Friday, May 28, 2010

Singam (Tamil) review

Starring: Surya, Anushka, Prakash Raj, Naseer, Vivek
Director: Hari

The film opens with the face of a lion - which is what Singam means in Tamil and then grandly announces this to be its lead actor, Surya's 25th film. It's evident then that Singam will be another grand showcase vehicle for its talented lead actor and the film turns out to be just that. Once actors down South acquire a kind of mass fan following, a lot of their films are only interested in coming up with a plot-line that will do best to project the star's heroism and virtues. It happens with all Rajnikanth starrers, where a script is entirely dispensible against his towering image and charisma.

From the past few films, Surya seems to be consciously aiming to shed some of his 'thinking actor' image and turning towards massy entertainers. The actor who impressed critics and class audiences alike with his films like Ghajini, Varanam Aayiram, Silluna Uru Kadhal and Ayutha Ezhuthu has been doing hard-core commercial fares like Ayan, Aru and now, Sigham. It's certainly helped him garner tremendous clout at the boxoffice, but one hopes he can balance it with more meaningful films.

Does that make Singam just another run-of-the-mill film? The subject is certainly not new in any sense. Durai-singam (Surya) is an honest cop in Nallore and enjoys immense good-will among his people there. He meets a businessman's daughter, Kavya (Anushka), who falls for his brave acts and sense of justice. In between, there are a dozen long action sequences, where Surya single-handedly takes on petty criminals and eve teasers in his area. He chases them all over the place, beats them up mercilessly, and then as the poor men grovel before him, the hero unleashes dialogues on them that go on forever. And in utmost reverence to the leading man, the camera captures all his flying kicks in slow motion, and when there is an opportunity for a close-up, Surya's face gets graphically morphed into that of a real lion. Much of this is so funny, that even people who generally dread a lot of blood and gore in films would not seriously mind any of this. Incidentally, it's also low on vulgarity, unlike films of this genre, so families can go ahead and watch it.

The not-so-big twist in the tale comes when Singam is promoted as an inspector to Chennai. This brings him in direct confrontation with one of the most dreaded local goons of the place, Mayilvaganan (Prakash Raj). The script suggests that there would be a powerful conflict here, and the fact that the film takes a heavy-weight actor like Prakash Raj for the villain's part, sets up the drama nicely. However, the makers are so focussed on establishing Surya as peerless and ferocious and all that, that the conflict becomes entirely lopsided. Singam wins every battle against Mayilvaganam and the latter, who till Surya enters the scene seems like an interesting character, is relegated to the role of a standard villian.

In spite of flaws, Singam works as a decent masala entertainer, and that's thanks to a superlative Surya. He does not have Rajni's flamboyance, but he is still a very watchable actor. The best part of the film is the romance between Surya and Anushka. It's not overdone and the emotions feel just right. Anushka resembles Kareena Kapoor from certain angles, and is competent in her part. Director Hari, who made commercial fares like Saamy and Vel, has an assured style, and his screenplay is pacy. Overall, Singam has nothing new to offer in terms of story-line, but the mix of action, thrills and romance makes it one of the better films this season.

Rating: **1/2

-Sandhya Iyer

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kites review

Director: Anurag Basu

Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori, Kangana, Kabir Bedi

Rating: **1/2

Sandhya Iyer

Flutters, but sputters a lot

In the making for over three years now, Kites was expected to soar high and possibly turn Hrithik Roshan into a global star. Sadly, all those ambitions come crashing, as this kite loses its way badly in a script that is both run-of-the-mill and formulaic.
The film is not only about clash of language. It also appears to be a clash of creative minds, where the project was getting pulled in different directions. The result is that it ends up looking confused about what it wants to be. It's clear that producer Rakesh Roshan wanted a film with a certain international appeal, so as to showcase his son's abilities to the world. So you have Hrithik doing everything in the film from action to dance to drama. Even his singing abilities are on display. It's almost like Sr Roshan keeps re-launching his son every few years. The film's director Anurag Basu clearly has a distinctive style, one that is more subtle and intense (Metro, Gangster). When these two men come together, it's a bit of an uneasy mix, and it shows in the film. For a less than serviceable script such as this, Basu's treatment is too heavy and intense. He's the right director for the wrong film. Again, each time he tries to infuse some life into the love story, you are distracted from it with some mindless action sequences.

The drama unfolds in Las Vegas, where Jai (Hrithik Roshan) and Linda (Barbara Mori) are hustlers. Before they even get to know each other, Jai is already set to marry the super-rich Jina (Kangana), whose father (Kabir Bedi) runs all the major casinos in the city. His son (Tony), on the other hand is already engaged to Linda. Theirs is a notorious family, as Jai finds out, but the idea of becoming rich keeps him interested in Jina. This is until he sees Linda and flips for her looks. She speaks Spanish and can't follow English. He doesn't understand Spanish. In quick time, you see even Linda responding to him and both reveal they are in their respective relationships only for the money. This brings them close and Tony's brutish behaviour towards Linda leads to an ugly showdown. Both Jai and Linda have to flee to save their lives. As the couple is on a chase, Basu does a Bonnie and Clyde, with a bank robbery and a few other light scenes thrown in.

It appears that when you're in love, not following each other's language should be the last of your concerns. So even if the Hrithik-Mori love story looks incompatible, without the couple being able to communicate (unless, they are happy to be making shadow-birds on the walls all their life), the makers go ahead with their ambition of making an epic love story with these two. Quite conveniently, Hrithik and Barbara keep finding Indian and Spanish people everywhere to translate for them.

The first 15-20 minutes at the start with Hrithik and Kangana are extremely engaging, as are some portions with Barbara Mori (who looks abolutely gorgeous). The film gets sluggish then, but picks up again when the light-hearted portions come along. In fact, the semi-comic portions are the best parts of the film, and it makes you wonder whether it would have been wiser for Roshan and Basu to just go ahead and make a cross-cultural comic-drama, rather than get into the serious zone. The biggest problem with Kites is that the love story (in spite of Hrithik and Barbara's chemistry), is never felt as strongly by the audience, even if the script asserts it. Both appear pretty practical when you are introduced to them. Their sudden change of heart when they see each other and the intensity that follows is not convincing. Language may not be the most important thing, but surely only looks alone don't drive people to mad love.

Yet, in spite of the story not really working, Kites is worth a watch for Hrithik Roshan, who is fabulous as ever. The film does not deserve him. Barbara is alluring, and fits the bill. Kangana has a small role, but Basu does not let his favourite actress down and manages to flesh out her character and give it an arch for whatever it's worth.
But finally, the film itself is a dull affair and will leave both its desi and international audiences disappointed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

3D - a passing fad or here to stay?

Is the Hollywood obsession with 3D a temporary fad or the way to go now? Meanwhile, Bollywood too is seriously flirting with the idea. Sandhya Iyer explores the various dimensions to this trend that’s catching on fast and furious

All those who thought the Avatar wave was a short-lived affair and Hollywood’s infatuation with 3D would flicker out sooner than later, have been left flummoxed. Already, we’ve seen three major 3D films releasing this year and turning money-spinners — How To Train Your Dragon, Clash Of the Titans and Alice In Wonderland. Out of these, the last two were shot in 2D and later converted to 3D to cash in on the Avatar wave. The films came in for harsh criticism, both for their content and slipshod employment of 3D. However, Hollywood productions aren’t willing to let go of the 3D formula — the proverbial golden goose — one which they believe is the much-needed ‘premium’ to get audience into theaters. After all, why would a viewer go to the cinemas if there is no novelty and larger-than-life experience, they argue?

The 3D boom

Hollywood Studios has already announced about 20 releases in 3D for 2010. James Cameron has stated that he will be converting his last mega blockbuster, Titanic into 3D. Even a serious filmmaker like Martin Scorsese has bitten the bullet. The maker of legendary films like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull has announced that his new film, The Invention of Hugo Cabret will be in 3D. When asked about it, the filmmaker described the 3D experience as “natural that we would go that way”. The 3D craze is obviously conducive to Disney, who has announced that it would now be focussing entirely on animation and super hero flicks. So are 3D films going to be a way of life for Hollywood from here on? Is it healthy in the larger interest of good cinema or is it just a temporary marketing gimmick to charge viewers a premium on tickets?

The argument against 3D

Skeptics believe the ‘stampede’ for 3D movies might not augur well for robust filmmaking and good old story-telling. Eminent Hollywood film reviewer, Roger Ebert is one of the staunchest critics of 3D and believes the third dimension adds nothing new to one’s movie-watching experience and is often nothing but a distraction.
“Some 3D consists of only separating the visual planes, so that some objects float above others, but everything is still in 2D. We shouldn’t notice this. But we do,” he writes in his latest Newsweek cover story, titled, ‘Why I hate 3D — and so should you!’ Ebert makes several points on why he dislikes 3D. He says the technology is bad for the eyes, is often dull, and an unnecessary addition to the ‘self-sufficient’ 2D and so on. Ebert makes it clear he is not against 3D as an option. He praises Cameron’s Avatar, but also warns that a mad rush for 3D and fake conversions could impact the industry in a negative way. He rues that even filmmakers who made films for ‘grown-ups’ are now making a beeline for the kiddie 3D market. He concludes by saying that audiences must be given a reason to come to the cinemas but that reason need not be 3D!

Bollywood falls for 3D, too

Even as Hollywood carries on its affair with 3D, Bollywood is starting to flirt with the idea too. In quick time, Ram Gopal Varma has announced that he wants to make a horror film in 3D. The director has been a huge fan of Cameron’s Avatar and can’t wait to extend the technology to his favourite genre. Meanwhile, Boney Kapoor has serious plans of making Mr India in 3D. One can understand the above two choices. But even Pooja Bhatt has stated that she wants to make a sequel to her Bipasha Basu-John Abraham starrer Jism in 3D! Perhaps to show a bikini clad Bipasha walking towards the audience?
Kunal Deshmukh of Jannat and Tum Mile fame believes Bollywood is still light years away from making a genuine 3D film. “We’re just talking about it now. The whole process will be expensive for us. Maybe 2D to 3D conversions are feasible, but to shoot an entire film in 3D is out of question. We don’t work with those kind of budgets,” he says. Not many theatres are 3D enabled in India yet. “Till that figure goes up to 500 at least, making a 3D film doesn’t make sense. Take for example a film like Kites. The film can never have the kind of wide release it is seeing today if it were to be in 3D,” he adds. Besides, he doesn’t think 2D can ever be wiped out, “3D is doing well in Hollywood, but then so is Iron Man 2 — which was in 2D.”
On the other hand, Vroom director, Savin Tuscano, is very confident about 3D in India. “If I were to make a sequel to Vroom, I would love to make it in 3D. I see the cameras getting much cheaper in the next two years and many people here would be interested,” he says.

3D feasible in India?

Sunil Khaturia, vice-president of Scrabble Entertainment, the company that’s currently converting multiplex screens in India to digital equipment (3D enabled screens) says, “India has the biggest 3D potential in the world for the obvious reasons that people worship their superstars and make them their idols here. To see your idol with 3D effects is something! As of now, we have around 80 screens that are 3D enabled. The technology to produce 3D content is being outsourced as of now due to the economic limitations of every production house. This will change very soon after our production guys get trained under the companies who have mastered the art of live shooting in 3D. Again with good quality product, there is no reason why a big budget 3D film should not be commercially viable in India.”

Screening 3D... and soon 4D?

The multiplexes in the country are quite excited about 3D and believe that in the next two years we could see a fair number of Bollywood films releasing in 3D. “It obviously enhances the experience and given the right content, it can work very well in India,” says Neerav Panchamia, vice-president (operations) at E-Square. But there are a few hindrances, of course. “The set-up for 3D is expensive — it costs about 35-45 lakhs. So only multiplexes where Hollywod films are watched or have an audience favouring 3D can invest in it. I can tell you the returns come to us very slowly, but it is a USP for any multiplex,” he says.
Will 3D be a way of life then? “It may not suit every film, but it could be very effective for certain subjects,” he adds. “And now, there is 4D coming in also, where your seat moves and you get a sense of being ‘inside’ a film. We will have more of these things in the future,” he says.

Will 3D tick in the long-term?

Be it Hollywood or Bollywood, people at both ends believe that if 3D is used judiciously, it can sustain interest. “It was great to see a film like Avatar, but I thought Final Destination in 3D was horrendous. Why would one want to see six people dying on your face? There has to be some meaning to using 3D,” says Tuscano. Sunil Khaturia also agrees that only time will determine the future of 3D films, “These are still times of testing the waters and nobody knows what’s going to work or not in 3D as there is no success formula to anything,” he says.

3D beyond movies
The IPL matches that were shown in 3D drew a dismal response, so multiplexes and others realise that the 3D card may not work at all times. Yet, once the set-up is in place, one can expect to see live music shows and major sports event covered in 3D. Whether the audience interest in it sustains and whether they are willing to pay a premium for it, is anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, television companies are also cashing in on the craze and coming up with sets where a few programmes can be watched in 3D. But everyone seems to agree that content is what will drive the business from here on. Even those who are thick into 3D and gung ho about its future like Khaturia are wise enough to realise this. “Like in any form of entertainment, content is the king. Technology cannot take over from that fact. If you sell good content, there is no reason why 3D is not sustainable,” he says.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bumm Bumm Bole

Little goody two-shoes

Director: Priyadarshan
Starring: Darsheel Safary, Ziyah Vastani, Atul Kulkarni, Rituparna Sen Gupta
Showing at: Citypride, E-Square, Mangala, Inox
Rating: ***

If you haven't seen Majid Majidi's Children Of Heaven, the celebrated Iranian film of which Bumm Bumm Bole is a scene-to-scene desi adaptation, chances are that you will enjoy this effort from Priyadarshan. There is enough simplicity and warmth to the story that both children and adults will find endearing. On the other hand, those who have already seen Majidi's film may find some of the additions distracting and unnecessary. Yet, two things the film achieves. It does not embarrass itself in any way, and after Taare Zameen Par, this is a fairly good, if not excellent follow up to the criminally ignored genre of childrens' films.

Bumm Bumm Bole is about a poor family living in the ULFA-infested terrain of Assam. The father (Atul Kulkarni) is struggling to make ends meet and often keeps losing his job. Their mother (Rituparna)is busy either with household chores and calming down her angry husband who cureses the world for all their troubles. Life is not easy for their two children either, but when Pinaki (Darsheel Safary) accidentally loses his sister Rim Jim's (Ziyah Vastani) sandals, it causes nothing short of an upheaval in their little world. Pinaki is scared to tell his father and knows they the family can't cannot afford a new pair anyway. So both decide to use the one pair of shoes they have. Rim Jim uses it for school in the morning and then hurriedly hands it over to her brother who needs it in the afternoon. The rest of the story is about how they pull this off, even as they try their best to get a new pair of shoes.

The parts between Darsheel and Ziyah are beautifully handled and both child actors are utterly delightful to watch. It's wonderful how Priyan has managed to extract such natural performances from them. Never do you see them over-acting. While Darsheel conveys a great deal with his eyes, Ziyah is cuteness personified. Bumm Bumm Bole is worth a watch just to see their performances.

The film is not without some problems though. Priyan has set the story in North-East, justifiably to create a certain 'alien' mood and ambiance that will do justice to a script adapted from an Iranian film. But the film has been shot in Tamil Nadu, Ooty and while the film has beautiful postcard-like visuals, it takes away from the authenticity of the setting. It's not enough to show tea plantations and a few people from the North-East. One of the reasons why the Iranian film experience is so valuable is because it gives you a real and simmering sense of a difficult, strife-torn place. Here, the director uses the terrorist-ridden backdrop for dramatic effect, but without authentic setting, the impact is greatly reduced. This has been a problem with both Priyadarshan and Mani Ratnam, who keep trying to pass off a South Indian topography for North India! It most decidedly kills some of the film's essence.

Yet, this may not ruin your experience of the film. Children will still enjoy it and be delighted with Darsheel and Ziyah's act. There are enough positives in the film. For one, it wonderfully conveys the disparity in living standards that children are unfairly faced with. It's heart- breaking to see Darsheel's expression when he sees a dozen sparking shoes arranged in an effluent home, while he can't get a single pair for his sister. There is a message in it for our over-pampered city kids who get everything on a platter.

Priyan may not have filled Majidi's shoes, but this certainly doesn't pinch.

-Sandhya Iyer

Friday, May 7, 2010

Badmaash Company

Director: Parmeet Sethi
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Vir Das, Meiyang Chang and Anupam Kher
Rating: **1/2

In times of economic uncertainty such as ours, it can be tough to sympathise with a tale about a wonder-kid swindler. On occasions, your heart goes out to those who are getting cheated and unfairly bearing the brunt. Hence, Badmaash Company --- about a bunch of youngsters who carry out mini-scams to get instantly rich - would have been a rather difficult film to enjoy were it to be set in contemporary times. Its theme and treatment also qualify it to be nothing more than an average film. But what gives this Parmeet Sethi directed film some edge is the year it is set in.
The story takes place in 1994 - a significant period in our times when one had started to experience numerous changes. The post-liberalisation years brought about a great shake-up in the old, established order, opening up a whole new world of exciting opportunities. It is this era of 'aspirational India' that is evoked in Badmaash Company.

Karan (Shahid Kapoor), is unhappy with his present and wants to get rich quickly. He finds it impossible to live by the ideals of his middle-class father (Anupam Kher). So along with his friends, Zing (Chang), Bulbul (Anushka Sharma) and Chandu (Vir Das), he starts out by smuggling items for a Custom store owner. But soon enough, he comes up with his own con ideas, where he gets imports Reebok shoes - a prized commodity in those days -- and makes his money by successfully evading the huge custom duty each time. But with the watershed Finance budget, where the then FM Manmohan Singh slashes all custom charges, Karan's business plan gets derailed. The gang then moves to the US and carry out some more scams, till trouble begins.

The film's attempt to chronicle a time in recent history is refreshing, and the con jobs keep you interested. The soundtrack, especially Jaska Jaska and the background music are catchy, and the pace is good. It's not a patch on the frolicsome Bunty aur Babli, but Badmaash Company is not without its charm.

However, the film goes downhill after a perky first half, and settles to become a tired, cliched tale about redemption. It slips into predictable zones and for a con film, that can be a heavy let-down. Scenes where Shahid turns arrogant and loses his temper are all a bit artificially set up to show his subsequent down-fall. His relationship with Anushka is unconvincing and abrupt.

Besides, even though Sethi loves bringing in several period details, there's not much to distinguish his characters as youngsters of the 90s - neither in their appearance nor attitude. Yes, Anushka wears accessories that were peculiar in the 90s ('Raveena earrings and floral ribbons). But that's about it.

Among the performances, Vir Das, as the incorrigible flirt who turns out to be a loyal, loving man, is excellent. Chang is alright, with not much scope to perform. Anushka Sharma's pudgy nose and Punjabi accent which served her well for a film like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi does not go too well with her hip character here. Shahid Kapoor looks good and delivers a confidence performance.

Parmeet Sethi makes a fair debut as director. He has style and flair in his story-telling and keeps his narrative fluid. But as writer he is inconsistent. The ending is simplistic and the film is disappointingly unambitious. Yet, not a bad effort for a first-timer.
In the film, Shahid says a successful venture sustains on great ideas. Badmaash Company sadly runs out of it mid-way.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Just Imagine!

Sandhya Iyer speaks to Imagine’s VP (marketing and communications), Nikhil Madhok on why the channel considers its provocative shows like Swayamvar and Raaz Pichhle Janam Ka a recipe for success, among other things

Television, as it stands

Not all of us are thrilled with the current television scene in the country. Just when one thought the saas-bahu menace was starting to recede, channels caught on to stories based in rural India. Many of these shows — under the garb of presenting women’s subjugation — are proving to be even more regressive. Then there’s of course reality television that continues to stump us with its provocative programming with each passing day. First, Splitsvilla, then Swayamvar and now Emotional Atyachar, channels are pushing the envelope in a bid to get more eyeballs. By the look of it, most channels in the general entertainment (GE) category believe that anything that catches the viewers’ attention is good enough. The idea is to give the public what it wants. Imagine’s VP, Nikhil Madhok talks about various aspects regarding the channel, giving a clear perspective of what goes into programming decisions and the attitude GE channels are adopting now.

Shaky start, good pick-up

Imagine — as NDTV Imagine — had a tepid start, when it was launched a couple of years ago. Its much-hyped show, Ramayan flopped, as did their celebrity dance shows, Dhoom and Saroj Khan’s Nachle Ve. The channel appeared to be struggling untill it hit upon the idea of getting television drama queen, Rakhi Sawant married through a reality show. Rakhi Ka Swayamvar was an instant hit. Its second season with Rahul Mahajan also did well, and now the channel is already preparing for a third season. “Yes, our initial shows did not cut ice. We realised we needed to do what the biggies are not doing. The Swayamvar series really helped us. Before that, we had Farhan Akhtar’s Oye, it’s Friday which didn’t do too well, but it brought some freshness. We followed it up with fiction shows like Bandini and Kitni Mohabbat Hai, which improved our trajectory,” says Madhok.

On the Swayamvar success

The theory circulating was that Imagine wanted to do a show on marriage because wedding sequences tend to be the high points in soaps and the TRPs invariably shoot up. “That’s true,” Madhok admits, with candour, adding, “We thought, why not take it from a fictional space and put it in a real one.” The same logic applies to Imagine’s new reality show, Desi Girls, where eight television hotties will be staying in a small village up North, doing all the work that village belles do. Obviously, one of the reasons for green-lighting the concept is because rural shows are the flavour of the season. Again, the channel does not deny this connection. “Why not? We will take what is working around us and give it a twist.”
But Swayamvar almost threatened to get derailed when Rakhi Sawant broke off her engagement with her fiance. The channel admits this. “Yes, it could have easily derailed. We were very keen that it should end in marriage. Maybe we weren’t all that forceful. It ended up with Rakhi getting a lot of flak and we too were upset that she didn’t get married. Which is why with Rahul (Mahajan), we hammered this point right from the beginning,” says Madhok.
For now, Imagine has shortlisted one cricketer and two Bollywood stars for Swayamvar 3.

Tackling criticism

The channel has certainly managed to come out of its doldrums with a couple of hit shows, but it has been at the cost of some credibility. Their shows are now viewed as controversial and voyeuristic, “That’s true, but in today’s times, it’s better to have some image than have no image. When we did Ramayan, we were considered a channel for old people. We needed to do something dramatic. Yes, our shows are controversial, but that keeps us in the news.” The channel is happy that including Swayamvar and Raaz Pichhle Janam Ka, they’ve seen more success with reality shows than any other channel. “The others have had one hit show, followed by a couple of failures. Star Plus’ Sach Ka Saamna worked, but many other stuff they did failed. Colors got a success with Fear Factor, but Bingo flopped very badly. We at Imagine are happy to give people what they want, even if it is at the cost of the content appearing titillating. Look at Emotional Atyachaar — it’s a big hit for UTV Bindaas!”
So would Imagine also get into that zone soon? “I think a show like that is right for a youth channel. It may not be suitable for a GE segment like ours. It’s certainly not because we consider such a show bad,” says Madhok.

Towards the future

The perennial question is, why can’t our channels get more experimental with their content? Reality shows are fine, but why not offer more quality fiction? “You have to understand that there are two Indias before us —India 1 and India 2. The ones to comment on our shows are from India 2. When I look at a lot of the content on TV, I can’t believe anyone would want to watch it. But for 70-80 per cent of the viewers, it is their reality. Recently, Yash Raj launched television shows that were of absolute international quality. None of them worked! The viewership for such shows is minuscule. In 2001, we had 20 million viewers in India. In 2010, there are 140 million. The viewership has changed drastically, and we obviously want to cater to the largest segment,” Madhok says.
He adds that their channel does not want to be a Louis Vuitton, catering to a niche segment. So they’d rather be Lux underwear? “Ya, why not! When we tried to be Calven Klein, no one watched us. One has to have clarity while running a channel,” he says.

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.