On Location
In 2010 the South Indian tv channel Suvarna aired a fish- out- of- water- style
tv program titled Halli Haida Pyateg Bandha (Village boys go to the city),
which follows the adventures of eight lunghi- wearing “tribal youths” extracted
from their villages and introduced to the bright lights of city life while be-
ing partnered with eight urbane and attractive city girls. Offered an instant
consumption- oriented lifestyle makeover, the hapless and somewhat shell-
shocked contestants are taken to their first malls to learn how to shop, taught
handy life skills like how to walk on a cat walk, and coached to perform on stage
in front of an audience. Although in some ways this show is a standard rags-
to- riches reality format— premised on the desirability of learning to exude an
air of cosmopolitan and entrepreneurial individualism— at the same time, the
program also plays on a certain anxiety about a perceived loss of connection
with the authenticity of village life. Indeed, the program followed the success of
an earlier Suvarna show, Pyate Hudgir Halli Life (City girls, village life), where
the story was reversed: eight young female contestants accustomed to living the
urban high life were transported to a hitherto little known South Indian village
to test their capacity to live traditionally for three months.
On the surface, these formats mimic numerous lifestyle swap shows fa-
miliar to Western audiences, from reality shows featuring ordinary urban-
ites struggling with the deprivations of the everyday lives of their forebears
(Colonial House; Frontier House) to morally charged formats where rampant
consumers are transported off to live frugally in developing regions like Africa
(Worlds Apart). But what distinguishes these South Indian shows from their
Introduction. Telemodernities
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