There are two reasons I had to get my hands on a preview copy of India’s Got Talent Hunar Hi Winner Hai which will air on Colors tonight. First, to figure out whether rival Sony Television had actually ripped off this format (from the international original—Britain’s Got Talent) in its show launched a few weeks ago (alas, the answer is yes). And second, to answer the question that’s probably on everyone’s mind: Does India have a Susan Boyle? Episode No. 1 doesn’t throw up any Susan Boyles, but India’s got Shekhar Kapur. Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega
In the first hour of this show you know you’re going to see a different man from the composed, internationally-acclaimed director you imagine he is. He’s always the last to press the buzzer indicating disqualification, even as fellow judges, actors Sonali Bendre and Kirron Kher, roll their eyes at him. “Not the violin, no,” he tells Usha Shankar, “the most talented man in the world” before finally relieving us of a bizarre act. “Your talent is to talk about talent,” he tells the overconfident contestant. Kapur cries (and we’re not talking single tear trickling down Simi Garewal style but manly, heaving sobs) when, after a performance by disabled students, he addresses the youngest member of their dance troupe. He does a better Raavan laugh than the theatre actor with the hoarse voice and nine Raavan heads instead of 10. And he is thumping-bordering-on-jingoistic in his praise of Orissa’s Prince Dance Group made up of one man dressed as Lord Krishna and 12 silver body-painted dancers, all labourers.
The format, which you’ve probably seen on the copycat Sony show, is essentially similar. Here each act gets two minutes; the judges have individual buzzers and the performer must stop if all three buzzers are pressed; the audience doesn’t vote. Sony emphasizes that its show is about entertainment and Colors says it’s all about talent, but in India it’s easy to mix the two up. There is cheesy stand-up comedy; rock band M Sonic from Assam (compere Nikhil Chinappa says he has never seen a better act in his life!); a man who sings in a girl’s voice; a man who breaks tube lights (total rubbish, pronounces Bendre); a man in a white body suit who ran away from home to be a yoga teacher in Delhi.
Showmen: The Prince Dance Group gets the thumbs-up.
Whether or not India’s Got Talent we’ll have to wait and see, but India’s Got Complexes. There are people who think they are extremely talented when in fact they have no broadcast future. There’s even a smiling, overweight, and very talented classical dancer from Jharkhand who says nobody in his hometown takes him seriously and that he is always ignored at performances because he doesn’t have the figure or the looks. All in all, India always makes for good television.
More than 100,000 people were audtioned in six metros and the show captures the long lines and the backstage excitement of India’s potential talent. And until we find our Boyle (maybe it’s Robo Ganesh who does a puppet dance with his knees), India’s Got Shekhar Kapur. An addictive show.
Every Saturday and Sunday at 9pm on Colors starting tonight and on for the next three months.