Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Wedding television

By Ammu Kannampilly  /  AFP, New Delhi

Readying the (possible) bride.

Photo: AFP

India’s focus on marriage has fuelled an industry worth billions, lining the pockets of everyone from wedding planners to jewelers to astrologers and now, a new TV channel hopes to cash in.

When television producer Anuranjan Jha met his wife through a matrimonial Web site 12 years ago, he came up with what he describes as a gold mine of an idea.

“I thought, if the internet, which only reaches a small percentage of Indians can be so successful in arranging marriages, then why not television which is everywhere?” Jha, now the managing director of Shagun TV, told AFP.

More than 47 percent of Indian households have a television compared with just over 3 percent with internet access, according to 2011 census data.

It took Jha more than a decade, but he finally launched Shagun TV (the name means “auspicious TV” in Hindi) in April.

The Hindi-language channel currently attracts around 10 million viewers a week, Jha said, citing figures compiled by television ratings agency TAM India.

He hopes to see that number double to 20 million soon, as he expands the channel’s distribution network, currently limited to a single national satellite TV provider, Videocon d2h. The channel features shows designed to help viewers find brides or grooms, look up honeymoon destinations, shop for jewelry, check out horoscopes and learn how to get along with one’s in-laws.

Glamorous television stars anchor programs staged in front of a garish red and gold set — painted to resemble a wedding backdrop.

A peppy presenter profiles a series of young men in search of a bride as their candid, photoshop-free pictures pop up on screen, with a message urging interested families to contact the channel if they like what they see. Shows include Honeymoon Travels, Gold n Beautiful, The Horoscope speaks and Together for Many Lifetimes.

Best-selling Indian novelist and commentator Shobhaa De told AFP the channel was poised to be “tremendously successful.”

“It’s an inspired idea that could really work in a country where so many people — women in particular — struggle to find partners,” De said, pointing out that young Indian professionals had limited opportunities to meet prospective partners due to busy careers and the absence of a widespread dating culture.

By the time the channel launched, some 2,000 people had already contacted Jha, expressing a wish to participate in his shows and find a suitable boy or girl.

only marriages welcome

In a country where arranged marriages are still the norm and dating is often frowned upon, matrimonial advertisements in newspapers and Web sites are used by many to find prospective partners.

Jha is hoping attitudes have changed after earlier attempts to create reality television shows focusing on arranged marriages ran into trouble.

Somewhere There is Someone was launched with great fanfare in 2002, with Bollywood icon Madhuri Dixit anchoring the program. But the show opened to poor reviews and criticism from viewers who objected to people choosing their spouses on TV and was taken off the air after just 10 weeks.

In an interview with Stardust magazine nearly a decade later, Dixit said the show was “way ahead of its time.”

“Many even thought that we shouldn’t have done it, wondering ‘how could someone marry on TV?’ They thought it was too private an event to show on TV,” she said.

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