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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Indian television turns match-maker
Indian brides
A traditional ceremony on a contemporary set
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

Two of India's premier television channels are to foray into reality TV this winter by playing the role of matchmaker in front of live audiences.

State-broadcaster Doordarshan and private channel Sony TV have both announced plans for live matrimony shows.

The programme will be a spontaneous one and there will be no pre-written dialogues

Urmila Gupta, Taal India

Doordarshan is basing its programme on an ancient Indian tradition - Swayamvar - which allowed a woman to choose her groom from a clutch of suitors.

Swayamvar was an elite practice and the suitors were quite often kings and members of the aristocracy, usually competing with each other for the hand of a princess.

Like the ancient practice, women on the television show will garland their prospective groom to indicate their choice.

Exchanging vows

The weekly show is to be produced by a private production house, Taal India Communication.

"The programme will be a spontaneous one and there will be no pre-written dialogues," says Urmila Gupta, managing director of Taal India.

Indian lovers in Bombay
Indians rarely display their affection in public
The families of the suitors as well as the woman will be present on the show.

Though the wedding ceremony will not be conducted the bride and the groom will make a formal vow to marry and exchange rings.

"It's not practical to have the wedding on the sets as marriage is a big community event in India and we would like to give the couple enough time to prepare for the big day," says Urmila Gupta.

But the wedding ceremony will be recorded and shown in a subsequent episode.

Fifty-two episodes of the show are planned and Ms Gupta is confident about the show being a hit in a country where the custom of matches arranged by parents is widespread.

Pushing limits?

Some critics have raised doubts about the credibility of the show saying some reality TV shows in the West are known to have been fixed.

You do not really expect people to meet complete strangers on a TV show and get married

Urmila Gupta
"How do we know the channel will not bring on the show couples who have already decided to tie the knot?

"Also what will happen if people just come to the show for publicity and decide against getting married later," says Seema Mahapatra, a senior television executive.

But the organisers say they will guard against this and there was no way the show would be pre-meditated.

"Of course the woman and the suitors on the show will not be complete strangers. They would have seen other's resume. Maybe met each other before.

"But that is only natural. You do not really expect people to meet complete strangers on a TV show and get married. But the choice will be made on the show," Urmila Gupta said.

Madhuri Dixit
Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit will play host
And she played down concerns that Indians were often too shy to express their affections in public.

"We are a large country with all kinds of people. Surely we will get 52 girls who are adventurous and want some fun as well while deciding on their life partner," she said.

Rival show

A similar show is to be aired on Sony TV from the end of October.

The highlight of this show will its star anchor. One of India's best known actress, Madhuri Dixit, is to host the show.

But Sony officials are not willing to disclose many details about their show as yet.

According to Rekha Nigam of Sony TV, the concept of the show was totally indigenous and reflected the "dreams and aspirations of real people".

Creator Urmila Gupta
"We're going to give the girls a new deal"
See also:

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27 Apr 01 | Reviews
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09 Sep 00 | South Asia
India cable TV purged of 'indecency'
26 Jul 00 | South Asia
Indian boost for broadcasters
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