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Beauty contests and the voyeur

At midnight, most general entertainment channels metamorphose into shopping channels. You are urged to get that flat stomach and look younger,

india Updated: Apr 16, 2006 02:03 IST

At midnight, most general entertainment channels metamorphose into shopping channels. You are urged to get that flat stomach, look younger, and enlarge your, er, enlarge-able body parts, by a variety of very bad-looking foreign models.

I don’t know who buys this stuff (and I don’t think I want to know either). Neither do I know how much money the channels make from this tele-shopping. But instead of catering to insomniac shopaholics (they can go through catalogues for bedtime reading), isn’t there a case for late night repeats of shows? Even if it’s Kumkum or Gumsum (okay, okay I made the second one up)?

Midnight is also the time when temperatures rise dramatically. FTV airs something called Midnight Hot, and as far as I can make out, this is basically a good excuse for some heavy duty babe action. It could be any model anywhere (even if it’s the shooting of a three-year-old Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar), but what’s of the essence is that she must be clad in tiny scraps of lace and satin. Midnight Hot is clearly for insomniac voyeurs. Except that I’m not sure if they can get any sleep at all after watching the procession of pouting and pirouetting women clad in next to nothing.

While on models, I chanced upon something called the No Marks Mrs India World 2006 on Sahara One. There were 17 women who were given a skin, hair and clothes makeover by various people including Noyonika Chatterjee (who seems to have become some sort of a grooming godmother on all such TV shows). Then they were appraised by a panel of judges (there was filmmaker Ken Ghosh and fashion designer Vikram Phadnis); and finally one of them was eliminated. At most beauty contests, the participants look like beanpoles on a permanent crash diet. In this case, they all looked like – well, let’s just say, if you ran into them at a party, you wouldn’t exactly have to fight off hordes of panting men to get near them. Vikram Phadnis had no qualms about being unkind. “What on earth are you wearing? Do you really think that suits you? What’s wrong with your hair, why is it half brown and half black? Why is your top so ill-fitting?” And so on and so forth.

Why would anyone want to open herself to this kind of public humiliation? The conventional wisdom has always been that cruelty might make for good TV abroad, but it doesn’t work here. I’m not so sure any longer. In the end, the woman who was voted out wept copiously as she wheeled her bags out of the hotel and left in her car, even as she kept repeating pathetically, “It’s okay, it’s okay…”

It was a relief to watch some comedy (Star One), but even here, since it was the Laughter Challenge, somebody or the other was looking sad at being eliminated (and woebegone comedians are not at all funny).

And finally. CNN-IBN had a superb special show, 25 Years of Infosys, where Shereen Bhan spoke to a high-powered panel of Infosys’ top brass, and also took questions from a studio audience. All sorts of things were discussed, from the sacrifices needed to become an entrepreneur (Narayanmurthy pawned his wife’s jewellery to pay staff salaries once) to the determinedly middle-class lifestyles of all these men. Shereen hosted the show with great efficiency (the best part about her — she never goes “Umm… er… you know.. I mean…”, unlike some anchors we know). And the Infosys team was a delight to listen to, especially when they rated themselves as husbands. All of them —in keeping with their low-key approach to everything— gave themselves very modest appraisals of around four out of ten. Luckily, their balance sheets are anything but modest.