Some city girls dressed in body-hugging dresses with plunging necklines irritably ask a scarecrow, in a mustard field in a village in Punjab, for directions to the sarpanch’s house. When the wood and straw figure doesn’t respond, one of them sticks her tongue out at him. This is the trailer clip for the Imagine TV channel’s soon-to-be-aired reality show, Desi Girl.
The show will take eight female “celebrities”—actors and glam girls who have been in front of the camera for both the small and the big screen—from Mumbai to a village in Punjab. Their short dresses and salad lunches will be traded for salwar-kameez and lassi. The contestants will live with local families, carry out chores and, in short, get in touch with their inner village girl. The one who manages to win the hearts of the villagers will take home the prize money.
Field day: Imagine TV is looking to repeat its reality show success.
With a successful run of reality shows under its belt—Rakhi ka Swayamvar, Rahul ka Swayamvar and Raaz Pichhle Janam Ka—Imagine TV is hoping to strike gold with another big-ticket show. If the show’s concept seems familiar, it’s because you have seen Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie rough it out just like this in The Simple Life. The notorious party girls giving up their credit cards and hanging their dancing shoes to work at a farm provided much fodder for easy laughs. Which is what the makers of Desi Girls are probably hoping to replicate.
“It’s a collision of two opposing worlds,” says Nikhil Madhok, head, marketing and communications, Imagine TV. He spent a lot of time trying to find a village that would look like a Bollywood film set. Scenic fields and friendly, folksy villagers were essential. The contestants—Sambhavna Seth, Kashmera Shah, Roshni Chopra, Monica Bedi, Anmol Singh, Rucha Gujarati, Ishitta Arun and Aushima Sawhney—have been taken to a small village near Chandigarh where the mustard fields, flora and fauna, and women dressed in colourful Indian clothes provide for telegenic visuals. “The villagers were quite excited about the idea when we approached them. In fact, some of the villagers have come out as interesting as the characters themselves,” Madhok says.
With shooting schedules, shopping malls and cellphones left behind, the girls have to wake up at 4am and then literally get their hands dirty. Cow-dung cakes will replace the pancake.
Make-up is no longer a prerequisite when the cameras are capturing you cooking, working in the fields and milking cows. “It’s a challenge for us city-bred people to have a first-hand experience of how 70% of (the) Indian population lives,” says TV actor Chopra. For the girls it is a chance to break the “city girl” stereotypes that they came across during their stay. “Contrary to the saying pehnave pe mat jao, when we reached the place, people just judged us by our clothes... But now they know we are just like normal girls, have strong moral values and come from respected families, just like theirs,” says Chopra.
The winner takes home a huge cash prize, besides a few life lessons. For Sawhney and Gujarati, the simplicity of village life is what they hope to take back home.
“But the most difficult part is the constant fear of being attacked by rats or monkeys. And yes, the washrooms that are so different from ours in the city,” Sawhney adds.
Desi Girls will be aired on Imagine TV from 21 May, Friday to Sunday, at 9pm.