Dating, ditching and desire in urban India

The Indian MTV reality dating show Splitsvilla gives a quite different outlook on Indian sexuality than the one offered by most of the Western media.

There are usually two categories for Western stories on sexuality-related topics in India. One is the “Bollywood box”, filled with head wiggling sing-a-long love dramas. The other one features 14 year old girls that are married-off to older men. Since 2008, MTV has put a n alternate image in the mix in the form of the reality dating show Splitsvilla.

Splitsvilla was first aired in 2008 and finished its fourth season in 2011. Season five is scheduled to start soon. It follows a similar pattern to other reality dating shows, such as The Bachelor. Take 13 Indian girls looking like Barbie dolls and a few men that have a striking resemblance to the guy from the Davidoff commercial, put them in a villa in Dubai and you haveSplitsvilla.

After several episodes of “let’s see which girl dresses the hottest!”, catfights and elimination rounds, the finalists are crowned Splitsvilla king and queen. The show ends with the happy couple showing the audience just how delighted they are to finally watch the sunset on a dune in the desert together.

As with most reality shows, racist remarks by contestants and other scandals have added controversy to the discussion about the show. Whereas some comments in online forums portray programmes like Splitsvilla as a bad American impact on Indian culture, others argue that the show is simply meeting the demands of a mass audience that likes a spice laden sleaze fest like Splitsvilla better than other classy serials.

Whether one sees Splitsvilla as a mirror of the elite of young affluent Indian urbanites who are about as deep as their lip-gloss, as US media imperialism or simply a costly entertainment show, Splitsvilla definitely shows that there is more to dating in Delhi than repressed sexuality and a hip-swinging Sharukh Khan.


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May 2021
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