16 years ago, when The Bachelor made its debut on American network ABC, the world was in awe. How else to make a reality show more interesting, but to add love to the already treacherous mix. At this time, Arya was working as an assistant software engineer in Chennai. He was only discovered by director Jeeva the following year.
Not one person would have guessed then that Tamil Nadu, one of the more conservative states in India, would come up with their own version of The Bachelor, featuring Arya who later on morphed into a hunk in his own right. Enga Veetu Mappilai has become the latest enga veetu reality show, filling the gap that Bigg Boss has left in our hearts.
While The Bachelor is still going strong 22 seasons later, it is interesting to note that the Tamil audience are just getting accustomed to the idea of a reality show to find love, and eventually marriage.
Both shows share a few similarities, namely the glaring premise that the show is about. A man looking for love (or marriage, in Enga Veetu Mapillai‘s case) and a host of beautiful women trying to win his heart. The bachelor and the ladies go on dates, both group dates as well as one on one dates. Needless to say, the dates on Enge Veetu Mappilai aren’t as racy as those on The Bachelor.
Every week, the somber elimination day bids goodbye to one of the ladies. Occasionally there are double eliminations. Both shows also have contestants who have withdrawn on their own accord. As the number of contestants whittle down to 4 or 5, the bachelor visits the girls’ homes. This is where the viewer really gets to know the women on the show, as prior to this, there is a lot of focus on the bachelor himself. In Enga Veetu Mapillai, we learnt about the backgrounds the girls came from. It was heartwarming (and slightly surprising) to see the families welcome Arya with open arms.
However, that is where the similarities end. The Bachelor usually begins with 25 contestants, whereas Enge Veetu Mappilai began with Arya fumbling with the names of the 16 contestants on the show.
In Enga Veetu Mapillai, the women were given tasks every day, and the winner would receive either a token of love (a bracelet flaunting the logo of the show granting immunity from elimination) or special time (a date) with Arya. The tasks were sometimes interesting, and others downright demeaning to women. An episode featured the ladies attempting to identify types of lentils and millet while being blindfolded, to see who is the ‘ideal homemaker’ for Arya. The Bachelor is devoid of such belittling tasks.
The elimination on both shows also differ. In The Bachelor, the host, Chris Harrison leaves it to the bachelor to do the talking, and a single rose is given to the contestant with whom he feels a connection with. In Enga Veetu Mapillai, Arya appears mute as host Sangeetha Krish does all the talking, even asking the contestant “Do you wish to continue this journey with Arya?” We never really understood why Arya needs a spokeswoman to ask such a pertinent question, but he seems content to quietly smile, hug and pass on the bouquet of flowers to the contestant of his choice.
One episode that we feel Enga Veetu Mapillai could have added is the ‘Women Tell All’ episode. On The Bachelor, as we near the finals, there is usually an episode where all the contestants are brought back to stir up some controversy and discuss their thoughts about the bachelor and fellow contestants. Yes, we love conflict, especially when we know there is a common enemy who threw a silly tantrum when asked to leave the show.
The final two contestants on The Bachelor usually meet the bachelor’s family separately. Be that as it may, Seethalakshmi, Susanna and Agatha met Arya’s family (sans his mother) all on the same day. Another interesting difference is noted with the absence of a getaway between the bachelor and the contestants.
On The Bachelor, each of the three remaining women travel to an exotic location with the bachelor for a series of one-on-one dates. At the end of the date, the bachelor offers the contestant the key to a fantasy suite which allows the couple to spend the night together, minus the cameras. This OBVIOUSLY did not take place on Enge Veetu Mappilai. The Tamil audience is probably a few decades (or perhaps almost a century) away from such ‘uncultured’ and non Tamil behaviour.
It is interesting to note that out of the 22 seasons of The Bachelor, only one couple has tied the knot and are living in wedded bliss (if there really is such a thing). In fact, the show The Bachelorette India: Mere Khayalon Ki Mallika, featuring stunner Mallika Sherawat which was based on the same premise, also resulted in the couple calling it quits. “There was no promise of marriage, not once during the show,” said Mallika in response to the public outcry.
A stark difference between the two shows is the reference to marriage.
Enga Veetu Mapillai has not only promised a wedding from day 1, but it has carried out the pre-wedding photo shoot and the mehendi ceremony already. The show is a squeaky clean, Dettol-wiped version of The Bachelor, tailored specifically for the Tamil audience. Nevertheless, there was some uproar initially that the show goes against the sterile Tamil culture that the audience propagates.
It looks like the producers didn’t have a choice but to culminate the show with a wedding that would justify all that has been said. To echo the classic Tamil audience, “How dare anyone look for love if they aren’t planning to get married?”
Good luck, Arya!