The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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26 days, 20 girls & a crown

With stars in their eyes and dreams to make it big in the dazzling world of modelling or, better still, films, 20 girls have stepped into a whole new world as the chosen finalists of Vatika Honey & Saffron Soap Sananda Tilottama 2006.

But before the glitz and the glamour comes the grind ' a gruelling 26-day session, spearheaded by model and grooming expert Nayanika Chatterjee from May 1.

“The girls are raw no doubt but then again, that makes it easier to mould them,” says Nayanika, who spent two whole days with the girls after the selection process. “They went through the medical tests at Wockhardt and then I took their measurements to ascertain where exactly they needed how much weight loss. This was followed by a detailed hair and skin analysis programme at VLCC,” she explained.

Dew facials, body polishing, paraffin pedicure, Dead Sea mud therapy, aroma hair spa and an interaction with Vandana Luthra ' this is just the beginning of the grooming journey for the girls.

With RJ Mir working on their diction, designers Anamika Khanna and Agnimitra Paul giving them tips on styling, and finishing school expert Uma Mazumdar guiding them through table etiquette, the difference is already beginning to show.

The girls are also undergoing regular dance classes with choreographer Sukalyan Bhattacharya, who is teaching them dance styles, body movements, posture and grace.

“They had a session with photographer Sanat Ghosh to learn photo-shoot basics. This is extremely important to develop a better relationship with the photographer, so that the chemistry translates properly on to the picture,” says choreographer and grooming expert Ria Mitra, Nayanika’s assistant in project Tilottama.

A proper diet is fixed for the girl and while they are given a list of dos and don’ts, it is completely their responsibility not to slip up. “Since the girls have breakfast and dinner at home, no one can really tell what they are eating, but I have urged them not to cheat themselves,” declares Nayanika.

The prescribed diet balance ' heavy breakfast, decent lunch and light dinner. Lunch, by Red Kitchen & Lounge, is usually soup, steamed vegetables or meat, Chinese style. An evening treat awaits the girls on most days, with a mix of drumsticks, momos or rolls.

Diet regimen apart, the girls are being put through a “compulsory” gym session at Solace, chalked out by fitness expert Preetom Mukherjee-Roy. “It feels great to see the girls looking better than what they did the previous day,” smiles Ria “ma’am”, proudly. Having been a model before going into grooming, Ria has reasons to smile.

And the girls are all her fans. “She’s doing a fantastic job' She does scream at us once in a while, but that’s okay,” smiles 16-year-old Prachi, the pampered kid on this beauty block.

A confident Gunjan Sinha discloses another Ria “tactic”: “Ma’am terms her lecturing and scolding as essential feedback' Well, once she puts it like that, can we even think of arguing'”

The camaraderie in this group cannot be missed. Free times are spent chatting and gossiping with new-found friends.

As the 26-day session enters its second week, do the contestants really feel any different' “Of course,” is the chorus cry and while answers range from “punctuality” to “discipline”, what is the one thing that the girls need to work on'

“At this point, confidence is what they lack the most but I am sure they will gain it soon enough,” feels Ria.

And their biggest asset' “Their energy is unbeatable ' raring to go at any time of day, their enthusiasm is definitely infectious,” she smiles.

But Nayanika is the first to admit that no one can possibly work miracles in 26 days. “We’re looking at a long-term plan beyond the contest. We have spotted potential in these girls and are trying to hone that. Whether they make it or not, at least this grooming session will stay with them forever,” she rounds off.

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