New Delhi: Painted in silver and depicting the 10 avatars of Vishnu in perfect sync with each other, the princes from Behrampur in Orissa stirred the judges and audience of the reality show India’s Got Talent on Colors to take home the crown. The 24-member Prince Dance Troupe won Rs50 lakh and a Maruti Suzuki Ritz car in the show’s grand finale on Saturday.
The troupe comprising brick kiln workers, road construction workers and two polio afflicted boys moved live and television audiences with their contemporary rendering of the mythological story of Dashavatar.
Download here. Freelance choreographer Garima Shitoot on training a group like the Prince Dance Troupe and the impact of reality tv in highlighting new talent
The fact that none of the troupe members had learnt professional dance and used empty stretches of the Gopalpur beach to practise, made the performance even more appealing. The audience cried, applauded and chanted “Bharat mata ki jai (Praise be mother India)” after their Saare Jahan Se Acha performance and judge Shekar Kapur broke down claiming that the “real” India stands on the shoulders of jawan, kisaan and mazdoor (youth, farmers and peasants). In their home state of Orissa, the local media reported that when the result was announced, people lit firecrackers and came out of their homes to congratulate each other.
The success of the troupe has made huge waves in Orissa, where even chief minister Naveen Patnaik made it a point to vote for the troupe in the SMS poll in the finals. He was also one of the first people to call the group and congratulate them after the win. The Orissa government also announced a cash prize of Rs1 crore and 4 acres of land for the group to build a dance academy in the state. Proud that their compatriots beat 45,000 competitors to make it to the finals, the youth wing of the Biju Janata Dal (Orissa’s ruling party) had aggressively campaigned to gather SMS votes before the finale. Big companies with interests in the state, such as Dhamra Port Co. Ltd, Gopalpur Port Ltd, Vedanta Group and Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (Iffco) had also got into the act. They promised the group financial help and mobilized employees to send out 400,000 SMS votes.
Watch the performance from the finals. Video courtesy YouTube
Reality TV has been around for a while in India, one of the earliest examples being the dance show Boogie Woogie on Sony, the general knowledge-based Cadbury Bournvita Quiz Contest and the music competition Sa Re Ga Ma (now Sa Re Ga Ma Pa) on Zee TV. But it was only with Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) on Star Plus in 2000 that the phenomenon really took off. “Reality TV sells more because of the opportunity for interaction and shock value. Also from the producer’s point of view you don’t need to do anything drastically different to gain attention,” explains P.N. Vasanti, director of the Centre for Media Studies.
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As the rest of the country looks towards rural India to help it weather the global recession, (Mint reported how a number of large companies are successfully marketing products in rural India) the newest television hit is the “other” India—the rural India that has “talent” and, more importantly, “heart. That all India’s Got Talents’ contestants were from underprivileged backgrounds and have faced serious odds to make it to the show can be seen as exemplifying this fact. As performer and multimedia artist Revanta Sarabhai puts it “the backstory has its own charm”. The repeated emphasis by the judges of the show—Kapur, Kiron Kher and Sonali Bendre—that the “real” India was what made urban India proud, added to the frenzy.
Despite all the drama, however, such reality shows have made it possible for the common man to showcase his/her talent without a middleman. The sudden hurl into fame may disrupt their normal lives and the audience’s easy forgetfulness may abruptly end their tryst with fame. “It is the responsibility of the directors and organizers of these shows, to ensure that winners don’t end up like Shafiq, the child artiste in Salaam Bombay, who was picked up from a slum by the film’s makers,” says Sarabhai. Rebuked by Bollywood for wanting to be a star and disowned by his family for not becoming one, Shafiq entered no man’s land by default. He is now a rickshaw driver in Bangalore.
The dancers of Prince Dance Troupe, led by Krishna Mohan Reddy, a 26-year-old dance teacher, have declared that they are going to set up a dance school and want to take their performance to international fora. Although the government has extended support, Sarabhai is sceptical on whether the group will be able to achieve all their stated goals. However, he added, “If these overnight stars can be proud of their achievement and yet remain firmly grounded, sharing their experience with other such dance troupes and helping them would for now be the best contribution.