Swede blonde factor - Elin's land debates 'transgression' causes

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By AMIT ROY
  • Published 10.12.09
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Stockholm, Dec. 9: More than half a century after one of the biggest sex scandals to rock India, an explanation has been suggested as to why the world-famous Italian director Roberto Rossellini eloped at the age of 51 with a Bengali woman of 26 when he was already married to Ingrid Bergman, one of the most beautiful Swedish screen goddesses of her or any other time.

What did Sonali Das Gupta, a mother of two young sons whom Rossellini met at a party in Calcutta, have that Bergman, stars of such timeless classics as Casablanca, didn’t?

“Swedish women are no doubt blonde and beautiful, fulfilling the male fantasies, but they are also very assertive,” suggests a woman diplomat who has been in Stockholm for a year.

After “interacting” with Swedish women in high positions in the foreign ministry and other government departments, the diplomat feels some of them are “seriously bolshy” and may contribute to their menfolk feeling somewhat emasculated. “Their women are definitely on top,” is her assessment.

With the “transgressions” of Tiger Woods, whose wife Elin Nordegren is Swedish, transfixing Sweden, a debate is now raging in the country on whether Swedish women are responsible in some way for the breakdown in such relationships.

A Swedish media officer dismisses such an explanation, though.

“First of all, not all Swedish women are blonde, not even half of them,” said the woman (who happens to be blonde herself). “I would say gender issues are important and women are almost the equal of men but they are not quite there.”

The Tiger Woods drama is being followed all over the world but nowhere more closely than in Sweden, not least because Elin neatly fits the description of a blonde and beautiful Swedish woman who has married a celebrity.

Her mother, Barbro Holmberg, a middle-ranking politician in Sweden who flew to Florida to be with her daughter, has herself become part of the drama after receiving emergency hospital treatment.

The Tiger Woods story could not have broken at a better time for the producers of a television show, Svenska Hollywoodfruar (Swedish Hollywood Wives), which has been tracking three Swedish women who have hitched up with American celebrities with varying degrees of success.

The programme has been getting the highest ratings in Sweden.

Anders Knave, programme director at TV3, the makers, commented: “The Real Housewives shows are very popular and we wanted to take it a step further. We have therefore looked for Swedish women in Hollywood, who have married rich men and live what one would call the ideal picture of a life in luxury. It’s a sneak peek into the lusciousness of luxury.”

The women, Anna Anka, Maria Montazami and Agnes-Nicole Winter, are either still married or were once to rich husbands.

Anna Anka was married to the singer Paul Anka but started divorce proceedings while the programme was being aired, thereby rendering reality television even more real and helping along the ratings.

Anna, who has been called “the recently crowned queen of Swedish reality television”, has moved out of the couple’s home and is currently living in the Four Seasons hotel, where crews from TV3 are filming her for a Christmas special.

She has ignited a heated public debate in Sweden by criticising Swedish fathers for “their nappy-changing” ways. She went on to argue that a man’s infidelity is ultimately his wife’s fault. “Sexually it is the woman’s responsibility to ensure that the man is satisfied, if she does not then she only has herself to blame if he is unfaithful,” she said.

To be sure, isolated examples of Swedish women ought not to be strung together to arrive at a thesis. However, quite a few Swedish women have figured in affairs of one sort or the other, notably in the UK.

The archetypal Swedish beauty, Britt Eckland — she played a Bond girl in The Man with the Golden Gun — caught the eye of husband-to-be Peter Sellers and, when he died, moved in with the pop star, Rod Stewart, a man known for his collection of blondes.

In more recent years, TV weather girl, Ulrika Jonsson, had a well-publicised fling with the former England football manager and fellow Swede, Sven-Goran Eriksson, before he moved on fleetingly to a Bangladeshi secretary, Faria Alam.

This week of all weeks it is becoming clear that the Nobel Prize is being put in the shade by Sweden’s other major export — the blonde bombshell.

“Hell hath no fury than a Swedish woman scorned,” is the view of one newspaper reader, as the Swedish population — 9 million in all – takes sides over Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren.

There are a few in Sweden who believe the blondes are basically to blame. “While I am not defending Woods’s adultery completely, one has to wonder if behind closed doors Elin was a bit of a Viking tempest,” said one reader. “More often than not, people cheat to satisfy a need that is missing in the marriage. Laying all the blame on Woods is a bit one-sided.”

Others reckon she was a gold-digger from the start: “Don’t worry Elin, a $500-million divorce settlement will surely ease your pain. Anyway, at least, we now know the little gold-digger was really in for the money. She had rather renegotiate the pre-nup agreement than leave for cold, cold Sweden. Nanny Elin shows true colours.”

But there are more who say the behaviour of Woods “is disgusting and he should be punished most severely, rather than just excused by the typically locker room boys”.

As for Rossellini, he had come to India in 1957 at Nehru’s request.

As to why Rossellini left Bergman for Sonali Das Gupta, Jan Goransson, of the Swedish Film Institute, told The Telegraph today: “I am not an expert on Bergman but she was keen to get back to the US from Europe and revive her career. She remarried soon after her marriage to Rossellini ended. By the mid-1950s, Rossellini’s career was also on the decline.”