February 15, 2013 Leave a comment
In 1995, Gajendra Chauhan came up with (or repurposed) a musical talent show called Saregama. TVS Saregama, I think was the first season. It seems like it happened a lifetime back. Talent shows were about talent, and people on these shows generally seemed nice and humble. Sonu Nigam came across as a guy who couldn’t stop learning. This was also around the same time that Meri Awaaz Suno went live on doordarshan. Meri Awaaz Suno’s final was judged by Lata Mangeshkar, and Sunidhi Chauhan was a discovery of that show. Before this, most musical talent shows (like the one that discovered the voice of Mahendra Kapoor) were on radio.
A deeply etched memory from Saregama is of late-Rajkumari ji singing “guard babu guard babu seeti na baja” and “ghabra ke jo hum sar ko, takraye to acha”. The megafinal had ensemble judges like Anil Biswas, Khayyam, O P Nayyar, Naushaad, Parveen Sultana, Kalyanji-Anandji, Pandit Jasraj, etc. Jagjit Singh once performed a medley of songs as a tribute to the other judges – including “Seene Mein Sulagte Hain ArmaaN” and “Mitti Da Baawa”. Another memory is that of Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia asking one of the participants (Sanjeev, I think, who had come from US) to sing without music, and then telling him where he dropped a note. In the same episode, he asked Mohd. Vakil to sing the aaroh and avaroh of Raag Bhoopkali, not before the confusion between Raag Bhoopkali and Rag Bhoopali. And through all this, Sonu Nigam planted himself on the Indian music scene, never to look back again on his days of coming up with 25 rupee cover version of Mohd. Rafi songs for T-series.
The earlier years had Sanjeevani (who sang Chura lo na dil mera in Kareeb), Shreya Ghoshal (what do I need to tell you about her, except that her first break was “Isshhhh” for Devdas, after Bhansali spotted her in the show), Kunal Ganjawala (Bheege Hoth Tere), Parthiv Gohil (Saawariya), Pandit Jasraj, etc. The general humility and reverence that the participants had, was well supplemented by the purely musical format of the show, and the focus of the judges on singing. I don’t remember a moment of bickering, complaining, fighting, or melodrama on the show. The only emotional element was when someone was not able to move to the next round. In the video of Rajkumariji (link above), Sonu Nigam starts with how they were not able to show all this footage because airing the show left them little time.
Back in the days, the judges were the judges(1). Public votes were not the deciding factor. Participants had to come and sing, and not plead for audience mercy. Even boogie woogie was squarely judged by Javed, Naved and Ravi Behl. Usually, there would be just one judge for a particular episode. And for the finals, and semifinals there would be more judges. The Mahafinal of Saregama featured their earlier winners, and I think Mohd. Vakil went on to win the Mahafinal, along with Bela Shende. Sanjeevani and Sudeshna missed it by a whisker.
I was totally and absolutely in love with the show. And I read this article on OPEN (Rudeness Pays) that prompted this post. I don’t follow the musical talent shows as much these days. Most of them have 20 minutes of real stuff and 30 minutes of idiocy. The article rightly points out that Raghu (of Roadies) has made
a career out of abuses. That there is too much riding on idiots like Dolly Bindra in Big Boss. Rationale – TRP. But if that were true, no one should watch Kaun Banega Crorepati, right? Amitabh Bachchan still handles the show with extreme affability and humility. There is a general air of bonhomie on the show. And that probably explains why the only reality show I can tolerate these days is Dance Indian Dance. There is a lot of peripheral time wastage, but thankfully the judges don’t bicker, and Mithunda is happily drunk most of the days.
Does this bother you?
(1) By the way, one of my earliest memories of an audience based decision is a sequence from the movie Bhoot Bangla, where Tanuja sings “O Mere Pyaar Aaja”, followed by “Aao Twist Karein”. The performance is measured through a Taali-meter, and compered by Amin Sayani. Absolutely wonderful songs, both of them. The movie has some wonderful songs by the way – “Jaago Sone Walon”, being one of my favorites.
(2) A big thank you to the good folks who keep sharing these videos on youtube. I had no hope of finding these, but here they are.