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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

'Chief minister saheb, I love you'

Rani Mukherjee
"I love you, chief ministersahib!" playback singer Usha Uthup shouted out to Prithviraj Chavan at the culmination of a raucous evening celebrating womanhood at the Laadli Media Awards at the NCPA on Friday.

As the audience whooped and cheered, Uthup stole the limelight for a minute from legendary Kathak dancer Sitara Devi. It was not easy, considering the dancer had just patted Rani Mukherjee on the head as if she were a small child, criticized Uthup's weight and asked the chief minister in no uncertain terms for a house.

This was not your usual evening at the NCPA, but that's hardly surprising when you unleash such a group of incredible, feisty women to celebrate womanhood. It was ceremony of the third Laadli National Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity that commend those who present news, issues and programmes that address India's gender imbalance.

Members of the media and women who have achieved exceptional things in their fields were presented the awards. Homai Vyarawalla, India's first woman photojournalist, was presented the Laadli of the Century Award, while the Laadli Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Devi and Sindhutai Sapkal, who put a child marriage and desertion behind her, set up an orphanage and inspired a Marathi biopic.

The ceremony was compered by Pooja Bedi and masterminded by Dolly Thakore. Although the evening was one of rejoicing and singing along to I Will Survive with Uthup, it had a serious message. To fix the skewed gender ratio takes more than valuing the birth of the girl child; we must celebrate her whole life and potential.

Rani Mukherjee, in an ethereal white sari, said: "It's not just about not killing the foetus if it's a girl. Wanting a daughter is so important because then her life is celebrated after birth."

Chavan admitted that he wasn't planning to attend the awards function, until a jolt last week changed his mind. "I didn't think I could make it today. But, when a week back the census figures were released, I thought this state needs all the help from NGOs and therefore I took time off from the assembly session," he said.

"I would like to assure you that the Maharashtra figures which showed us in poor light are like a wake-up call. The state is working on falling numbers but we need all the support and ideas. Let's cooperate and work together to end this evil and to create an equal society."

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