Bachelorette India), says that at every stage of Sherawat’s selection process, traditional rituals will be followed but refused to give any details for fear of the competition.
“The family is very important in India, particularly in a marriage, so in our format, the parents, siblings and relatives of each male contestant will also be involved. It’s not just Mallika and a man,” he says.
The programme team has already started registering the men who want to participate. Thakur expects more than 1,000 candidates, all of whom have to be above 21 years of age. “Once we have a final list, we are going to travel to 10 cities across India to meet them in person and draw up a shortlist of honest bachelors,” he says.
Sherawat has already indicated the qualities she is looking for. “I’m looking for someone who is self-made, well educated, grounded and, above all, someone who can be a friend,” she said in a statement. “I prefer men who take risks in life and especially the ones who are not afraid to speak their mind.”
Thakur says he has found Sherawat, who has cultivated an image of boldness, to be very “warm” and “sensitive” and is excited about the audience’s reaction.
“The public think they know all about this young woman from a small town who made it totally on her own to become a Bollywood star. But they will also see many more layers to her beneath her public persona and I think it will be emotionally gripping,” he says.
While The Bachelorette India is new, Indians were treated to the Bollywood dancer and actress Rakhi Sawant searching for a husband in a reality show called Rakhi Ka Swayamvar, or Rakhi’s Search for a Husband, based on ancient Hindu rituals in 2009.
Sawant refused a union brokered by her parents and chose instead to find the perfect man herself on television. She ended up accepting the marriage proposal of a Toronto-based Indian man and was officially engaged but broke it off a few months later, citing irreconcilable differences.
Sherawat seems to have her sights set closer to home. When asked if there were any men in Bollywood she would like on her list, Sherawat mentioned the film producer and chat show host Karan Johar. “I think he is the perfect bachelor. He is charming and successful,” she said.
Indian television is becoming a popular forum for matchmaking in a country where the vast majority of marriages are arranged, even among the educated and affluent middle and upper classes. Shagun TV – Shagun refers to an auspicious time – is India’s first 24-hour matrimonial channel, to be launched any time now.
Every programme on the channel will relate to marriages, whether it’s astrology, shopping, counselling on relationships or honeymoon travel.
The methods used for arranging marriages in India may have changed over the past two decades from traditional “marriage brokers” and relatives to social media, websites, videos and television, but some constants remain.
Whatever the forum, the list of requirements always begins with caste and religion. Oh, and the bride must always be “fair”.
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