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AXN turns on the heat with hot'n'wild auditions

MUMBAI: The beauty and the brawn were out in force on Saturday at Velocity in southern Mumbai as AXN kicked off auditions for its Hot n Wild Contest. 63 shortlisted aspirants to the title auditioned from the city over the weekend.

The channel is searching for India's hottest and wildest couple which will anchor a reality based show on the channel. Through the contest the channel is aiming to extend its 11 pm band beyond the television sets.

The channel claims to have received over 5000 entries across the country from places like Gaziabad, Baroda, Hyderabad and Nagaland since launching the contest on 24 June. Next week, the auditions travel to Delhi and Bangalore. The finale is scheduled to take place on 4 September in Mumbai.

On Saturday, a ramp was put in place and contestants strutted up and down trying to project the desired persona in front of cameras and the judges - model Milind Soman, choreographer Achla Sachdev and AXN VP marketing Gregory Ho. To maintain the level of consistency in the judging parameters, Soman and Sachdev will remain on the panel for the entire duration of the contest. In addition to the catwalk and photo shoot, participants had to field questions from the judges.

The winners are (L to R): Rohit Chopra, Deepica Sarma, Salil and Parmita Katkar

It was not as wild as Mumbai promised, thought. Although the second round held only 11 shortlisted candidates, the goings on were sluggish at times and the flow inconsistent, thanks probably due to some technical delays. Also, there tended to be a kind of sameness in the questions being asked. Not surprisingly, most of the girls dressed in skimpy outfits were either aspiring models or were already in the business doing small time stuff. Most were looking for a break in television. The guys' backgrounds were more diverse - ranging from a couple of engineers to an aspiring filmmaker. Rohit Chopra, Deepica Sarma, Salil and Parmita Katkar were the ones who finally made it to the selected four.

AXN plans to create one-minute vignettes for each of the eight designated contenders which will air on the channel every day from 16 August. Viewers can vote for who they think is the hottest couple through SMS at indiatimes' 8888 facility. Provisions will also be made for online voting.

The judges (from L to R) Milind Soman, Achla Sachdev, Gregory Ho

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com on the initiative, Ho said, "The Hot n Wild programme band has seen our channel share grow by 30 per cent in the 11 pm slot. As far as our contest is concerned, while looking good is one criterion, it is not enough. The person must be able to relate to the camera. Therefore we have two monitors next to us so that we can keep a close eye on the participants' looks, screen presence, behaviour. Also the person should fit the AXN brand profile, which is adventurous, daring, and charismatic.

"That is why I am a part of the judging panel. A person may be confident but if he/she is too sophisticated then they might be better off working with CNBC. A person may not live the AXN lifestyle but he/she must be able to project it onscreen. They should also be able to come off as role models for our viewers. Of course Achla and Milind are well versed with the television business and know exactly what attributes the participants must possess."

Ho added that the reality show would commence shooting sometime in October. "Besides the television production load the anchors must be able to deal with hundreds of people in the street. Sometimes they might get insulted and their spontaneity is going to be key. Therefore a person auditioning is asked point blank "How come you are bald?" After all there are no retakes in a reality series."

To illustrate to our readers the kind of spontaneity, AXN is looking for, when one of the participants was asked what four-legged animal she would like to be the pat response was dinosaur. "I have been fascinated by them for a long time and I will also be able to appear in many Steven Spielberg movies." Not surprisingly the person was chosen.

Meanwhile, Ho pointed out that the hardest part of the process was sifting through so many entries before selecting people for the auditions. "We would try to gauge from the photograph itself whether or not the person could make it. The 'I am Hot'n' Wild because' replies were another. Of course there is the chance that the intelligent response may have been written by that person's friend. But on the ramp there is no escape if he/ she looks down or breaks into a nervous sweat or goes "uh uh".

SET's assistant VP marketing Rohit Bhandari who looks after the channel in the country added that there were good looking people who were rejected in a hurry because the responses they had written were entirely inappropriate. "The final eight will be given special training to spruce up their poise. Achla Sachdev will go through their videos and give them pointers as to what they should do and shouldn't. It will come down to how hard somebody wants the job, Bhandari said.

"The person chosen should be able to get the audience interested and getting into the groove through body language and attitude. That is why the viewers' choice is important. At the end of the day we are what we are because our viewers make us. The whole logic to the selection process is the comfort level the viewer has with a particular person. If we just wanted two good looking people we would simply have contacted modelling agencies. We would not have gone through this trouble." He also said that besides the viewers choice there would be two other rounds for the grand finale, which are in development.

As far as other AXN shows were concerned, Ho pointed out that the next big ground event after Hot n Wild was around the corner but added that negotiations were still on. He also said that Guinness World Records, which was held successfully last year, would return next year. "For us it is a been there done that situation and we want each ground event to be unique. Different people have different tastes. Not everyone wants to break a record or event strut up and down the ramp. Therefore by doing something different each time we are touching our entire audience base."

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