MY husband will kill me for saying this, but whenever he watches Indian Idol, he says, ''Why aren't there any good-looking women on your show.. err.. besides you that is?''
Whether it's Indian Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge or any other talent hunt, my theory is simple. A woman is evaluated by more parameters compared than a man.
While a male contestant is judged on his vocal talent and the X factor, for a girl, the audience will also note whether she's wearing too much or too little, got attitude, if her hair is too straight, or whether her eyebrows are plucked.
Trust me, I've been a TV presenter for years. I get feedback on my sari, earrings and hairdo. They are even discussed on blogs for heaven's sake. How come people never notice what Aman (Verma) is wearing?
Farah (Khan) hit the nail on the head when she spoke about Meenal's chances on the result episode: ''Because she's good-looking and sang a song that is unusual and sexy, she probably won't make it.''
When people watch a girl who's well groomed and articulate, they think she doesn't need the help. Antara, a small town girl, got loads of votes after her makeover. In Season one, on the other hand, when Prajakta and Aditi wore Western outfits for an episode, they looked fabulous, but emerged at the bottom of the list.
This made them paranoid that people hadn't voted for them because they'd worn Western outfits, and stuck to Indian wear.
It's certainly not because girls lack talent. I watched Sa Re Ga Ma Pa...; Himani was by far the best, better than both Debojit and Vinit. I was stunned when she was voted out. On Idol this time, we even ensured there were enough women on the top list but the results were the same.
On television in general, men tend to have a better profile and it extends beyond music and reality shows.
Why isn't there an Indian woman stand-up like Ellen DeGeneres or Whoopi Goldberg? Why are there no women on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge? When I joined MTV, I spoofed Simi Garewal and the channel thought they'd finally found a ''female Cyrus.''
Well hello! We did so many shows with my ''funny stuff''. We had discussions for years, but something just didn't look right. A funny woman who looked hot? Naah!
To be funny, I had to look funny, or worse look like ''one of the boys''; I even cropped my hair. But I looked too radical, even by MTV standards.
Think about it. A woman comedian's physicality plays a huge role. Think Tun Tun, Guddi Maruti, Delnaz Paul or Archana Puran Singh (only when she goes into asexual mode). Find something? There is a deep dichotomy here. The joke has to be on us. Not by us.
Virginia Woolf called it ''the politics of appearance''. My deepest desire is to do stand-up on TV using content I have written. But till I don't look reasonably asexual, I'll just never know where to pitch it.
I've found acceptance as a presenter when I play by the rules: look feminine, with coloured hair, off-shoulder corsets—all of us becoming clones of each other.
I was part of The Great Indian Comedy Show for a day. All the characters played by the women were peripheral, like a dumb bar dancer, where the joke was on them. No one was deliberately discriminatory; it's just that all humour on TV is sexist. But it seems to be changing now, and trust me, I am smiling.
Even in fiction serials, which are touted as being woman-centric, I find a lot of woman-bashing. The ''virtuous'' ones wear silk saris and stand behind their men and watch them eat parathas. The ''fast and easy'' types are easy to spot—they are wearing jeans! And of course they frequent discos and get pregnant too. Ha Ha! Pure entertainment, I say. Just because you have a Ba heading a family, it doesn't make the show matriarchal.
Tulsi has nobody interested in her, but at 65, Mihir has five women vying for his gaze. Even Jassi, who gave me hope, had to become beautiful to win over Armaan. If she had won him in her old avatar, I would have applauded. (i wish jassi never had a makeover too...but hey jassi won over armaan with her glasses and braces only..i tell you that makeover and mauriious track was soooo unecessesary)
I think the audience enjoys watching women weep on screen. It makes them feel sorry for the protagonist and happy that their lives are just a wee bit better.
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I have a sneaky suspicion that it's the women voters themselves who are unable to make a choice, that they're the ones saying, ''Oh, I love her sari... I'm sending her a vote.'' Here's to being a woman, I say.