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Marry me, I am on TV

Controversial reality show star Rahul Mahajan is all set to change his image as a domesticated dulha in search of a bride on NDTV Imagine's Swayamvar 2.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2009 22:43 IST
Mini Pant Zachariah

Controversial reality show star Rahul Mahajan is all set to change his image as a domesticated dulha in search of a bride on NDTV Imagine's Swayamvar 2.

Even if Swayamvar 1 refuses to go away with Rakhi Sawant's globally televised engagement to Canadian NRI Elesh Parujanwala still making news, nearly two months after it notched up a TRP high of 8.7.

A click of the remote away, on the Star Plus channel, 10 young girls are vying for the hearts of five suitable boys - and their mothers - in Lux Perfect Bride, a show that has been on air for a little over two weeks now.

And three months ago, the same channel's Star Vivaah, a matchmaking show that telecast interviews and profiles of prospective suitors, had a happy ending - banker Neeraj Parashar found his bride within 16 days of his profile being aired on television. (See 'Married in 16 days')

It's raining brides on Indian television as TV channels are trying to bite off a chunk of the Rs 1,25,000 crore-pie that is India's wedding market.

Aur wish karo
Though Rakhi Sawant's much-publicised swayamvar reached near- farcical heights, its encouraging TRPs have seen popular matrimonial websites tying up with direct-to-home service providers and channels, since television's penetration of 115 million homes is far wider than that of the Internet.

So shaadi.com has tied up with DishTV to offer you a prospective son-in-law or daughter-in-law at the click of a remote button.

And for many matchmaking homemakers, sultry afternoons are not about siestas any more. With their spouses at work, children at office and the remote completely in their control, these women are now busy scrolling through the profiles of boys and girls on the interactive matrimonial service on their DTH service provider.

Gourav Rakshit, business head of shaadi.com discloses, "The consumption of our interactive matrimonial service is the highest with parents, especially during the afternoons, when they are free."

A similar tie-up between bharatmatrimony.com and TataSky, which was called off last year, is likely to resume soon.

Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO, bharatmatrimony.com, says, "Both marriage portals and DTH providers are looking at what more they can offer the client. We married our matrimonial service with the medium offered by the service provider."

Salil Kapoor, chief operating officer of DishTV, explains why: "Globally, DTH players have exclusive content but in India government regulations do not allow us to do so. So we have tied up with portals like shaadi.com to offer a value-add for our 5.8 million subscriber families." DishTV offers the service free because, he says, "When it is free, people are more prone to experimentation."

That is also one of the reasons industry insiders believe the bharatmatrimony.com-TataSky alliance came to an end - it was a paid-for service.

The rich and the famous
But there are some services that customers are ready to pay for.

When Janakiraman introduced the 'elite search service' on bharatmatrimony.com six months ago, he was filled with trepidation: How many people would pay Rs 1 lakh to be part of an exclusive matrimonial match search?

He needn't have worried. Every month 350 prospective brides and grooms from high net-worth families sign up for - and willingly pay for - their profiles to be circulated only among the elite for six months. (Incidentally, 60 per cent of those registrations come from girls' parents.)

"Contrary to the popular perception, finding a suitable match is more difficult for the elite," says Janakiraman. "The middle class is more accommodating when it comes to looks, family status and qualifications but the rich and the famous
want everything to be perfect."

Besides, well-to-do families will not condescend to make the first move, he says; they would rather have others come looking for them. "These are match-seekers who are not looking to contact but to be 'found'," says Rakshit. So the website offers the 'spotlight search' where people pay a premium of Rs 1,001 a month for their profiles to be showcased.

In the two months since the service was launched, 40 per cent of the paid subscribers have opted for the spotlight to shine on them, discloses Rakshit.

The elite also want anonymity. So Janakiraman will not share any of the names registered for the 'elite' search. All he will reveal is that "High net-worth individuals worth over Rs 10 crore, corporate heads, entrepreneurs and celebrities opt for this service."

Open house
Not all match-seekers are media shy, though. Take, for instance, Gurpreet Sandhu. She is 21, belongs to a business family from Malad, earns a monthly salary of Rs 15,000 as an assistant director in Yashraj Films and is one of the 10 girls currently under scrutiny 24x7 in a Karjat house for Lux Perfect Bride. For company, they have five boys and five
prospective mothers-in-law sizing them up as bride material.

Here's how Sandhu's mother Joginder Kaur (45) sees it: "There are some talented boys on the show. Gurpreet can get to know them and if she finds a suitable match, then it's good for all."

Says Anupama Mandloi, senior creative director, Star Plus, "This show presents the concept of marriage in the true Indian spirit, where girls marry not just the man of their choice but his family, too. It is a search for the perfect bride who meets the ideals of a son as well as his mother. The premise is challenging as the two ideals rarely ever meet." On the show, the boys and girls get to spend time together and assess each other's compatibility, under the supervision of the boys' mothers.

But how workable are such matches? Shailja Kejriwal, executive vice president, Content, NDTV Imagine, producers of Rakhi Ka Swayamvar, laughs away rumours of Rakhi's engagement going bust. Just a lovers' tiff, she says. "The show was about who Rakhi would end up choosing as her life partner. But with Rakhi you never know what to expect. And Rahul (Mahajan) is even more unpredictable - that's what makes it interesting," she says.

Unpredictability may not rate very high on the list of attributes that hopeful grooms and brides are looking for. But on the telly, matchmaking is also entertainment. The more unpredictable, the better.

(With inputs from Sumegha Gulati)