The beauty crown is worn one inch above the forehead, where your destiny is written," said host R Madhavan, capturing in a sentence the essence of an evening that culminated in three new beauty queens being coronated amid loud applause.
The Pantaloons Femina Miss India 2009 pageant seemed to have hopped onto the Deccan Queen Express, although its route included a significant Delhi detour. The three winners were: PFMI Universe 2009 Ekta Chaudhary from Delhi, PFMI World 2009 Pooja Chopra from Pune and PFMI Earth 2009 Shriya Kishore from Mumbai.
This year, the traditional pecking order of the titles was given a tweak: PFMI Universe and PFMI World shared top honours—both are No. 1—and were followed by PFMI Earth. Aflush with excitement, the UWE trio said they were dying to fall on chocolates and "ghar ka khana" and one said that all she wanted to do was "hug mom".
Easily the most anticipated lookfest of the year, the PFMI finale was held in the open-air setting of the Andheri Sports Complex on Sunday evening. The action played out under a large circular canopy on sets kitted out in a bold geometic pattern. The venue was packed out with only standing room at the back. Without so much as a whiff of breeze by way of relief, the muggy April air probably had even more moisturiser than collectively used by the contestants.
The common question posed to the three finalists was: What was the one thing you would ask God if you met him, and why? All three were earnestness personified in their replies. Chopra, who has been brought up by a single mom, said she would ask why certain children were deprived of the love of a mother. The spunky 23-year-old, with a relish for kickboxing and paragliding, also quoted the much-flogged Mother's Day line that since God couldn't be everywhere, he created mothers. Choudhary, also 23, who has given up a graduate degree in business administration, said she would ask the almighty why, if we had all been created equal, we fought each other in his name. The third girl, Kishore, a 22-year-old from the Mumbai suburb of Kandivli, who is awaiting her hotel management degree, wrestled with the issue of mortality, but in a rather confused way.
The new beauties were crowned by last year's title holders, PFMI World 2008 and Miss World first runner-up Parvathy Omanakuttan, PFMI Universe 2008 Simran Kaur Mundi and PFMI Earth 2008 Tanvi Vyas.
One of this year's finalists was Harshita Saxena from Goa, who was disqualified last year after she won the PFMI Earth crown because of her contractual obligations to a rival show. The re-try proved lucky and Saxena, who was among the last five standing, also walked away with the Agile Femina Miss 10 title.
Keeping the evening flowing with a ready stock of gags and jibes were hosts R Madhavan and the enviably good-looking Malaika Arora Khan. Their digs were mostly aimed at big designer labels, with Madhavan turning Gucci into a desi tongue-twister and co-hosts Swapnil Joshi and Karan Wahi pushing the gag further, making Dolce & Gabbana into "Dhokla & Ganthia".
Everyone was waiting to get an eyeful of the finalists. The 20 young women made an entry in summery Indo-Western couture by Rocky S, and performed to the track Fame. With an average height of 5.8 ft, they easily trounced the national average of 5.3 ft. Later, shod in Citywalk footwear, in a Jai Ho ramp walk choreographed by Marc Robinson, they modelled creations by Pantaloons (designed by Rajesh and Anirban), Arabella (Prasad Bidappa and Varadha Rajan) and Ritu Kumar, with jewellery by Collection G in association with D'damas and the World Gold Council.
Three Bollywood divas burnt up the stage one after another. Genelia D'Souza, in a short silver bell-sleeved dress and matching boots, gaily evoked the disco seventies and eighties with Western-style songs. Then Kangana Ranaut burst into the spotlight in a sunshine-yellow ghagra-choli and danced to Dola re and Barso re. Finally, showstopper Priyanka Chopra in a clingy silver sari pirouetted down the ramp towards the bemused judges to the dhol beat of Desi Girl.