Transvestite Tamil “Oprah” banned in Singapore

Source

25 March 2008
The New Paper

Transvestite Tamil “Oprah” banned in Singapore

Transvestite host’s debut show too ‘sensitive’ for S’pore Man, he’s shaking up talkshow scene
By Sheela Narayanan

Touted as the Tamil-language Oprah Winfrey, Rose Venkatesan is making waves on Indian cable TV. Click to see larger image

The twist? Rose was born as Ramesh Venkatesen, a former web designer with a masters degree in biomedical engineering from an American university.

On his 30-minute show Ipadikku Rose (Yours, Rose), the cross-dresser tackles topics considered to be taboo in Indian society like sexual harassment and sex workers.

And the show – broadcasted to more than 64million people in Tamil Nadu – had been getting international media attention even before it was aired on Star TV’s Tamil-language cable channel, Vijay TV, on 28 Feb.

While the show is available to Vijay TV’s audiences in India, Hong Kong and the US, Singaporeans won’t get to see it yet.

Star TV spokesman told The New Paper that due to the ‘controversial and sensitive nature’ of the show, they are not ready to show it in Singapore.

In a telephone interview from Chennai, Rose told The New Paper that the initial response to the show has been good.

‘A lot of people appreciate the show and women have come up to me and told me they love the show and I am very good,’ he said with his hybrid Indian-American accent.

The first episode was on sexual harassment of women.

One of his upcoming episodes will feature Indian sex worker Nalini Jameela, who wrote her autobiography of how she became involved with prostitution.

Rose said: ‘She was openly challenging the system of marriage. There is a false notion in Indian society that men will always be with the women they married. That is a myth.’

Attempts to contact Vijay TV’s head of programming, Mr Pradeep Milroy Peter, were unsuccessful.

But in an interview with The New York Times, Mr Pradeep admitted that he was nervous about how the audience would receive the show and its transvestite host.

‘VERY EXPERIMENTAL’

He said: ‘We are crossing our fingers. The market has a craving for talk shows, but this one comes with a difference. It’s very experimental.’

Rose had impressed Mr Pradeep and the rest of Vijay TV executives with his qualifications and confidence.

Rose said: ‘With this show, I want to challenge and change society’s hypocritical perception of transgender people.’

Mr Pradeep said: ‘The show will be groundbreaking, but we have to think about our audience. South Indians are very reserved, very conservative.’

So sex before marriage will be discussed, but not gay relationships.

Are Singaporean Indian audiences ready for Rose?

One of them said no.

Mrs A Gopalan, 45, mother of two and a housewife, said: ‘Not everybody is open to a talkshow like this. I think it is also not suitable for young people.’

Mr Govindaraju M, 57, a writer for a local production house, felt otherwise.

‘We live in a multi-racial, cosmopolitan society. I don’t see any problem with such a show on cable.

‘And it’s not as if it is on prime time, it is late at night. If people are offended, they don’t have to watch it,’ he said.

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