The finale of the first season of Indian Idol Junior is around the corner. Judges Shreya, Vishal and Shekhar had one hell of a difficult task when they started out: That of rejecting little kids. Surely, breaking a child’s heart is the most difficult thing to do. During the selection process, Indian Idol Junior went into the auditions armed with a chest full of toys to make the rejection wee bit sweeter and less heartbreaking. But there were times when I did wonder whether the children were the ones who wanted to participate or was it ambitious parents who got them there. Anyway, that is a separate exploration altogether. After multiple rounds of selections and then eliminations, there were ten children (five girls and five boys) under-16 participating in the season.
That cuts the chase to the actual competition. Ten talented kids (some more so than others) ruled the stage for the next few weeks. They sang, they danced, they laughed and they cried. Their mothers (who also stayed with them in Bombay for the duration of their participation in the show) also shared tears and laughter – and a lot of pride. As did the judges and all the stars and celebrities who came on the show as guests.
The season has been studded with jaw-dropping performances. The most outstanding thing about every single participant was their ability to memorise songs that they probably had never heard before (many songs were way before their birth) quickly and perform them confidently in front of a large audience. Sometimes, in front of celebrities like Deepika Padukone and Shahrukh Khan and at other times sing duets with established singers. What a feat that is – considering many adults become nervous and speechless in front of even a small family gathering!
The top four are selected — Anjana (10 years), Debanjana (13 years), Nirvesh (15 years) and Anmol (14 years) — and now have just the finals to go through.
Of the four, Debanjana has visibly grown as a singer. Anjana always rocked. Nirvesh is technically superb; but his voice is that of a girl. At fifteen, it should have been breaking – but as of now he can probably comfortably give playback to maybe a Sonakshi Sinha and a Sonam Kapoor. Anmol – really have no opinion on him. He is not great; but not bad either.
Now the bug bears.
In the final four, there are two girls and two boys. Having followed the season, this seems a little pat because some of the eliminated girls were surely in the same class as, if not better than, the two boys in the finals. However, the two finalist girls are totally outstanding.
The four represent the four directions in India too: North (Jammu) – Anmol; South (Bangalore) – Anjana; East (Calcutta) – Debanjana and West (Ahmedabad) – Nirvesh. Do I hear the cynics say that this can be deliberate to ensure a country-wide audience? Well, be as that might, the children are good – and c’mon, they are kids – how can you not be indulgent?
Third, the judges’ oft repeated feedback: “We don’t know how you guys are doing this at this age!” Just to set the record straight, Sunidhi Chauhan started professional playback singing at 15. Shreya Ghoshal wasn’t much older when she participated in her reality show and became a playback singer. Praise is nice, but hypocrisy isn’t.
However, my biggest grouse is with the format of the show. The concept of eliminations itself feels unfair when it comes to little kids. I was a part of the production team of a show Kya Masti Kya Dhuum about a decade back. That show was a singing and dancing competition. It also had kid participants. Having seen firsthand the trauma some of the kids undergo on rejection, I do not think that children should be subjected to this. As it is they have enough issues with peers (children can be extremely cruel to each other) and exams. Even if pushed into it by their parents, they really don’t need more blows to their self-esteem from a TV show. Instead of eliminating one child each week, Indian Idol Junior, should have just kept them all till the end, added the marks given by the judges and the votes they garnered and declared a winner in the end. No drama of trauma so no audience, you say? Maybe so, but one person’s personal feeling on this is not going to either change the format or stop the show from getting bigger. And bigger it surely will be in the years to come.