Ranjini Haridas is now a fixed part of our lives thanks to Idea Star Singer in Asianet. In the evening we hear the familiar voice shouting "Aideeyaah Staaa Singaahhh" and immediately chairs are re-arranged, snacks are opened, phones are put in silent modes and we are glued to our television sets. The programme is watched by young and old alike. And no sooner than Ranjini's face appear snorts, smirks and comments are heard, mostly in a negative sense.
In my home, my father and I get into a regular argument over Ranjini Haridas. Whenever Ranjini Haridas appears with her trademark laughter or colourful dresses my father passes the invariable comment "ho!...ivale sahikkan patoola!" Now this is a comment I have heard in various homes (in varied versions) and mostly from members of the older generation, both male and female. Though everyone sits open-mouthed whenever she says something once the commercial break comes, everyone rubs her off saying she is insufferable. Now coming from the older generation this is understandable. But I'm at a loss when my contemporaries too share the same opinion. In their opinion she is vain, proud and "athra sheriyalla". Talks about some snappy photos doing the rounds in the internet.
So we arrive at the common conclusion - Ranjini Haridas is a bad influence on the younger generation, especially "our daughters". Because the most common argument we hear when we try to defend her is "would you allow your daughter or sister to dress or talk like that??"
Now let me state my frank opinion and may I be crucified for telling the truth - Ranjini Haridas is a great anchor or comperer, whatever word you chose. She revolutionised TV anchoring in a way like never before. So much so that every new anchor is now compared to her and evaluated as better or worse than or "just like" Ranjini Haridas.
Not to forget stage shows. I happened to work backstage for a couple of mega shows and saw the live work of a couple of comperers, including Ranjini Haridas. And I must say she is quite a phenomenon. I never saw her throw a tantrum or make a fuss. She was composed and confident. And compare this to other anchors. Even unknown ones throw quite a fit if they don't get their diet colas on time.
Once I remember there were two female anchors who were with us from the morning of the event, script in hand and practising their lines in the suite of a five star hotel. But when the show started they were still stumbling over their lines and that too with the script in their hands. Compare this to Ranjini Haridas who on one occasion got lost in the traffic and arrived just minutes before the inauguration of the show. She had her makeup done right at the backstage, asked for the script, which I handed over to her. She glanced at them for a few seconds before going on stage and making a grand entrance. She was electrifying even without carrying the written script with her. Now that is a good comperer. That was the day I started developing a respect for her. As a comperer, mind you. Her personal life doesn't concern me. And it shouldn't concern you.
I also remember another small incident during another stage show. Ranjini Haridas started to walk off backstage when one of the organizers, a political leader in his own right, jumped up and asked her where she was going (you know how politicians are paranoid. Maybe he thought she was walking off the show) and she coolly replied "To urinate" ("moothramozhikkan"). The leader looked shocked as if the thought that women could urinate never crossed his mind. The fact was Ranjini Haridas didn't show the pseudo modesty associated with women in such matters ("uh...I...mm...just ...uh...wanted to go to the...mmm...bathroom"). Bold. That is the one word to describe Ranjini Haridas.
Coming to her dresses. I find that more often than not, her costumes are graceful and in good taste. I simply don't understand why people go so gaga over it.You know how modern dresses are associated with evil women in Kerala. Just check the other TV programmes or Malayalam movies. If there is a villainess, she is bound to be dressed in modern clothes. The "pathivritha" Malayalee woman always wears saree. Frankly Ranjini Haridas doesn't have a sexy figure. Atleast not in the traditional Malayali sort of way. Which is probably why she doesn't appear vulgar. Supposedly the traditional beautiful Malayalee girl should be voluptuous. Curved and rounded. For such a girl some of those costumes might look vulgar. But not on Ranjini Haridas. They look perfect on her.
A slight diversion. More on sarees. Personally I'm not a big fan of sarees. Sarees help women to cover up their increasing weight and waistline. If most women wore jeans or other modern dresses, they would have to be more conscious about their figures. This in turn would prompt them to check their lifestyles and diet, thus changing them into healthy people. You see its not just about having sexy bodies. It is about having healthy bodies. Sarees are the greatest threat to a woman's healthy lifestyle in Kerala. And so women who wear modern dresses, like Ranjini Haridas, being crucified is something I cannot digest. The court verdict banning women who wear sarees from pillion riding in bikes should be enforced immediately.
And then her laughter. The way Ranjini Haridas laughs also draw much derision because it is not the traditional hesitant smile expected from a Malayalee woman. Malayalee 'mankas' should cover half their faces while laughing or atleast laugh only modestly, and if possible slightly bow down their faces or give sly looks to the men appreciating her laugh. Not the open-mouthed laughter (a symbol that it comes straight from the heart) that Ranjini Haridas gives.
So that is what I have to say in the defence of Ranjini Haridas. She is unconventional and modern. She is skilled and has a gift. She is tremendously bold without having to consciously prove it. I would not go so far as to state that she is the face of the changing Malayalee woman. But I wouldn't mind if she were. Ranjini Haridas is an icon of the modern Keralite women, who wear modern clothes and are bold and independent, and have to pay the price of being demonised for it.
I urge you to consider all the above before you pass judgement on her.
That's all, your Honour.
PS - And I'm not a feminist. If at all I have been accused of being anything, it is of being a male chauvinist. I just like Ranjini Haridas. That's all.