Season 5 of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa (the desi version of Dancing With The Stars) kicked off last weekend with the usual publicity and hype. The first four seasons were telecast on Sony but now the show has been taken away by Colors. The latter has also wrested the No. 2 position from the former — things never remain the same in the world of entertainment channels, do they? (Except for Star Plus; it has stubbornly stayed at No. 1 for years).
As openings go, the opening of Jhalak's season 5 was distinctly underwhelming. There was a leisurely, mildly sleep-inducing rendition of the song 'Kabhi kabhie' by Madhuri Dixit (yes, she sings too) to the accompaniment of slow, flowy movements. (She did a repeat a little later in the show, when she gave us yet another slow, flowy number while rambling on about eternal love). Here's the moral of the story: Dear Colors, please keep Madhuri strapped to the judge's chair — she does fine as a judge. If she leaves the chair for the dance floor, please get her to do one of her celebrated dances, like 'Dhak dhak' or 'Maar dala' or 'Choli ke peeche' or any other number, but nothing, repeat nothing, else.
Bar this, Jhalak was highly entertaining. The other two judges on the show are choreographer Remo D'Souza and filmmaker Karan Johar. Remo is a TV dance show veteran (he's been a judge on Zee's Dance India Dance); he's also a dance veteran and did a scintillating opening act with fellow choreographer Terence Lewis.
Karan is hardly a TV novice and his Koffee With Karan is probably India's most-watched Bollywood chat show. But this is Karan's first outing as a judge and he brings warmth, humour and a certain quick energy — apart from his personal brand equity — to the show.
The contestants are an odd but interesting bunch. The oddest choice is the beauteous Isha Sharvani, simply because she's a highly accomplished, professionally trained dancer amidst a sea of amateurs. So it's not exactly a level playing field, is it?
The KBC crorepati, Sushil Kumar, introduced amidst much fanfare as the surprise contestant, is also an unexpected choice, but in a different way. Though he seems out of his depth and a bit overcome by all the attention, he has a naïve, endearing charm.
Comedienne Bharati is there too and though she's, er, rather overweight, she set the dance floor on simmer if not fire. (And since we're on Bharati, this is for one of the hosts: Manish Paulji, you are a very good anchor and a first class mimic, but by the time you've cracked the 59th joke about Bharati's weight, we're ready to hit you on the head with a weighing machine. So can you go a little easy on the fat jokes?)
And then there's cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya (whose dancing was choreographed around batting and hitting many sixes), TV actress Gia Manek (who used to play the docile Gopi bahu in Star Plus's saas-bahu melodrama Saathiya; but being on Jhalak has cost her the serial so now there's a new girl playing dear old Gopi), Darsheel Safary, the child actor of Taare Zameen Par (who's grown into a frighteningly self-assured teen), Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kissen (he and Sushil Kumar do a lot of bonding a lot on the sets-wa, I mean, sets), and many others. Looks like it's going to be a fun journey.