"The lovely dark horse!"
That's how model Svengali Anu Ahuja described Nikita Anand, the 19-year-old Delhiite who won the Miss India crown on Friday night at the Goregaon Sports Club in northwest Mumbai.
Ahuja, along with designer Hemant Trivedi, had trained the 26 poised, lovely young women who competed for the 2003 title for almost two months.
After going through a series of training programmes conducted by Dr Jamuna Pai, Dr Anjali Mukherjee, Mickey Mehta, Rhea Pillai Dutt and Sabira Merchant, nine of the 26 beauties - Parmita Katkar, Nikita Anand, Shonali Nagrani, Ami Vashi, Swetha Vijay, Anjali Lavania, Nupur Mehta, Purvi Shah, Shonal Rawat - made it to the final rounds.
Each had to answer a question from a member of the jury, which comprised films directors Yash Chopra and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, actors Jackie Shroff and the sizzling Shilpa Shetty, former ministry of external affairs spokesperson Nirupama Rao, Kinetic Engineering Ltd's Sulajja Firodia Motwani, Airtel's Sunil Bharti Mittal, ICICI's Chanda Kochar and tennis player Mahesh Bhupati.
In this round, Bhupati had asked Nikita, "If you had to dedicate your life to a cause, what would that be?"
"We talk about children all the time, the future of our nation, but we seem to have forgotten our very roots, our elders who are responsible for the kind of people we are today," Nikita replied.
The end of this round brought down the number of contestants to five - Parmita Katkar, Nikita Anand, Shonali Nagrani, Ami Vashi, Swetha Vijay.
Only one question now separated them from the crown - Forgiveness is better said then done. What is your opinion?
"To err is human, to forgive divine, and we have to forgive and move on to make a better life," was Nikita's winning reply.
Mumbaiites Ami Vashi, 22, and Swetha Vijay, 23, were crowned Miss India World and Miss India Earth, respectively.
Ami was a bit disheartened when she did not win anything in the semi finals in Bangalore. To her credit she did not give up, she put in more efforts and you can see the results, Ahuja said.
"It is funny! During the Raymond fashion show, Swetha came to me and asked if she could be a part of it. I suggested that she take part in the Miss India contest. She took this suggestion seriously."
"I am happy she did," Ahuja added.
As soon as the winner was declared, the organisers hurried to end the show before the 10 pm deadline.
Even as the audience was leaving, the camera crews focused on the stage and shot the rest of the event for the benefit of the television viewers.
This included announcements of a slew of sponsored prizes.
The VLCC Miss Personality award went to Payal Thakkar, Sunsilk Miss Stunning Strands - Diana Delvadavala, Miss Radio Mirchi - Deepica Sarma, MTV Viewers' Choice Most Wanted - Shonal Rawat, Miss Indiatimes Purva Merchant.
The event was not without its share of hiccups, the major one being compere Malaika Arora's announcement that Ritu Beri had designed the outfits for the sari round, leaving Ritu Kumar fuming.
The other compere actor Aman Verma's performance also left a lot to be desired.