New Delhi: On a recent visit to Darjeeling, I was almost taken aback by the kind of support generated for Prashant Tamang, the local lad who had made it to the Indian Idol contest. There were banners everywhere exhorting people to vote for him, and promotional campaigns were being run by local organizations.
Vivekanand Ojha, Content Editor, Livemint
Even politicians had chipped in, and rich businessmen promised to send from several thousands to lakhs of votes in his favour. In short, the entire town was in a frenzy. Not since the political upheaval regarding separate statehood, had any other development so excited the people.
And now, when Prashant has reached the finals, money is being collected, sometimes forcibly, to vote for him. People, particularly businessmen, are being asked to donate money ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand rupees.
A similar support is brewing in the North-eastern states for another contestant Amit Paul, who happens to come from Meghalaya.
For the people of the two remote areas of the country, this frenzy is, perhaps, natural. It is not very often that they find somebody from among themselves come on the national stage. And when they have found somebody to cheer up, they don’t want to lag behind.
However, this kind of regional voting is the reason why none of the Indian Idol winners have been able to make it big. When people vote with their heart, rather than with their mind, they don’t choose a good singer, they choose someone whom they identify with. This, of course, makes no distinction between average and good singers.
Time and again, judges of talent hunt shows have hung their heads in disbelief when the voting results have been announced. Naturally, then, those who are chosen as idols never live up to expectations. At most, they turn out to be local or state level stage singers.
The basic truth is that talent-hunt shows such as Indian Idol, Voice of India, etc are not designed to find the best talent, but to generate maximum revenue for the said television channel. Hence the concept of unlimited voting, where one person can send thousands or even lakhs of SMSs/calls for his favourite participant/s. The channel gets its share of telecom traffic, but the truly popular participant is shown the door.
Otherwise too, audience-vote is not a reliable way to judge a singer. The nuances of singing take years to understand, let alone judge. Audience voting is a popular format among producers only because it generates revenue, and also keeps viewers’ interest to the maximum.
Contrast the find of some of the recent talent shows with that of Meri Awaaz Suno on Doordarshan in the year 1996, which had no audience-voting component. The winner, chosen by expert singers and musicians, has grown up to become a well-known singer in Bollywood. That is true talent hunt.
Not that the current crop of talent-hunt shows have nothing positive to write about. The shows are entertaining, though the mock-fights between judges and the emotional farewell scenes (again with an eye on TRPs) seem a bit too farcical to me. This apart, the talent-hunt programmes, along with the comedy shows, have at least provided healthy alternatives to the tear-dripping, going-in-circles, family dramas.
All said and done, however, these shows do not—and cannot—hunt for true talents.