NEW DELHI — The monsoon rice paddies of southern India can be places of joyless toil.
Not so for two farmers from a small village who have grooved their way to global fame by happily hamming it up in a soaking rice field as part of an internet dance craze called the Kiki Challenge.
A 38-second video of the two men splashing around to a hip-hop song while trailing behind their mud-splattered oxen has been viewed around the world millions of times.
Their fame soared this past weekend after Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, posted their video on social media accounts, saying, “I think they just won the Keke challenge.”
The Kiki (sometimes spelled Keke) Challenge is one of those mysterious internet sensations that might leave future generations scratching their heads.
It started last month with the release of the catchy song “In My Feelings,” by the Canadian rapper Drake. He sings: “Kiki, do you love me? Are you riding? Say you’ll never ever leave from beside me.”
A comedian named Shiggy then posted a video of himself dancing exuberantly to the song on a deserted nighttime street, in a pink sweatsuit. That video went viral.
All around the world, people started shooting videos of themselves dancing to the song in public. It became something of a challenge, and celebrities jumped in. One NFL star, the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., did his bit on the side of a hilltop road.
Will Smith took it a step further, climbing a bridge in Budapest to dance atop it. “There’s no way this is legal,” he says as he climbs up.
Videos emerged of people stepping out of slowly moving cars and dancing beside them in the street, as if they were so taken with the beat they couldn’t stop themselves. Several people were hurt, and law enforcement agencies around the world urged people to stop.
In India, where a compilation video shows young men and women across the subcontinent taking the challenge, the Mumbai police warned, somewhat tongue in cheek, “Desist from public nuisance or face the music!”
Enter Anil Geela, 24, and Pilli Tirupati, 28, from a village called Lambadipally, where there are no paved roads, and the nearest railway station is miles away. The video of the two farmers shaking their booties next to a team of oxen has proved irresistible. As they dance in the ankle-deep mud, they never stop plowing the paddy.
Compared with most of the earlier videos shot on city streets, Lambadipally looks like another universe.
Sriram Srikanth, founder of a YouTube channel called My Village Show, directed the video; he was born in Lambadipally. Though he left years ago for college, he always pined for his ancestral home and began making videos about village life and posting them on YouTube.
“Nothing clicked,” he said. “And suddenly this one small video became the rage. My father was flummoxed and asked me, ‘Why did this click?’ ”
Maybe, he guessed, because nobody was doing the Kiki Challenge in “an innovative way in the village.”
The ox cart was an unexpected twist on the Kiki motif of stepping out of a moving car.
“We made it out of a locally available mode of transport and also ended up not hurting anyone,” said Mr. Geela, of Lambadipally fame.
Since then, Mr. Geela, an aspiring actor who has made many YouTube videos (and farms rice to help out his family), has been invited to TV studios for interviews and debates.
“My parents feel very happy seeing us on TV,” he said.
And now he has a new name: Kiki Anil.
Orignially published in NYT.