Monday, April 7, 2008


The Pantaloons Femina Miss India contest, 2008 edition, was telecast tonight with a lot of fanfare and media-hoopla. Pictures of the three PFMI (now this abbreviation is just ripe with possibilities!) winners - all glossy hair, fixed (in more ways than one) smiles, toned arms waving at us lesser mortals - were splashed across the front pages.
Later in the year, these three manufactured beauties will venture abroad, hoping to conquer the Universe, World and Earth.
I have no moral issues against beauty contests. A Ford Supermodel contest makes business sense: to select certain humans who have the looks, carriage and attitude to catwalk on the ramp or be clotheshorses.
What I find ridiculous is the attempt by the Miss India (and Miss Universe/World/et al) organisers to showcase their pageant as a platform for women's progress and personality development. To prove it, they have introduced a subcontest - Times Miss Sudoku!
I am sure somebody did manage to solve the sudoku in the end, and ended up with a crown on her brain, er, head . But my point is, even if intelligent/brilliant/exam-toppers (in India, the terms are co-referential) enter the pageant, it is because they hope to pursue a career in Hindi movies (Bollywood is the Valhalla of retired beauty-queens) or fashion (model>choreographer>designer in ascending order of age) or, at least, television (the idiot-box embraces all the Bollywood-rejects).
So why pretend to serve the nation? These girls are not role-models. They are models, period. They are not social ambassadors. They are brand-ambassadors. They are chasing name, fame and tinseltown glory, while taking a year out after winning to pose prettily with sundry orphans/AIDS patients/tsunami victims and pay (collagen-plumped)lip-service to the "IN"-charities.
So, let the contests roll on, with the assembly-line beauties striding across the conveyor belt with clone-like sameness, year after year. With a little help from the cosmetic surgeon, dentist, hairstylist, fashion designer, make-up person, etiquette-and-grooming-(and toilet?)-trainer. All bankrolled by adoring parents.
Let the judges try to catch the colours of a rainbow by dissecting beauty into 'sexy legs', 'golden skin', 'beautiful hair/eyes/smile', or 'perfect-ten figure'. Totally laboratory-like, totally surreal!
Let the contestants preen and pout, pose and pirouette. They make pretty plastic photocopies of each other, like Andy Warhol's prints.
But DO NOT let them parrot well-rehearsed answers to well-worn questions (read: cliches from the how-to-win-a-beauty-contest handbook). This year's make-or-break question was whether "WESTERN (as in evil?)" influence was responsible for the rising divorce rates in our dear-old-family-loving-husband-worshipping India. A question on which sociologists do their Ph.Ds; a question on which fundamentalists plan their andolan (propaganda). But the smug PFMI contestants answer-with-a-smile in 60 seconds flat.
So dear, dear organisers, do away with the pseudo-thought-provoking, genuinely-yawn-inducing Q-and-A rounds. Let the BODIES (part or whole; same-to-same) rule!
P.S : The only spontaneous answer ever recorded was Madhu Sapre's answer in the 1992 Miss Universe contest, when she was asked what she would do for her country if she were the head of the nation. A spunky sportswoman, she said she would build more stadiums to promote sports. Straightforward and non-conformist, Sapre lost the competition.
P.P.S: Alongside the front-page report of the PFMI winners in today's The Times of India, there is another report of a Supreme Court judgment, sentencing a man to two-years in prison beacuse he drove his wife to suicide with his callous taunts about her 'dark complexion'.
So, although we have a regressive pageant, we also have a progressive court. Thank God for that.

1 comment:

Jaquanda Rae said...

Thanks for checking out my post. I appreciate your passion in this one. I'm sure the girl who beat Sapre mentioned "world peace".

I think beauty pageants are completely hypocritical...well in Jamaica. Ms. Jamaica World 2006 became pregnant before she gave up the crown and the Ms Jamaica World board behaved like she was Demi Moore in the Scarlett Letter. Told her that she had better options yet decided to have the child (???) and that she set a bad example for future queens and tarnished the Ms. Jamaica World reputation. I wonder who in the world told them that sexy girls don't have sex? When nothing is left to the imagination on the cat then are we to believe and expect chastity?