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Need your self-esteem shredded? Come on a makeover show in India

'Tis the season for makeovers. Well, at least it is on TLC. Which after a few years of having no programmes made in India, has come out with a bunch of new “local” shows. And what they seem to have realised is that what gets the most viewers in India are makeover shows. So instead of reinventing the wheel, they’ve picked and chosen shows from their international stable of hits and decided to remake them in India.

The problem with makeover reality shows in India is the guests don’t just get made over they are run over and pulverised by the hosts. Take the popular makeover show, Band Baaja Bride on NDTV Good Times, in which Sabyasachi and a pretty and very ditzy host help makeover brides.

Image courtesy: TLC India website.

I’m surprised that the programme hasn’t led to any brides committing seppuku by impaling themselves on the hostess, Ambika’s stilettos. Or murdering her with her stiletto.

In Band Baaja Bride perfectly pleasant looking young girls are told by the show’s host that their faces are lopsided and they need collagen implants on one side of their face to balance it out. Another one got collagen implants in her fingers because they were too wrinkly. Another one was told that her quite normal looking skin was “all patchy” and “pigmented” and got the top layer of her skin peeled off. Another one’s smile had a “problem and was too gummy”, so she went in for dental surgery. The host also looked at one bride in shock when she said that she’d never had a pedicure. I will give the host this much, I don’t think she realises that she comes across as offensive. Also, given that the said brides are skipping along to cosmetic surgery and syringes being plunged into their cheeks and lips, maybe she has no clue how déclassé what she says comes across as.

The latest shows on TLC are a welcome relief from that kind of torture-by-television. First out of the stable in mid-July was Be Blunt with Adhuna – which was a hair makeover show hosted by Adhuna Akhtar and her very dishy brother Osh Bhabhani, in which one lucky girl got a full hair makeover. A lot like the TLC show, LA Ink which was hosted by tattoo artist Kat Von D. The guests were sweet, the hosts were sweet, nobody said an unkind word, and the hairstyles were fabulous. A little vanilla perhaps so the show kept sprinkling a few stars like Abhay Deol and Farhan Akhtar.

Their newest makeover show ups the ante a little bit and isn’t as sugary sweet. What Not To Wear India is based on their American show What Not To Wear which was inspired by the British What Not To Wear which used to be shown on BBC. The entire premise of the show is that two hosts – usually both stylists –make over one fashion-and style-virgin. The UK version hosted by Trinny and Susannah who were just naturally snarky. This version though, hosted by actress Soha Ali Khan and designer Aki Narula is a lot more polite.

Soha and Aki are quite pleasant and non-abrasive. The first episode of What Not To Wear India featured Falguni, a 30-something mother who was nominated by her elder sister for a makeover. Her sister looked like she’d walked out of the pages of Cosmo while Falguni looked like a cover-girl from Women’s Era. That she was the ugly duckling of the family was reiterated by both her sisters, quite guilelessly. The nice thing about the show is that Soha and Aki don’t keep telling the fashion ingénue that she’s this hideous piece of work. Even when they’re cringing at the clothes, Soha and Aki smile sweetly at her to soften the blow of disapproval. Aki does make some suitably esteem-damaging comments like telling Falguni that she has absolutely no style and that her wardrobe is like a mithai shop. But he and Soha also refrain from telling her she’s a fatty and instead say that she needs outfits to cover up the “excessive curves” around her thighs. When Narula says, “you’ve got to hide that problem area”, Soha cuts in politely with a “what problem area?”. Maybe they’ll up the snark over the next few episodes. But thankfully, unlike Trinny and Susannah, they don’t show us the guests in their undergarments.

Being a darkie myself I was quite impressed when Falguni said she didn’t want to wear a purple outfit because it would make her look darker, only for Soha and Aki to brush aside the statement. If it was Band Baaja Bride she would have immediately been wheeled into a skin whitening clinic and come out looking like Michael Jackson.

But Band Baaja Bride isn’t the worst of the makeover shows on the block. The pioneer of horrible ideas for a show was Naya Roop Nayi Zindagi which was shown on Sony in 2008. The show was an Indian version of the American show Extreme Makeover and was anchored by Mona Singh of Jassi-fame. The 10-week reality show gave 10 people reconstructive surgery – which included cosmetic, dental, eye surgeries and showed them exercising and dieting and being styled. The sheer voyeurism gave the show a PT Barnum’s visiting circus air about it. Even Mona Singh looked slightly embarrassed to be part of it. I remember one of the girls being taken to a mall or some public place by her brother and being accosted by the camera crew and Mona Singh who told her she’d now have a new “lease of life”.

Not that the guests need too much sympathy though, because I’ve realised that anyone who agrees to appear on these shows, obviously feels the trade-off between mental scarring and public humiliation on national TV on one hand and a new wardrobe and haircut on the other, is a fair one. I am just glad that with What Not to Wear India there’s finally a fun makeover show to watch which you know won’t result in the guests needing to go in for self-esteem classes and therapy to get over the abuse meted out to them by the hosts.

What Not To Wear India airs every night at 10pm from Mon-Fri on TLC.

 

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