With 'Eristoff MTV Male Fantasy 101', the channel introduces a new genre of reality programming. Shonali Muthalaly watches it unfold in Bangkok.
I'm in the centre of a male fantasy. And I'm not quite sure about the appropriate etiquette. Now that I have your attention, let's start at the beginning.
Bangkok. But, of course. It's the perfect place to play out the wild and wicked, right? The day starts at the Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel, where we dive into theatrical decadence. With a lobby covered in mirrors and crystal, it's outfitted with fur couches and velvet sofas so brazenly funky you could be forgiven for assuming they recently escaped from Lady Gaga's boudoir. Very MTV. Which could explain why the channel, which brought us here, chose this as our base.
The MTV girls, in hip gladiator sandals and shorts, join us for dim sum in the coffee shop to bring us up to speed on the issue of male fantasies. For there's serious work afoot amid all the talk of partying in Pattaya and shooters in Patpong. MTV India is introducing the country to a whole new genre of reality programming: Fantasy reality TV. And we're here to watch it unfold.
A few hours later we're in the ‘Eristoff MTV Male Fantasy 101Villa,' which makes even our flashy hotel look tame. Sprawling between a rolling emerald golf course and a serene artificial lake, this souped up party pad has everything MTV assumes a man could possibly want. We walk into the living room, equipped with a bar, snooker table and — yes — PSP (that's a play station for the non-gamers among us.) There's an indoor basketball court. And one huge room features a pool, flanked by a swing on which three pretty young things sit applying mascara. Beside the pool, inexplicably, there's a bathtub.
No pretty frills, lace curtains or dainty vases. Instead there are giant speakers, flat screen TVs and martini glasses everywhere. This is clearly a villa designed by a man. Which brings me back to my original dilemma. What's a woman to do in a masculine dream villa, tended to by four sizzling hot women playing chauffeur, gardener, cook and maid. I try some snooker, some bar stool swivelling, some paddling in the pool. Then it's time to meet Aditya Swamy, senior vice president, MTV India.
He sits cross-legged on a gigantic leather couch while explaining the concept of the show over diet coke. “It's heightened reality crossing over into fantasy: super models, fast cars, super bikes…” The show's targeted at India's young ‘gimme more' generation, intent on being cutting-edge. “Four buddies coming and living together in a pad like this — you'll have a good time. We also looked for people who embody the spirit of young India.”
More dignified than your typical reality show, fests of back-biting and petty fights, MF 101 is more about allowing viewers to live vicariously than appealing to their inner soap opera demons. “Typically reality shows are all about who gets out — here there's no elimination, no tasks, no fighting. We're moving away from the mainstay of reality TV, which is conflict,” says Aditya.
Instead there are challenges. “You want to date a supermodel? But can you really handle a high maintenance woman? Can you really ride a souped up bike? You want to throw a big ass bash — can you take over a night club and make it the most rocking?”
We meet the four lucky men at the Witches' Tavern, a bustling pub dominated by a large rectangular bar, which is, predictably enough, seething with skimpily clad women. They turn out to be grounded, articulate and charming.
Ankit Vengurlekar is an anchor on a popular news channel. Harpreet Baweja is an ambitious entrepreneur who already heads a chain of spas. There's a model, Sahil Salathia, who has a software degree under his belt. Rohan Sapra, the shyest, ironically has the most rock star lifestyle, since he's a DJ in a trendy Delhi club.
When asked to define the best part of the experience, they're unanimous — it's the camaraderie. And the super bikes. We gasp. Not the women? “They're just a part of the picture,” says Sahil. But what about your sexy staff? They nod, “Yeah yeah, they're there. But man, you should have seen those bikes... They were awesome.”
Adrenalin junkie Harpreet, adds, “I did an incredible flat out drag race against a professional Thai racer. I hit 185. It was exhilarating.” Over the month they've also partied on a yacht. Relaxed on a deserted island. Dived into the warm blue sea in the middle of nowhere and raced each other to shore. Took over a nightclub to run it for one evening.
“Each time all four of us are taken on a journey. That's what I like about the show. It's Entourage, not Desperate Housewives,” grins Harpreet. “And at the end of the show we can all party,” laughs Rohan.
It's not always easy. “Dating a diva was tough,” says Ankit, rolling his eyes. “Here I am trying to talk to her and she's reading Vogue. Then I suggested a boat ride? And she was like ‘Dude, I'm wearing a dress!'”
What they really enjoy, they say, is the ability to try everything. “These are experiences you can't have in normal life,” says Sahil. Ankit adds, “Yeah, reality will feel very bland after 30 days of such high notes.” Harpreet adds, “Waking up each morning there's a sense of adventure…”
“This is living life king size,” says Rohan. “To chill out, enjoy… do whatever you want, try whatever you want — every single day.”
(Eristoff MTV Male Fantasy 101 airs on MTV India every Saturday at 10 p.m.)