Tonight is the big night, and after a six month romp around India that has brought both a greater diversity of contestants and a greater number of fans to the contest, what we can all easily say is one of the best editions so far of Miss India will conclude in its grand climax. Femina Miss India deserves a lot of credit for everything it has done this year. The state format, the grand photoshoot in Rajasthan, the immersive and constant updates for fans with live fb/IG broadcasts were all great additions. But of course, the judgement of any contest settles on one simple fact: who the winner is. The memories of the live chats, the intense debate amongst fans across the country, the shimmer of the Manish Malhotra lehengas will all fade … but the face and legacy of Miss India 2017 will live on. So let’s all hope that the organization and the judges make the right choice tonight!
From some of the posts made by the girls, it appears that the preliminary jury, which along with feedback from the Miss India Organization will determine the top 10 was made up of Vineet Jain, Rohit Khandelwal, Stephanie Del Valle, Julia Morley and Steven Douglas (Events Director, MWO). It’s certainly a well informed group, so lets hope that they made the right choices amongst our 30 outstanding state winners. I certainly don’t envy their job!
That said, when we put pen to paper, this is what we came up with: Femina Miss India 2017’s Dynamic Dozen. Wait!! A dozen, you say? Isn’t there just a top 10? Yes. But it reflects how incredibly competitive this batch is and how diverse the girls are — not just in where they come from, but in their strengths and weaknesses — if we have regional zones, we also seem to have zones of strengths — the beauties, the talkers, the ones who have charm, the ones who have presence…and unlike last year, where there was one girl who led the pack in most areas, we do not have a clear winner this year. So to recognize this diversity and the fact that for the first time in many years, we feel any of about 7 girls could leave with the Miss India World crown, and any of about 15 could leave with a crown of some sort, we are giving ourselves a little leeway. To come up with my group of contenders, I scored the girls on 5 criteria — BEAUTY, ELOQUENCE, PRESENCE, CHARM and X FACTOR.
I initially had another criterion – ability to make a mark in the fast tracks, but I found that the results just cancelled each other out, and based on last year, I think FTs other than BWP don’t matter as much at MW as previously, so I omitted that category. The girls were given ranks (from 1-12) and the categories were not weighted. Based on these parameters, this is what my analysis threw up (full disclosure, if I were making a list just based on my own “preferences” without this formula, I would have a different list….)
The Crown Contenders: Clustered at the very top, separated only by a point each were three girls – AISHWARYA, MANUSHI, SIMRAN
Maharashtra: Aishwarya dominated the scoreboard with consistently high scores in every every area, except eloquence, but even there, we know that she can keep her nerve and knows how to make her points concisely, so I don’t expect this to “trip” her up – however, she can be outtalked to the crown. We’ve seen this happen many times at Miss India. But her beauty and presence are exceptional and I think she would make a very compelling Miss India. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if we’d sent the gorgeous, but tiny and somewhat tongue-tied Celina Jaitley or Puja Gupta to MW — this year, we may finally find out!
Haryana: Manushi also enters this top group with the most balanced and complete package not only this year but that I may have ever seen. She has height, beauty, eloquence, presence, focus, a great body and she clearly knows what she is doing. From the sub contests to her multimedia presence that even engages with MWO, she has not come to clap. She’s smart, a great speaker, has the right pedigree for MW. My worry is that she may be like Manasvi – there is a mask that hides who she really is, and MW looks for very authentic girls. In my leaderboard, she only scored low on charm, for the reasons above. I think Manushi would be an incredible winner, capable of winning the MW crown, if she relaxed a little and was more comfortable with who she really is rather than try so hard to package herself into a future Miss World.
Telangana: Simran to me, is the other girl in this batch who has all the requisite qualities to win – a balance of beauty, height, eloquence and body. Her strength is where Manushi is weak – she is exceptionally natural and charming. We’ve seen this resonate well at MW – whether with Azra Akin or Megan Young, and Simran is no different. There is an authenticity in Simran, a level of comfort with who she is that is unmatched in this group. Where she scored lower in my calculus is in the areas that Manushi scored higher in – presence. For Simran to win, she must stay focused and find a way to squeeze that 100 mega watt smile and personality into the 30 seconds she will get on stage! In my opinion, she will be an incredible winner and all her flaws can easily be worked on by November – they are principally to do with styling.
The Crown Crashers: Not far behind the girls above is a group of two favorites – Anukriti and Maira, that could just as easily win any of the crowns on offer.
Where they fell a little behind in my scoring sheet is that they had more highs and lows in some of the categories — and because it is all relative, even a strength can become a “relative” weakness and because the categories were not weighted, both these girls – who to me, have exceptional strengths in one category (Anu for beauty (she was my clear #1) and Maira for eloquence (again a clear #1)) – did not get any added advantage. But it is still an interesting outcome, because it shows how tough the competition is, and how incredibly subjective it all will be in the end.
Uttarakhand: Anukriti comes back four years after her first run with experience, polish and confidence. She is arguably even more beautiful now and this time around, she knows what she is doing. I fully think she is going to leave with a crown, and if she does, she will join a LONG list of girls from that 2013 batch (which I have to admit, I always thought was quite average) – going to an international contest — Navneet Kaur Dhillon (MW 2013), Sobhita Dhulipala (ME 2013), Vijaya Sharma (MS 2013), Mansi Moghe (MU 2013), Gail D’Silva (MUC 2014), Shristi Rana (MAPW 2013). Girls who come back to Miss India also tend to do very well, but interestingly, a returnee or cross-over has NEVER won the main crown. Only time will tell if the trend continues. Where Anukriti scored high on my spreadsheet is her beauty and presence while conversely she fell behind on her speaking skills – while she is solid, there are 6-7 others who are more natural and thoughtful, and charm – her strong preparation has also made her come across as a little too programmed at times. Still, I think she has everything it takes to win, and she would be a very compelling Miss India at Miss World, where her beauty will distinguish her.
Delhi: Maira Chowdhury was the pre-emptive favorite of most going into the contest, and certainly, if she gets her hand on the mike, the crown will be hers to lose. Where Maira faltered in the scoring is her charm factor – she seems very shy and can come across as cold, although feedback from within the contest seems to suggest that she is actually the opposite – humble and friendly. Still, this is all about impressions and in a tight group, what impression you convey matters and can make the difference between a win and a top 5 finish. Maira would be well advised to just take a deep breath, smile and not be afraid for once to really let herself shine to the fullest on stage. Like Lara Dutta and Sushmita Sen, she must not be afraid to speak her mind and be completely superior. Like them, she must do it with a smile and without any vanity.
The Crown Chasers: The lucky 7 – have all made very strong impressions are scored a little behind my front runners, but still within striking reach of a top 5/3 finish.
With a little luck, a strong performance tonight and a slight wobble from the favorites, any of these girls could easily leave with a crown. Therefore, in my scoring and personal opinion, they are not just there to fill out the top 10 – but actually girls who have a real chance of actually winning a crown tonight. Miss India has a strong record of crowning girls who were under the radar — in the last 15 years alone, we have seen Nikita Anand, Tanushree Dutta, Sarah Jane Dias, Vanya Mishra and Aditi Arya leave with the main crown – so if I were any of these girls, I would turn up full of confidence and fight!
Bihar: Priyanka Kumari has slowly and steadily made her mark in the contest and it reflects in a consistent manner across the board. She has no real weakness, a beautiful face, a pure heart and a thoughtful mind but to win tonight, she must find a way to amp up the presence.
Arunachal Pradesh: Licha Thossum – humble, well spoken, charming – Licha must find a way to let her personality really shine through.
Mizoram: Rody has a stunning face, a great body and X factor all over her. Her challenge will be to show that she can talk the talk in addition to walking the walk…
Punjab: Navpreet was a real surprise last year, but not anymore. She is more prepared but has lost none of her vibrance, charm or “realness.” Our kuddi Punjabi has won many hearts again, and if she can bring the presence she brought last year to the stage….well, luck always favors the brave!
Kerala: Mannat Singh is a sentimental favorite of mine – with her amazing smile, great height and thoughtful answers. What Mannat has to do is to harness all these strengths and find a way to shine, which is where she has been faltering. I have a simple formula for her – just be yourself, and not so focused on presenting an image to the judges. That smile alone can take Mannat all the way to the main crown!
Rajasthan: Aditi Hundia is my pocket Celina Jaitley. That perfect face deserves a crown, but to make that happen, Aditi will need to get her styling right (which she has NOT done through this contest) and stay focused. To me, she seems raw and that reflected in her scores on my spreadsheet … but the potential in this Jaipuri beauty is undeniable!
Karnataka: Swati Muppala was a last minute entry but shows the depth there was in the national selection process. She is beautiful, fit, charming and has a great walk and never at a loss for words. In short, crown potential! Keep an eye on this girl. If she does not win tonight, I want to see her back at Miss Diva!
Author: Jon Arenas (Pageant expert – TGPC)
Image credits: Femina Miss India