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Jus?Talking : The wrong tune of a talent contest

A voice from Assam can be the voice of India as much as a voice from Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 17:03 IST
Samrat Choudhary
Samrat Choudhary

A voice from Assam can be the voice of India as much as a voice from Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai

TV these days is so full of low-quality drama that I’ve given up watching it. A saas or a bahu occasionally registers fleetingly on my TV screen and my consciousness.

Apart from that there are those equally interminable ‘talent hunts’. These compete with WWE in their style of building up rivalries and contests. Singers deliver dialogues in the manner of Batista meeting John Cena.

It’s all too melodramatic to bear, but apparently it works with most of my country cousins. Now one of these shows, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee TV, has finally neared its finale. The mode of selection of these contestants was mainly by viewers poll on phone and SMS.

The first contestant who made it to the round of three is Debojit from Assam. He suddenly found himself facing a rebellion from his fellow-contestants, who threatened to walk out of the event without explicitly stating why. I would have changed the channel at all this natak but a statement by one of the ‘mentors’ in the show stopped me.

Debojit got 80 percent of his votes from Assam, Adesh Shrivastava said. “We want a voice of India, not a voice of Assam”, someone in the studio shouted. Fair enough. Except that, firstly, the fellow had polled more votes than other prospective ‘voices of India’, and secondly, Assam is stilldespite its several insurgencies a part of India.

A voice from Assam can be the voice of India as much as a voice from Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai. For the past few centuries, the West has dominated the world. So their perceptions of what is ‘mainstream’ have come to dominate globally.

Today we all speak English, listen to pop and rock, pride ourselves on our knowledge of Hollywood and European soccer, and of course dress in jeans and skirts and such likes. However, the point to note is that the average college or school student in America doesn’t know Hindi, or listen to Indian music, or follow cricket, or know who Amitabh Bachchan is.

When Big B was voted the greatest star of stage or screen in a BBC online poll in 1999, there was considerable consternation in the West. The thing that went around then was that India, with its huge population, had voted for Big B and so he won there was no way he could be better than the best of the West.

Which may be true. If the world accepts the definition of what is ‘good’ cinema. Unfortunately, for me, a song from Chhote Miyan Bade Miyan is better cinema than an hour of Gone With the Wind simply because I enjoy it more. So there are these disparities in the world.

The artists will treat non-artists as charlatans if we try their game. The West will be miffed if our man wins a global award over their icons. Their sense of domination will get jolted. Now think of how the ‘centre’ treats the periphery in India. If you don’t speak Hindi, don’t listen to Bollywood music, don’t care about cricket, you’re an outsider already.

If on top of that you look different say, Mongoloid your status as second-class citizen is almost confirmed. That’s the way life is for many people from the Northeast who come to ‘mainland India’.

They can either become duplicates of the ‘mainstream’ people or stay in their ghettoes. And even if they do adopt ‘mainstream’ ways, the story doesn’t always end happily.

Like Debojit, for example, who sings in Hindi, but must now contend with the fact that his support base is from the Northeast and not the cow belt, which is the ‘mainstream’ merely because it sends more crooks to Parliament.

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 17:03 IST