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Reality bites

Do you remember the time when you would finish all your work and rush to the living room to catch the latest episode of ‘Sa Re Ga Ma’? How about the days when you would wait an entire week to catch the next episode of the programme? Hosted by the then fresh face and now much sought-after Sonu Nigam, a mere mention of the show brings back a host of memories for all those who are old enough to remember the 90s.

Giving some tough competition to this show was ‘Meri Awaaz Suno’, hosted by actor-singer Anu Kapoor who was also the warm host of the extremely popular ‘Antakshari’. Now here’s a little trivia for you. Did you know that the two most popular female playback singers of today – Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan were both participants of ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ and ‘Meri Awaaz Suno’ respectively?

We bet some of you do remember these divas as chubby little teenagers who sung like a dream on these shows and shot to fame.

Shreya was handpicked by filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali to sing all the songs of his magnum opus ‘Devdas’. The music of the movie became a big hit and the rest as they say is history. Shreya went on to win numerous awards including the National Award.

Sunidhi Chauhan’s musical journey, a tad bit different, nevertheless started from the stage of ‘Meri Awaz Suno’. Though she first sang for a film called ‘Shastra’ and went unnoticed, it was her effortless rendition of the songs of ‘Mast’ that made her a household name. Not to forget, host Sonu Nigam himself who was a cut apart and delivered hundreds of hit tunes in various film industries as well as an indi-pop singer.

As the 90s came to an end and the millennium began, there were competitions for the cooler lot – the budding ‘pop stars’ who were inspired by a generation of Western musicians. Channel V’s ‘Popstars’ was watched by millions of people across the country in 2002 and lived up to its promise – that the winners would work with the who’s who of the music industry. And ‘Viva’, the girl band that was formed with the five best singers chosen by the judges, not only rose to fame overnight but also worked with the likes of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Javed Akhtar, Salim-Suleiman and Jatin-Lalit and produced a wonderful album as a result.

The promos of ‘Popstars’ also promised that the first concert by the winners would be a grand success. And that’s what happened when ‘Viva’ took to stage for the first time in Mumbai. There were crowds waiting and the band itself was stuck in a traffic jam that was a result of their show. Oh, what a grand finale it was! Season two of ‘Popstars’, though a little lukewarm, saw a good band in ‘Aasma’ who had popular songs like ‘Chandu Ke Chacha’ and ‘Tumse Hi Pyaar’. Sadly, both ‘Viva’ and ‘Aasma’ didn’t stick together for long and disbanded soon after. Fortunately, some of the singers in both these went on to create a niche for themselves as solo performers.

The first edition of ‘Indian Idol’ too was a grand success in 2005 with winner Abhijeet Sawant becoming the talk of the town overnight. His album ‘Aap Ka Abhijeet Sawant’ that came out as a result was quite a soulful one too and emerged as a big hit. Its sweet melodies like ‘Mohabbatein Lutaungo’ and ‘Lafzon Mein Keh Na Sakoon’ became quite popular among the love-struck. The seasons that followed also produced some well-known names like Monali Thakur and Karunya.

Now cut to the present times. Can you name five musical competitions on television? Chances are you can name ten! But how many do you actually follow? As one channel starts with one, another one starts with another in the race for TRPs. And just as you heave a sigh of relief that one season is over, the same show returns with a season for children. More than music, it’s the melodrama and the sob story of many a contestant (with the judges coming on stage to wipe their tears!) these shows focus on. With too many talks and advertisements, chances are that in 15 minutes, you would probably see one performance.

Not to forget the Indian versions of international shows like ‘American Idol’, ‘The Voice’ and ‘The X-Factor’ (senior, junior etc). Then there are competitions like ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Superstar’ that pit the winners and participants of different musical shows together. Phew!

The latest one that started recently was ‘The Stage’, that is more or less the same concept wise except that the participants sing English songs and the winners are chosen by the judges. Nevertheless, it’s a refreshing change from the reality show staple that everyone is so used to and gives a platform to those interested in Western music.

The good old ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ is still around and has many takers. But somehow it lacks the innocence and freshness of the 90s, which is lost in the game of TRPs and commercialization. Like many of its contemporaries, it has various editions like ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge’, ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs’ and so on leaving one confused regarding which is what.

So many shows and so many platforms for upcoming talent. It’s a good thing right? Well, yes it is but how many of the winners are actually able to break all barriers and reach the top? How many of the participants do we actually remember once the show gets over? Also, is it a good thing for tiny tots to be pushed on stage at such a tender age?

If you look at all the participants right from the time these shows began, you would notice that most have faded into oblivion. In such circumstances, the only way out for these artistes is Bollywood and that’s the bandwagon that many talented singers like Anushka Manchanda (from ‘Viva’), Neeti Mohan (from ‘Aasma’) and Arijit Singh (runner-up of ‘Fame Gurukul’) have jumped on.

While playback singing in Bollywood isn’t an easy nut to crack, making it big as independent musician is equally hard. With a tough world out there, many talented artistes are struggling to get opportunities. And as the world gets caught in the ‘web’ of social media (quite literally at that), this struggle only worsens. There are too many channels of entertainment and the audience’s attention is diverted. So if they stay out of sight, they are out of mind.

However, there are always two sides to a coin. Technology has also opened a world of opportunities. Although some probably didn’t get the fame that they desired, they have carved a niche for themselves and gained hundreds of followers, thanks to Facebook pages, music blogs and YouTube channels.

Yes, the world is a much smaller place today thanks to the click of a button. However, we do long for those good old days where everyone in the colony watched the same programme and discussed the results the next day. Some even called each other to find out the results in case they missed it without Twitter or Facebook spilling the beans. Those were the days my friend, weren’t they?

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