If there was an international prize for the nation that sings the most, we’d win it every year. You only have to look at the hordes of candidates that throng TV music reality shows auditions. We are clearly a country of singers, and everyone is ready to burst into song at the drop of a syllable/eagerly engage in several hours of Antakshari.
Of course, many out of this cast of millions, who appear for auditions can’t sing at all and the viewer is faced with the daunting prospect of watching a procession of hopefuls who have as much business singing as Mallika Sherawat has acting. With the appearance of each such candidate, the judges’ eyes start glazing over, they begin holding their heads, wilting over the table — generally looking as if they instantly need about six Disprins.
And when faced with a truly is-he-for-real specimen (strangely attired with a predilection for breaking into equally strange dancing), they just abandon all attempts at politeness or consideration. (Why do people lay themselves open to this kind of humiliation? Are they just deluded? Or merely desperate to be on TV, even if it’s for thirty seconds?) But in this long line of why-are-you-wasting-my-time hopefuls, there are always enough talented candidates, who make it all worthwhile.
One of the music shows that’s probably thrown up the maximum number of music stars is Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee: think Shreya Ghoshal, Kunal Ganjawala, Shekhar of Vishal-Shekhar fame (in fact, Shekhar is now a judge on the show). Sa Re Ga Ma Pa has been on air since the Nineties and has just launched its latest season. The judges this time around are music composers Sajid-Wajid, Vishal-Shekhar and singer Daler Mehndi (yes, he’s still around too).
Naturally, the judges themselves offer much entertainment. If Wajid hears a singer he likes, he screws up his face tightly, as if he’s so impressed it’s actually hurting him. Sajid is strong and silent. Vishal-Shekhar are also quite a study in contrast. Vishal’s normal expression veers between grim concentration and grim concentration, but Shekhar has an easy, casual air. Daler Mehndi lives up to his robust, son-of-the-soil image: he turns up in rather, um, brightly coloured outfits and glittering turbans, breaks into Punjabi whenever there’s a contestant from Punjab, and also breaks into song whenever the urge seizes him.
I’ve been watching the auditions (the final 18 contestants have now been selected) and have been quite struck by how good some of the singers are. Unfortunately — my eternal grouse — we’ll have to go through many tears and much drama as the show unfolds. If only we could block that out and just enjoy the music.
I’ve given up watching channels like MTV and V ever since they stopped being music channels and turned into youth-reality show channels. But the other night I caught something called Love Net — by accident — and am still recovering. This is what I saw:
A Delhi boy and a Jaipur girl have been chatting on the net for a long time. Channel V sets up a meeting between the two. But before they actually meet, each one is paired off with a Channel V veejay.
So Delhi boy + veejay snoop around trying to find out more about the girl. And Jaipur girl + veejay team up and try and find out something about the boy. This involves both sets of people going to shopkeepers, laundrymen, mechanics that the other is supposed to frequent. In the process, the boy goes to a women’s shop and dresses himself up in a short skirt, top, feather boa and stilettos.
When they finally meet, in a deserted garden, before they can even say hello to each other, the girl races around the boy, feverishly dancing to Choli ke peeche kya hai. Why?