Kenavita Golani, 17, has just returned from dance class — three hours at an ‘academy’ down the road from her home in Baroda’s posh Alkapuri area.
She is dressed in a T-shirt and slacks and has just realised that she will need to pose for an HT photographer. Quickly, the Class 12 student blow-dries her hair, applies lip gloss and begins to browse through her wardrobe. Her mother, Vidya, a homemaker, sits on the edge of her bed and periodically makes suggestions.
Settling for a red-and-white midi, the Class 12 student shuts the cupboard, pauses, and opens it again. “Look,” she says, pointing to three heavily cello-taped paper tags taped to the inside. “They are my golden pass to go to Mumbai, become a dancer.”
She’s referring to the number tags given to each reality TV show contestant. Hers are from her three auditions for Dance India Dance. She has saved them all.
“The first one was six years ago, for DID L’il Masters [the children’s edition]. My mother and I waited in line for 12 hours.”
A trained Bharata Natyam dancer, Kenavita has been learning hip-hop, krumping, locking and popping, freestyle and contemporary dance at the D’Virus Dance Academy for five years.
“I go three times a week,” she says, posing in black stilettoes on the terrace of her one-storey bungalow. “Being a trained, versatile dancer will up my chances... Who doesn’t want to be famous? Plus, reality TV shows are a platform to get noticed, gain access to people who can help me build a career in dance… Even if I don’t win, a lot of other doors can open. Mumbai is not called the city of dreams for nothing.”
Accordingly, at her classes at D’Virus, Kenavita and the 50 other boys and girls with similar ambitions also learn how to play with the camera, use the stage and dress for auditions.
Kenavita believes her ‘Sir’ is uniquely placed to help her in her mission.
The founder of D’Virus, Dharmesh Yelande, 31, was runner-up on DID Season 2, in 2010. He had already been a dance teacher for four years when he almost won. But his classes have been flooded with eager students and parents since then.
Across the country, boys and girls, men and women — inspired by the success of India’s first few batches of reality TV ‘stars’, who are writing cookbooks, setting up academies and becoming choreographers and playback singers — are lining up at special academies to learn to dance, sing and cook, not just in a bid to win a show and become famous but also in an attempt to use the TV shows to launch similar careers either in front of or behind the cameras.
At these classes — many founded and run by former winners or contestants — they also learn how to walk on stage, speak into a microphone, and pose for cameras, even how to handle rejection, and how to tackle strain and injuries.
“The craze is driven by reality TV success stories such as Raja Hassan, a folk singer from Rajasthan who lived in a Mumbai slum and earned Rs. 1,500 a month singing in a dance bar before he became a runner-up on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Today he has a fancy house and travels in a chauffeur-driven car,” says Ashish Golwalkar, senior vice-president of programming at Star Plus. “Other former winners are travelling to international shows with Bollywood stars.”
“Despite geographical, cultural and demographic differences, reality TV shows have unified ambitious youngsters across India in their quest for money, fame and a stable career,” Golwalkar says.
Read: Striving for success