Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How ‘desi’ is Imagine’s Desi Girls show?

Behind the scenes

After a spate of failures, Imagine (not NDTV Imagine anymore) finally found a big success with Rakhi Sawant’s Swayamvar last year and since then, the channel has been going all out and getting in provocative, eye-ball grabbing shows, even if it means coming in for a fair bit of flak.

The channel’s new offering (in association with BBC) is Desi Girl, where eight hotties have landed up in a small, nondescript village called Sialba Majri in Chandigarh. The chosen eight are a combination of the usual suspects and some fresh faces. Spit-fires Sambhavna Seth and Kashmera Shah are part of the show. Then there’s also Roshni Chopra, Monica Bedi, Ishitta Aun, Dhokha star Aushima Sawhney, Rucha Gujarati, and Anmol Singh, who was seen in a couple of shows on MTV.
So at the end of April, when summer is at its harshest, we journos got a dekko into the world that these beauties are inhabiting. Those who came with the images of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and the lush mustard fields in mind, were obviously disappointed. It’s not really your scenic village from what we saw. But the channel insists it had its own reasons for choosing Sialba Majri. After a long recce, Sialba was ultimately chosen because “it was found to be far less conservative compared to other villages.”

So what is Desi Girl going to be all about? In what promises to be a high-voltage drama, these glamourous city slickers, will be required to spend over a month in the village. The concept has been taken from Fox Television’s reality show, The Simple Life, where wealthy socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were required to do low-paying, manual jobs.

The channel has identified four families from the village, who will be playing host to the girls. Each room is to be shared by two girls, and they will be doing all the work that village belles undertake — milking the cows, making cow dung cakes, cooking food and so on. And the girl who manages to win over the villagers will be declared the winner.

Clearly, many things are looking scripted at this stage, though as a concept, the channel does look to have a winner on its hands. We were given a tiny glimpse into the dreary conditions in which the girls are staying — very small rooms, no air conditioners. It’s a little difficult for us to believe the girls are staying here, but the channel vouches that the participants are indeed being given an authentic dose of the ‘desi’ life.
And as if to prove the point, the eight hotties walked in, dressed to kill, in the middle of an open field where they demonstrated their skill with catching chickens! Later, each of them individually spent time talking about the rigours of village life. “Look at the condition of my nails! I’ve never worked so much,” rued Kashmera, even as some others with perfectly manicured hands (Monica and Sambhavana) made sure to hide theirs while they were up on stage. “There have been no fireworks between us girls so far, maybe because we still don’t know each other that well,” added Kashmera.

Sambhavana spoke about how she was thrilled to have finally learnt her mother tongue and waxed eloquent in Punjabi. Monica spoke about her ancestors hailing from Punjab, and how her decision to take up the show was an emotional one. Her co-participants didn’t seem to believe her, because we saw Kashmera whispering to others how Monica had never mentioned any such thing to them. ‘Humein toh nahin bataya tha...’ she said. Almost all the girls spoke about how the show was an unforgettable experience.
The only male on the show is host Rohit Roy, who says he’s having the time of his life. He’s of course not required to stay in the village and has been put up at a five star. So isn’t wife Mansi worried about having her hubby surrounded by eight sultry women? “Ah, not really. Mansi’s my anchor. I can’t do without her. I know I have a stud image, which I am happy to keep. It helps my career,” he says, quickly adding, “Actually, Desi Girl goes against that image of mine. Here, I am more like a friend, father or brother to the girls. I listen to their problems, try to help them.”

So is the channel going to flatly propagate how urban women are less capable than their rural counterparts? Nikhil Madhok, Vice President — Marketing and Communications is quick to defend the charge. “No. I think the message will be about how there can be a healthy exchange between urban and rural life. For example, when one of the elders admonishes the girls for dressing skimpily, another family member takes up for her, pointing out that she’s doing all her work well. So why should it matter what she wears,” he says.
Hmmm... that should give you some idea of what to expect from Desi Girls.