The biggest surprise in the latest edition of Zee’s music show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa is the presence of Indian Ocean’s lead singer Rahul Ram as one of the judges (mentors?).
For a reality show as Bollywood-oriented as Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, on a channel as mass-based as Zee, Rahul’s inclusion is intriguing.
The good thing is that he doesn’t seem out of place with his more hardcore Bollywood co-judges (composers Sajid-Wajid and singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan). Also, his presence gives the show a nice, fresh feel.
Right now, we’re seeing the auditions and there are the usual frenzied crowds of aspiring singers straining against locked gates, camping at the venue, and waiting in long queues for their turn to come. The channel didn’t even try to hide the fact that the auditions were chaotic (and clearly not very well organised), what with the police being called in, people losing their temper and shouting into the camera and so on.
After all this chaos, that so many of the participants sang well was nothing short of miraculous. It was also evident that after so many years and so many seasons of music contests, there are now hundreds of people out there who learn singing only to enter such shows, hoping for fame and success.
Whether that happens or not – even to those who eventually win the contests – is an unresolved question. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa itself has been on air since 1995, but I’m not sure what has happened to all the winners over the years. What, for instance, has happened to Debojit, who won the show in 2005? (Hopefully, he is doing well in his chosen career as a singer, but I don’t know if that is the case).
However, as Zee celebrates 20 years of its existence, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa remains one of its longest-lasting and best-known properties (Sonu Nigam himself hosted the show for many years in the beginning).
I wish I could say the same for Zee’s fiction shows, but the channel has never been able to match the quality of the serials it aired in the early years (Tara, Hasratein, Sailaab etc). But considering the entire TV landscape has changed dramatically from what it was in the Nineties, the decline was inevitable.
At that time, shows were pitched to middle class audiences. Today, they are pitched to the lowest common denominator. Indian TV has never recovered from the saas-bahu onslaught that began in 2000. Channels make much of the fact that today serials are tackling different themes (widow-remarriage, surviving cancer etc).
Even if that is (partially) true, the treatment and style are still reminiscent of the saas-bahu soaps of yore (The only thing that’s disappeared is the camera zooming in and out of characters’ faces 59 times a minute). Whether it’s the clothes, makeup, sets, lighting, or overall look – K serials have left behind a template that refuses to go away.
Finally, it’s good we’re getting to see new seasons of international shows quite quickly. FX was probably one of the first few channels to do this.
But at the moment, I’m enjoying the rerun of Grey’s Anatomy on Star World. Though the show explores the lives of five surgical interns – in the midst of all the life-and-death hospital drama – it centres around Meredith (Ellen Pompeo of the sulky mouthwho always looks the same, whether she's heartbroken or happy). But my favourite characters are the lovely Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) and the sweet George O’ Malley (T R Knight). So far.