Talent hunts, a rage on the small screen, make instant idols and celebrities of the girl or boy next door. But, do these riveting real-life contests, asks
Srabanti Chakrabarti, bring real and lasting success to the winners. Or, do they merely provide two minutes of fame
that begins and ends with the show.
saying that there are no shortcuts to success, perhaps, no
longer holds true in today’s television world. All you need to
attain overnight stardom and fame is a victory in any of the
reality shows on Indian television – be it Sony’s Indian
Idol, Zee’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa or Star’s The Great
Indian Laughter Challenge. In return you will get everything
that you have always dreamt of – fame, money, luxury and
Finalists of Indian Idol on Sony TV
For instance, Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs recently
got over with close to 50 lakh voters deciding on crowning
Sanchita Bhattacharya from Kolkata. None other than King Khan
Shahrukh crowned Sanchita (a 13-year-old student from Howrah –
a suburb of Kolkata) as the Little Champ.
Needless to say, the
girl mustn’t have dreamt of something like this before
participating in the show. The usual flood of tears, flowers and
smiles followed just after her victory and Sanchita returned
home to Kolkata a few days later only to be mobbed by hundreds
of fans. An open jeep ride with photographers and fans in tow,
front-page splash in leading dailies, request for interviews
from journalists — life sure was changing for this teenager.
But how long will this instant success last? Is it something
like the artificial sweetener that gives you a taste of
sweetness and then suddenly disappears? Or is like the good old
sugar which takes time to dissolve, but the taste of which
lingers till the end?
Though it’s too early to completely
write off long-lasting success in reality shows (Indian Idol
started two years ago and Shreya Ghoshal and Kunal Ganjawala
were discovered at Sa Re Ga Ma Pa), it is generally seen
that instant success does not last long. Sounds too pessimistic?
Take this test – What is Abhijit Sawant, Indian Idol,
doing these days? Or for that matter Ruprekha-Qazi, the
winners of Fame Gurukul? If you don’t know what they
have been doing lately, we have a case in point.
While all of
those who have been winning these reality shows have accumulated
a lot of wealth through stage shows and commercials, very few
have successfully ventured into playback singing – the
so-called acid test of an Indian singer’s success.
this: while you might not have heard many a song from Rahul
Vaidya — one of the most popular finalists of Indian Idol,
his monthly earnings cross Rs 10 lakh. Sounds unbelievable? It
won’t if you take into account the fact that as per his
contract with Sony-BMG, he gets Rs 3 lakh every quarter and
Vaidya has been doing stage shows all over the world, for which
he charges close to a lakh per show.
Debojit Saha with Dia Mirza at Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005
And he is not alone. Aditi
Paul, another Indian Idol finalist also charges a
lakh per show. So do Amey Date and Anuj Sharma — both
finalists of Indian Idol 2. And their Sa Re Ga
Ma Pa counterparts (Debojit, Vineet et al) are also not far
behind. They too charge an equal sum for their shows. And if
media reports are to be believed, even the teenagers of Li’l
Champs —Sanchita, Sameer, Diwakar and Abhrokanti —
charge more than a lakh per show.
But is this the only measure
of success? Not really. And, thankfully, some of the
participants realise this. As Vaidya was recently quoted in the
media as saying, "I feel it is important to sing for movies
to survive in the industry. I have sung in Shaadi No 1,
Jaaneman and Jigyasa and also for a few television
serials. But there’s still a long way to go."
Debojit, winner of this year’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which
had seen as many as 1.2 lakh participants competing for the top
slot, "Merely winning a reality show is not a yardstick of
success. On the contrary, it is just the beginning of a career
that can be successful. I believe reality shows give you a
platform and nothing else. What you do after that is entirely up
to you. Reality shows show you the way and it is entirely up to
you how hard you work to travel on that road."
This is in
line with what Vaidya has to say, "We have to approach the
music directors ourselves, the channels don’t do that for us.
But getting work has definitely become easier as music directors
know us now."
Zubeen Garg, the voice behind the
chartbuster Ya Ali, is, however, totally against these
shows. "I don’t believe in these shows at all. If someone
is talented, he or she will succeed irrespective of whether he
came through a talent show or not," says the singer who had
to struggle for more than a decade to carve a niche for
This phenomenon is not limited to music talent hunts.
The talent hunt shows for actors and actresses have not yielded
very good results either. If you are interested in taking
another test, tickle your grey cells to remember if you have
seen Zee Cinestars Ki Khoj winners Sarvar and Aditi since
they were crowned the topmost acting talents in the country.
Though a number of promises were made about their launch through
a big banner film, very little has actually materialised. They
have been seen of late in the promos of the latest edition of Zee
Cinestars Ki Khoj.
However, some of the finalists — like
Naman Shah, Yuvika Chowdhury and Amruta — have got a foothold
in the small screen. Comments Naman (better known as Nakul in Kyun
Ki`85and Pushkar in Kasam Se) when asked how much
reality shows helped him in his career, "They have
definitely helped me. Thanks to Zee, my dream is coming true.
They deserve full credit for training me and giving me a
platform. But what happens beyond that is completely up to the
person concerned — no show or channel can compensate for the
hard work required to make it big in showbiz."
opening the floodgates to dreamy-eyed teenagers who have over
the years wanted to come to Bollywood to make it big in the film
industry? Is this opening up of an alternate career path for
teenagers? Is it an attempt to go miles away from
my-parents-want-me-to-become-an-engineer syndrome? No one is
ready to comment.
Encouraged by the success of Little Champs,
Star TV has teamed up with Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) to
kick-start a new show — Rin Mera Star Super Star. The
programme is supposed to be a nationwide hunt dedicated to
unearthing talent in children aged 5-14. It promises to offer a
national platform for talented children to showcase their
potential in three categories — singing, acting and dancing.
The winning contestant will get a scholarship of Rs 5 lakh to
help pursue their dream of becoming an artiste or going for
Scholarships notwithstanding, what happens to
the studies of participants and winners is a different story
altogether. With offers of stage shows pouring in, it would
really be very difficult for the likes of Sanchita and Sameer to
complete their studies.
Their elder counterparts are no better
either. Amit Sana (Indian Idol runners up) quit his
engineering degree course to join showbiz. Same with N. C.
Karunya, runner up of Indian Idol 2. And Rahul Vaidya,
thanks to the hectic schedule he has to keep, couldn’t even
finish his plus two exams.
But these reality shows have
definitely done to music what cricket did to Indian sports a
decade or so back — glamorised it to such an extent that
everything else looks pale in contrast. Remember the early 1990s
(and the trend is still continuing) when mothers used to rush
their kids to the closest cricket coaching camp in a bid to
produce another Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly? The same
frenzy and mass hysteria is now continuing with reality shows.
Without venturing into the propriety of such a trend, one can’t
but comment on the fact that if it were not for instant fame and
money, these shows wouldn’t have been so popular.
and done, there’s little doubt that these reality shows are
encouraging kids to take up an alternate profession —
different from the routine jobs related to engineering, medicine
or MBA. But whether the model is sustainable or not, only time
will. We have already witnessed a number of IIM graduates
joining the showbiz as marketing whizkids. Perhaps the day is
not far when parents will prepare their kids for reality shows
in the same manner as they burn midnight oil today to see their
kids sail through JEEs and CATs.