Home / Leisure / Rakhi Sawant and the king of Middle India

If the first set of ratings are any indication, new television show Rakhi Ka Swayamvar is a resounding hit. It’s had the best debut of any new show post the cricket frenzy of the Indian Premier League—yes, even better than Salman Khan’s 10 Ka Dum 2, according to aMap, an overnight audience ratings measurement agency.

TRP made in heaven: Sawant as coy bride.

Indian television viewers, it would seem, have nothing better to do than watch the country’s most outspoken item girl fake coyness in front of a bunch of bitchy, mostly north Indian (I couldn’t resist adding that) men.

I’m not sure whether that makes me want to laugh or cry.

Forget smart programming—we are clearly a country that loves trashy television (and those of you who think this is a smart programme have been sucked deeper than you realize into the sludge of timepass entertainment). On the other hand, a show about a grown woman picking a groom is so much healthier than one that tracks the life and times of a child bride. And certainly easier to watch than the crazy bunch of Indians who will do anything on television, from eating tubelights to swallowing laxatives and controlling the call of nature.

After all, Sawant’s suitors are part of Real India too. You see them every day—these policemen, stuntmen, small-time actors, tutors, advocates, event managers, engineers and baby-faced students. Men who have been hand-picked from the vast expanse that makes up Middle India, that striving, struggling swarm that will grab any chance to better their lives. For many, Rakhi Sawant’s prime-time quest is it.

For those struggling to make it in showbiz, it’s an opportunity to strut their stuff on national television. But what’s in it for the others? A chance to be known as the man Rakhi Sawant nearly married? A chance to say I had dinner with Rakhi Sawant, gazed into her eyes, held her hand and told her I loved her? Or a chance at 2 minutes of fame; one that might prompt an invitation to be part of the next big reality show. I know that if Sawant rejects the eminently presentable Luv Khanna, an engineer and model from Delhi who can carry off a satin pink shirt and who believes all religions are equal, he’s bound to get hundreds of letters from girls who are glad she did. And maybe some of the men actually are infatuated with Sawant (one contestant skipped his sister’s wedding to participate in this show and another worked on his body just for her).

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If they are infatuated, they must be scratching their heads wondering why they can’t recognize their lady love. The outspoken item girl everyone knows has been replaced by a simpering, fluttering, bride-to-be who wears minimum make-up, dresses mostly in Indian outfits and keeps exclaiming that her heart has never beat so fast. It’s almost as if Rakhi Sawant is playing the part of the Yash Raj Films (YRF) heroine she never was in a film with cheesy dialogues (Ek aurat jaag gayi hai,) a woman has awakened and a background score comprised of old YRF hits from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

And Sawant is working the sympathy vote big time telling everyone who’s listening that she’s never had love before, and that she’s looking for true love, and that she’s a normal, simple girl. “You won’t play with my love?" she pleads with Manmohan Tiwari (my favourite contestant—for a one-night-stand, not marriage) who lives by the river Ganga in Rishikesh.

And then, just when you think Indian men can never be redeemed, it’s time for a break (because advertisers love this show too). Cut to condom advertisement followed by one about the day after pill because “it’s so much better to stop a pregnancy than to have an abortion".

Clearly, Middle India is sexually active.

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