By Rajyasree Sen
Whom will Ratan choose? That is THE question that is supposed to be keeping us at the edge of our seats these days. The first season of Swayamvar, the pick-your-spouse reality show starred bionic bachelorette and histrionic queen Rakhi Sawant. Now the programming bosses at Imagine network have done a volte-face with Ratan ka Rishta.
Who is he, you ask? You failed the test right there. She is not a he. Ratan is an androgynously-named nubile young starlet. You’re obviously not watching as much television as I am.
Let me get you up to speed. Remember Laali, the star of the touchingly titled Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo(AJMBHK)? Its star Ratan Rajput is now the latest bachelorette on the block. Ratan is a young, demure, petite actress with a silicone-free body who’s supposedly everybody’s favourite bitiya. AJMBHK was all about loving the girl child and women's empowerment. Now Ratan goes the next step — she gets the right to choose her husband from a bevy of boys.
If you’re more inclined to marry a sweet, homely girl with perfectly teased hair from the sixties, instead of one who might break into a string of abuses or a jig – and be far more entertaining to have around – you really should have sent in your applications for winning her hand. Going by the dismal ratings for the first episode though, it seems the only people excited at the prospect of establishing a rishta with Ratan are the 16 contestants.
So, who are these candidates and where have they come from? The show supposedly received 54,863 proposals, from Meerut to Pakistan, out of which Ratan hand-picked 16 prospective grooms to woo and then wed her. Which either means the candidates were really sad, or that she has very suspect taste in men. There’s a tinker, tailor, soldier, spy. If only. There’s actually a professor, businessman, events manager, theatre actor, lawyer. And the list goes on and on. And as in school where we all wore uniforms so that we couldn’t discriminate against each other, they’re all equally handicapped by wearing the show’s uniform of shiny sherwanis and jodhpurs.
The boys are boisterous, rowdy, aggressive, start hooting and jeering and cheering for no rhyme or reason. Our first glimpse of the candidates was when they entered the sets dancing wildly, after which they proceed to a party where they danced even more wildly (with each other!) while waiting for Ratan to make an entrance. There was one who looked a lot like Rajpal Yadav, which is where his cuteness began and ended, because he kept serving her glasses of water and ‘soft drinks’. Another was honest at least, and said that the most important place in his life was held by his country, then his parents and then Ratan. Nice. Even demure Ratan couldn’t stop herself from narrowing her eyes at him.
The first competition to win her heart was a crafts project which required them to make a greeting card for Ratan using a bunch of props and decorations. After a spot of rural tourism, the second competition was a kabaddi match. After all, which girl doesn’t fancy an Origami artist who’s nimble on his feet as well.
The final four candidates have already been announced though, so not much suspense there. It seems the business family boy will win out, as is their wont. After all Ratan has already stated quite endearingly, that she has a P2 formula for what she wants from her husband — pyaar (love) and paisa (money). As a result, the theatre actor was the first to be booted out.
While the show does encourage the practice of women being given the option to choose their spouse, that too from an army of men, it does make you wonder if this is the best that we’ve got. Is this what we get to choose from? And must we be dressed in all our finery with pancake makeup, in a heavy wedding lehenga with Lisa Marie Presley eyes at all times while being wooed? I never thought I’d say this, but MTV’s Splitsville is at least a more real depiction of the dating game. Everyone dresses normally and is honest about the fact that they want to win the prize money. Although sleeping with the show’s host is a normal practice, which Ratan might not want to emulate on her show.
Ratan spends a lot of time looking at the candidates coyly and shedding a tear at the prospect of eliminating any of them. I sympathise. Looking at what’s on offer, I’d be weeping copiously myself.
Rajyasree Sen is a restaurateur, TV connoiseur and unsolicited opinion-giver.